Amylin Braces to Battle Carl Icahn, Calit2′s Network for Institutional Innovation, Sangart Ponders Its Next Move, & More San Diego BizTech News

4/13/09Follow @bvbigelow

Perhaps the week before Easter was a good time for San Diego’s technology innovators to be taking stock. Amylin is busy weighing how best to fend off dissident investors Carl Icahn and Eastbourne Capital before next month’s annual shareholder meeting. Other San Diego startups, such as Trius Therapeutics and Sangart, are considering how best to move forward in their development of new biopharmaceutical products. So read on!

—San Diego’s Amylin Pharmaceuticals (NASDAQ: AMLN)  is preparing for a proxy battle with billionaire investor Carl Icahn and Eastbourne Capital Management at next month’s shareholder meeting. The two dissident shareholder groups have each nominated a slate of five candidates for the company’s 12-member board of directors, although fielding so many candidates could simply ensure that Amylin’s candidates get elected.

—San Diego wireless chipset provider Qualcomm and Verizon, one of its biggest customers, seem to be on different pages when it comes to deploying the fourth generation mobile phone technology known as LTE, for Long-Term Evolution. Verizon has said it will have LTE in 20 to 35 markets by the end of 2010. But a Qualcomm marketing director said he expects the commercialization of LTE devices won’t happen until 2012 or later.

—The venture purse strings loosened a bit last week in San Diego. Nirvanix, a startup providing “data storage in the cloud,” added $5 million in a secondary round of venture funding. Nirvanix said it previously had raised $18 million in venture funding from Intel Capital, Valhalla Partners, Mission Ventures, Windward Ventures, and the European Founders Fund. Ethertronics, which develops embedded antennas for wireless devices, got an additional $4 million in a secondary round of venture funding. A spokeswoman told me Friday that its investors include Bank of America, Sevin Rosen Funds, and Ridgewood Capital.

—In an interview last week, Trius Therapeutics CEO Jeff Stein said the biotech firm is assessing the best way to move ahead in its development of a new anti-bacterial drug. In mid-stage clinical trials, Stein told me the San Diego company’s drug candidate torezolid cured 96 percent of the patients who had nasty-looking skin infections. But to get to the next stage in clinical trials, Stein says Trius will either have to raise more venture capital or find a strategic partner.

—San Diego-based Sangart is at a crossroads in developing an oxygen-carrying compound called MP4, which is made by purifying and chemically modifying human hemoglobin. A new CEO has taken over for founder Robert Winslow, who died earlier this year. Sangart also has a new chief scientific officer, and recently raised $50 million from its principal investor. Now Sangart must decide whether clinical trials of its “oxygen therapeutic” should go forward as a treatment for trauma or sickle cell anemia.

—Qualcomm (NASDAQ: QCOM) founder Irwin Jacobs was among the featured speakers at the La Jolla Research and Innovation Summit. The wireless giant’s former CEO and chairman said that cell phones are getting smarter, computers are getting smaller, and the two industries are coming together like two colliding galaxies. Jacobs also noted that Amazon’s Kindle has “a Qualcomm chip in it, and all the data going to Amazon goes through our data center.”

—Is there a second act for newspapers in America? In a speech in San Diego last week, Google CEO Eric Schmidt suggested news organizations create a new three-tier subscription model using micropayment systems. “The reality is the vast majority of people will only want the free model, so you’ll be forced, whether we like it or not, to have a significant advertising component as well as a micropayment and a traditional payment system,” Schmidt said.

—In an interview with Ardea Biosciences (NASDAQ: RDEA) CEO Barry Quart, Luke reported the company discovered a new drug for treating gout while reviewing data from Ardea’s lead drug candidate for HIV. The San Diego biotech saw the prospects of developing a new treatment for gout as a great business opportunity. Quart expects to report results from Ardea’s small pilot study of gout patients this month.

—The U.S. headquarters for Sony Electronics in suburban San Diego is not escaping the global restructuring that the Japanese giant began in January. Sony’s San Diego operation, which currently has about 2,000 employees, is downsizing—although details on the reductions are not yet available.

—After nine years as director of CalIT2, the California Institute of Telecommunications and Information Technology, Larry Smarr notes, “What we’ve succeeded in is this idea of institutional innovation.” By using the power of high-speed networks and high-performance computing, CalIT2 is tackling really big problems that require multi-disciplinary solutions, from atmospheric science to genomics. Smarr calls CalIT2 a “persistent framework for collaboration.”

—Another reason for San Diego’s prominence in IT innovation is SPAWAR, the Navy’s Space and Naval Warfare Systems Command, which operates the Navy’s premier laboratory for information technologies atop Point Loma. Frank Gordon, who heads SPAWAR’s navigation and applied sciences department, gave a presentation last week that outlined some R&D projects at the lab, which holds more than 300 patents and employs 2,000 scientists and engineers.

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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