Obama’s Stem Cell Reversal Sparks Deals, Qualcomm’s MediaFLO Revealed, Nokia’s Wireless Mapping, & More SD BizTech News

3/16/09Follow @bvbigelow

President Obama’s reversal of federal funding restrictions on research using embryonic stem cells prompted some interesting commentary last week, along with some related developments among local startups. We also have news about the expanding world of mobile media and wireless mapping technologies, so read on!

—No one is expecting immediate and widespread changes after the Obama Administration re-opened the door to federal funding for stem cell research, but some Xconomists say it represents an important new opportunity.

One of the most perceptive commentaries I’ve read about the shift came from Seattle Xconomist Randall Moon, a professor of pharmacology at the University of Washington, and a co-founder of Fate Therapeutics.

—San Diego’s Fate Therapeutics, which is developing drugs to spur stem cells into action, said last week it has recruited a couple of renowned scientific leaders to its roster. The company named Ken Batchelor, a former senior research executive at drug giant GlaxoSmithKline (NYSE: GSK), as its chief scientific officer and Dan Shoemaker, previously chief scientific officer at San Diego-based ICx Biosystems to be its chief technology officer.

—Amid the burst of stem cell news, the timing also was ideal for Stemgent to announce it has raised $14 million in venture funding. The startup based in Cambridge, MA, and San Diego specializes in providing reagents and other materials for stem cell research labs.

—We also had a spate of news on the wireless front. After touring the San Diego-based network operations center of Qualcomm’s MediaFLO mobile TV service, I was impressed with MediaFLO’s ability to provide live news and sports coverage. It would be interesting to see what might happen if Qualcomm (NASDAQ: QCOM) MediaFLO could broadcast an extended sporting event—say all the games of the NCAA’s college basketball tournament.

—At the Nokia Research Center in Palo Alto, CA, the Finnish mobile communications giant is amassing a vast database of information about the comings and goings of cell phone users. This could prove important as Nokia and San Diego’s Qualcomm move forward after agreeing recently to collaborate in developing new technologies.

—A team of robotics students from San Diego’s High Tech High, a public charter school, won the prestigious Regional Chairman’s Award in the San Diego regional competition of FIRST (For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology.) The team known as The Holy Cows now advances to the championship scheduled for April 16 to 18 in Atlanta.

—San Diego’s Victory Pharma raised $45 million in venture funding in a secondary round that included Essex Woodlands Health Ventures of Palo Alto, CA, and Ampersand Ventures of Wellesley, MA. Victory specializes in acquiring and developing drugs for treating pain and the side effects of other pain drugs.

—Another San Diego-based life sciences company, Sangart, said it raised $50 million in venture funding that closes out its Series F round. The biopharmaceutical startup is developing artificial blood products based on human hemoglobin.

—Luke described development of a potential neurological drug therapy at Boston, MA-based Biogen Idec (NASDAQ: BIIB), which has operations in San Diego. The company says its neublastin could someday lead to a nerve-healing treatment for phantom neuropathic pain.

—San Diego’s Verari Systems is at the vanguard of data center equipment suppliers that are helping customers cut their energy costs by maximizing the energy efficiency of their servers. Among the newest concepts is the development of a “data center in a box.”

—Researchers who have spent years collecting data on how universities can improve innovation gathered at UC San Diego last week for a Kauffman Foundation seminar. The work is intended to guide changes in four countries where new technologies play a key economic role: the United States, Japan, Canada, and the United Kingdom.

—Cadence Pharmaceuticals (NASDAQ: CADX) says it is scrapping development of its omiganan pentahydrochloride (Omigard) after the gel failed to show it was better than standard iodine at preventing catheter-related skin infections. The decision has triggered a restructuring.

—Wireless industry pioneer Arlene Harris told Juha-Pekka, our innovation journalism fellow from Finland, that she co-founded Del Mar, CA-based GreatCall and its Jitterbug mobile phones to realize her vision of a simple, easy-to-use wireless phone service.

Bruce V. Bigelow is the editor of Xconomy San Diego. You can e-mail him at bbigelow@xconomy.com or call (619) 669-8788 Follow @bvbigelow

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