Sequenom Discloses SEC Probe, How Evoke Pharma Got its Drug, Illumina Sales Fall Short, & More San Diego Life Sciences News

7/2/09Follow @bvbigelow

We had a mixed bag of bad and good news from the San Diego life sciences industry this week heading into the holiday weekend.

—At least 11 shareholder lawsuits have been filed against San Diego’s Sequenom (NASDAQ: SQNM) since the medical diagnostics company disclosed on April 29 that four employees were suspended for “mishandling” research data supporting a noninvasive prenatal test for Down syndrome. (A Sequenom spokesman told me last night the four employess are still suspended). The SEC also has launched an investigation into the mishandled research data that goes as far back as June 2008, according to regulatory filing from Sequenom earlier this week.

—Some documents filed by Hayward, CA-based Questcor (NASDAQ: QCOR) show that it is the source of an experimental drug now under development by stealthy San Diego biotech Evoke Pharma for treating gastroparesis, a serious digestive ailment. Questcor stopped its development of metoclopramide, which has significant side-effects, in mid-2001, when British drugmaker Shire Pharmaceuticals withdrew from their drug development partnership.

—After raising more than $47,000, a cancer diagnostics startup founded by UC San Diego grad student Raj Krishnan, was one of 16 finalists this week in a global business plan competition sponsored by Cisco Systems and the Draper Fisher Jurvetson venture capital firm. Alas, the top prize—$250,000 in investment capital—was awarded to a team from the University of Virginia who founded Husk Power Systems, a startup developing miniature power plants for rural India.

—San Diego’s Vical (NASDAQ: VICL) says the DNA vaccine it quickly developed for the H1N1 Swine Flu produced “robust immune responses” in animal tests. While the U.S. Navy has supported Vical’s work so far, the company has not been successful in landing additional government funding needed to move to the next stage of vaccine development.

—San Diego respiratory drug developer Amira Pharmaceuticals reported encouraging results from animal tests of its experimental drug for reducing fibrotic lung scarring in mice with pulmonary fibrosis. The biotech hopes to begin human tests of its oral medication during the first half of next year. Andrew Tager, a pulmonologist at Massachusetts General Hospital and adviser to Amira, told Denise that the drug also shows promise against other fibrotic conditions, such as cirrhosis of the liver and some forms of kidney disease.

Illumina (NASDAQ: ILMN), the San Diego-based maker of genetic analysis tools, said its second quarter sales fell short of the company’s forecasts. It generated about $161 million in sales during the quarter, compared with the expected range of $168 million to $173 million.

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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  • M Keanes

    Interesting that one of Evoke’s founders was on the board of Somaxon Pharmaceuticals which just so happened to have had a drug for tardive dyskinesia (the key side effect for metoclopramide) that they let go. Maybe there’s a connection here?