No Resolution in Amylin’s Talks With Dissident Investors Carl Icahn and Eastbourne Capital, Anadys Sees Promise in Treatment for Hepatitis C, Chumby Makes Moves into Europe, & Other San Diego BizTech News

4/27/09

We saw the proxy battle for control of San Diego’s Amylin Pharmaceuticals heat up last week, amid signs that wireless technology giant Qualcomm is in peace talks to settle a wide-ranging patent dispute with Broadcom, its Southern California chip-making rival. We also got some new insights into venture capital activity in San Diego, and in the emerging cleantech sector. Let Xconomy be your guide.

—All three factions in the proxy battle at San Diego’s Amylin Pharmaceuticals are appealing for shareholder support in advance of the company’s annual shareholder meeting on May 27. Billionaire investor Carl Icahn and Eastbourne Capital Management are trying to oust Amylin’s governing board by persuading shareholders to vote for their slate of candidates. Amylin’s management contends the dissident shareholders just want to sell the biotech. Talks to reach some kind of accommodation ended with no progress—and no peace—in the continuing battle.

—Two San Diego biotechs disclosed layoffs last week. Arena Pharmaceuticals said the company is laying off 130 of its 400 employees, after investors were disappointed in results from Arena’s mid-stage clinical trial of a new drug for treating obesity. In a separate announcement, Sequenom said it eliminated 30 jobs as it reorganized its genetics analysis business.

—San Diego’s Qualcomm (NASDAQ: QCOM) postponed its Q2 financial results last Wednesday. Qualcomm explained it is in advanced IP settlement discussions with rival chipmaker Broadcom of Irvine, CA. Qualcomm rescheduled its earnings release for today and said its revenue and operating income exceeded the company’s prior guidance, although that could change if Qualcomm agrees to pay Broadcom to end the acrimonious patent dispute.

—With venture investments in San Diego in retreat, Hans Swildens of San Francisco-based Industry Ventures told Bruce that San Diego’s homegrown VCs are “in transition,” which seemed to be a diplomatic way of saying many local venture firms are no longer investing in new companies. Industry Ventures and other secondary VC funds have been negotiating to acquire stakes in some local VCs and their limited partners—by offering to pay as little as 30 cents on each dollar they invested.

—Chumby the Clumsy, a creature that is part wireless Internet terminal and part stuffed animal, is expanding overseas. The portable appliance, with a touch screen that enables users to watch videos, play music, or use it as an alarm clock, has been selling in Japan and Australia, and Chumby sales are now starting in Europe. Some people love it and some people hate it, but Chumby co-founder Duane Maxwell told me that Chumby Industries wouldn’t have gotten any attention if they had just created “another chrome-and-plastic, hot-tech, iPod-looking machine.”

Zenobia Therapeutics,  which is a San Diego biotech startup focused on diseases of the central nervous system, has been surviving since last summer primarily on grants from the Michael J. Fox Foundation for Parkinson’s Research and contract work for other companies. The San Diego biotech specializes in a variation of structure-based drug design that breaks up proteins and other large molecules, and screens the fragments for certain biological activity. It’s focusing now on a possible treatment for treating Parkinson’s disease.

—After developing software that helped to bring high-definition video to PCs, San Diego’s DivX is now delivering its high-quality digital media technology to TVs too. Consumer electronics giant LG is coming out with television sets where high-quality DivX videos can easily be played through a USB slot.

San Diego-based ID Analytics says the database it uses to help credit card companies and other customers prevent fraud by identity theft has grown to 360 billion (yes, that’s ‘b’) attributes, such as names, addresses, dates of birth, and specific characteristics of credit behavior. The San Diego-based analytical software developer uses its technology to screen millions of transactions for key characteristics of identity theft.

—San Diego’s Anadys Pharmaceuticals (NASDAQ: ANDS) reported another round of encouraging news this week from clinical trials of ANA598, its drug candidate for treating hepatitis C. Anadys said full data from trials shows it was able to kill over 99 percent of the virus that causes hepatitits C. Investors were spooked on Friday, however, when Anadys said three patients in the study had developed an itchy rash.

—In a panel discussion Thursday in San Diego, venture investors who specialize in funding cleantech deals say project financing remains a daunting challenge in bringing innovations in energy and environmental technologies to market. But the VCs were optimistic that anticipated government funding for cleantech programs will compensate for locked-up credit markets and the demise of major private equity investors.

[Xconomy San Diego Editor Bruce V. Bigelow helped prepare this report]

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