Qualcomm and Broadcom Sign Patent Peace Treaty, A Green Day for San Diego (as in Algae, Not Rock n’ Roll), Corporate Crisis Hits Sequenom, & Other San Diego BizTech News

5/4/09Follow @bvbigelow

What a week for news! Qualcomm and Broadcom agreed to drop their respective patent lawsuits—and sue for peace, while Prize Capital moved closer to creating a $10 million prize competition, and shares of San Diego’s Sequenom fell 70 percent on news of mishandled data. It’s all in our Xconomy roundup.

—San Diego’s Qualcomm (NASDAQ: QCOM) and Broadcom (NASDAQ: BRCM), a rival chipmaker based in Irvine, CA, signed a peace agreement last week that ended a four-year patent war. The deal also protects Qualcomm’s business model, which is based on licensing fees paid by cell phone makers and competing chipmakers. Qualcomm took a $748 million charge in its fiscal second quarter to account for its settlement payment to Broadcom, which adversely impacted its financial results. But Qualcomm said the deal also eliminates “uncertainty, employee distraction and costs related to protracted litigation.”

—Sequenom (NASDAQ: SQNM), a San Diego medical diagnostics company, had plans to launch SEQureDx, its noninvasive blood test for Down syndrome, next month. But in a bombshell announcement that pushed its stock price off a cliff, Sequenom said data from a series of in-house studies that validated the genetic test had been “mishandled.” In a conference call with analysts, CEO Harry Stylli refused to elaborate on what “mishandled” means, or whether the data had been falsified. Since then, Sequenom’s share price has plunged more than 70 percent, and at least six class-action shareholder suits have been filed against the company.

—With San Diego seeking to establish itself as “a big green cluster” for algae-based technologies, perhaps it was only fitting for local cleantech leaders to organize a cluster of algae-related events that included two major announcements. One, from UC San Diego, involved the formation of SD-CAB, a consortium of research institutions also known as the San Diego Center for Algae Biotechnology. And San Diego-based Prize Capital announced plans to establish a $10 million prize competition intended to encourage rapid advances in algae biofuels technologies.

—Another major algae event was organized by the Regional Algae Initiative to recap the progress made by various algae-based efforts in the San Diego area. The presentations covered the waterfront, so to speak. But for me, the highlight came when Jason Anderson of the San Diego Regional Economic Development Corp., kicked off the session by saying Xconomy had set the right tone with a headline proclaiming it’s “A Good Day for Pond Scum.” Hey, thanks Jason! It was either that, or, “What’s It All About, Algae?”

—Life Technologies (NASDAQ: LIFE) and its Applied Biosystems division are now working with Geospiza of Seattle so that scientists can store their genome sequencing data on third-party servers in the Internet cloud.
As Luke reported, this is the first time a major gene sequencing company has taken the leap into cloud computing.

—Carlsbad, CA-based PhotoThera, which is developing a noninvasive infrared laser therapy for treating strokes, said it has closed a $50 million Series D round of financing led by private equity firm Warburg Pincus. PhotoThera also named Arthur T. Taylor to succeed Thomas C. Wilder as CEO.

—Longtime biotech allies Isis Pharmaceuticals (NASDAQ: ISIS) of Carlsbad, CA, and Alnylam Pharmaceuticals (NASDAQ: ALNY) of Cambridge, MA, have agreed to work together to develop new drugs based on single-stranded RNA interference (ssRNAi) techniques. Isis gets $31 million from Alnylam under the deal.

—In another drug development partnership, San Diego’s Ardea Biosciences (NASDAQ: RDEA) said it struck a deal with German drug giant Bayer HealthCare for rights to a class of small molecule cancer drugs known as MEK (mitogen-activated ERK kinase) inhibitors. Ardea gets $35 million upfront from Bayer, and future payments could total as much as $407 million if all goes according to plan.

—Kevin Kinsella, founder of La Jolla, CA-based Avalon Ventures, told Juha-Pekka Tikka that he anticipates another deep dive in the markets after key economic data is released this week. But Kinsella said he sees a healthy resurgence of venture activities eventually—and even some venture-backed IPOs on the horizon.

—A patent infringement lawsuit filed against San Diego-based Histogen by rival SkinMedica of nearby Carlsbad, CA, caused a financing deal to fall through, which in turn forced Histogen to lay off all 36 employees three months ago. But with half the employees staying on without pay while the company hunts for new funding, the situation didn’t deter Histogen’s cosmetics division, Histogen Aesthetics, from introducing its ReGenica line of skin care products last week for use in anti-aging and to promote healing following cosmetic skin treatments.

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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  • Scott

    As always, a fine job Bruce. You’ve covered the waterfront, so much so that I note your competition (of sorts) over at Voice of San Diego is singing your praises too (even as they chase your coverage).