$50M for Helicon, Cytori Bulks Up, Avanir Awaits Trial Results, & More San Diego Life Sciences News

7/30/09

Several of San Diego’s biotech and life sciences companies raised money this past week, while others await the result of studies to see if the money they’ve already invested will pay off.

Cytori Therapeutics (NASDAQ: CYTX), which is developing a device that can isolate and process regenerative cells from a patient’s fat tissue, has been bulking up its cash position to deal with the recession, Denise reported yesterday. After raising $15 million since March, and with a recent deal with Seaside 88 in June, San Diego-based Cytori will be viable at least through the end of next year. However, after losing the rights to a patent to produce stem cells from fat cells, the company is still a little shaky financially. Luckily for Cytori, this does not affect any of its current developments. The company’s fat isolation and regeneration device is already approved in Europe and is being tested for breast reconstruction after mastectomies as well as for helping blood flow in patients with angina.

—San Diego-based aTyr Pharma, which develops medical therapeutics from proteins, raised $12 million in venture capital to further its research and development, as I reported on Tuesday. The protein drugs aTyr hopes to make come from a group of enzymes that perform catalyzing reactions in the body, known as aminoacyl tRNA synthetases. The drugs could eventually treat a variety of ailments, including autoimmune diseases, metabolic disorders, and blood conditions. While some of the research is done in San Diego, the rest is through Pangu BioPharma, a majority-owned subsidiary at the Hong Kong University of Science and Technology.

—Bruce reported on Tuesday that Helicon Therapeutics has raised $50 million from undisclosed investors to develop memory enhancing drugs. Helicon, which is more than 10 years old although fairly new on the San Diego scene, is working on a gene called CREB to make drugs that will better convert short-term memories into long-term memories. The company is planning its second trial of one of its most recently developed drugs this year.

—Luke profiled Regulus Therapeutics, a company working to develop a new class of drugs based on microRNA technology. Regulus, which came out of Cambridge, MA-based Alnylam Pharmaceuticals (NASDAQ: ALNY) and Carlsbad, CA-based Isis Pharmaceuticals (NASDAQ: ISIS), started off strong, and despite financing worries, is continuing to grow. The research at Carlsbad-based Regulus has previously shown the effectiveness of microRNA in stopping heart failure in animals, while a recent study showed how a different type of microRNA seems to limit the spread of Hepatitis C.

—Good news may be coming for investors in Avanir Pharmaceuticals (NASDAQ: AVNR), as Denise reported, when the results of a trial for a drug to control involuntary laughter and tears are released. The drug, dextromethorphan/quinidine (also referred to as DMQ), treats a neurological condition sometimes known as pseudobulbar, but after trials three years ago showed negative cardiac side effects, Avanir took the drug back to the lab for reworking. Originally based in San Diego, Avanir is now located in Aliso Viejo, CA, where the results of the trial of the reformulated drug will be released. If the trial is successful, the company will begin marketing the drug under the name Zenvia.

Eric Hal Schwartz was an intern in Xconomy's Seattle office. Follow @

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