Eastbourne Dumps Amylin Shares, Illumina Inks Licensing Deal, Avanir Releases Pseudobulbar Affect Data, & More San Diego Life Sciences News

10/15/09

A quiet epilogue to last spring’s heated Amylin proxy battle was the lead story in an otherwise slow week for San Diego life sciences news.

Eastbourne Capital, which won a partial victory in a proxy fight against Amylin Pharmaceuticals earlier this year, sold its entire stake in the San Diego diabetes company. The San Rafael, CA-investment firm owned 12.5 percent of Amylin (NASDAQ: [[ticker: AMLN]]) during the proxy contest. One of its three nominees, Kathleen Behrens, was elected to the Amylin board.

San Diego ranked second last year to Cambridge, MA, in total venture capital investment in medical technology firms, according to a report from Ernst & Young. San Diego saw $151 million invested in 15 deals, compared to $169 million in nine deals for Cambridge. E&Y said 2008 was tough for medical device companies, in part because of the economy and concerns about health care reform. Southern California, which E&Y defines as San Diego and Orange County, has 82 venture-backed and 41 public medical technology companies, one of the highest concentrations in the country.

Illumina (NASDAQ: ILMN) acquired worldwide rights to commercially develop Orchid Cellmark’s (NASDAQ: [[ticker: ORCH]]) single base nucleotide extension technology for forensics and diagnostics. Under the deal, Illumina paid Princeton, N.J.-based Orchid $850,000 up front and agreed to pay $150,000 in milestone payments.

Avanir (NASDAQ: AVNR), which is located just across the San Diego border in Orange County, said its experimental drug for treating unprovoked emotional outbursts reached secondary endpoints in a clinical trial of people who had either multiple sclerosis or amyotrophic lateral sclerosis. Data presented at the annual meeting of the American Neurological Association in Baltimore showed that patients diagnosed with pseudobulbar affect experienced a statistically significant improvement in their mental states. Avanir previously announced that the drug dextromethorphan/quinidine, or DMQ, met the primary endpoint of reducing PBA symptoms—episodes of uncontrollable laughter or crying—by a clinically meaningful 30 percent. The drug could receive FDA approval during the second half of 2010.

Denise Gellene is a former Los Angeles Times science writer and regular contributor to Xconomy. You can reach her at dgellene@xconomy.com Follow @

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