Sequenom Restarts Down Syndrome Test, Cytori Upbeat About Cardiac Study, Pathway Genomics Mass Markets Genome Tests, & More San Diego Life Sciences News

5/13/10

The sector was firing on all burners in the past week with fresh developments in devices, drug development, wireless health, and weight loss (just ask Larry Smarr). You can catch all the latest here.

Sequenom (NASDAQ: SQNM), which scrubbed the launch of its diagnostics test for Down syndrome a year ago over “mishandled data,” is resuming development on a new testing schedule. The company also raised $51.6 million for R&D, commercial product development and general corporate purposes.

Cytori Therapeutics reported (NASDAQ: CYTX) announced encouraging results from two small, placebo-controlled studies of its fat-derived regenerative cell therapy in cardiac patients. The double-blind studies, which were conducted in Europe, should pave the way for a larger test in 150-250 heart attack patients, the company said.

Pathway Genomics fired the next salvo in the personal genome-testing wars with its announcement that it will begin selling genetic tests this week at 80 percent of Walgreens stores nationwide. Consumers can choose the $249 test that looks for a total of 46 genetic and health conditions, or a $179 test  that will look for either 23 genetic conditions or 23 health conditions.

Sotera Wireless CEO Tom Watlington told me the company is preparing to test the ViSi, a wireless device that continuously monitors blood pressure, respiration, temperature, blood oxygen levels and heart rate, at five Southern California hospitals. If ViSi works, Sotera could begin marketing the device to hospitals during the first quarter of 2011, he said.

—Two San Diego companies were recognized for their innovations at the Wireless Life Sciences Investor Meeting in La Jolla, which was attended by 200 people, nearly double last year’s number. CortiCare, of San Diego, which provides remote and continuous electroencephalography monitoring of patients admitted to a hospital intensive care unit for signs of micro-seizures, was a finalist in the Best Clinical Applications category. Great Connections, which just moved to San Diego from Sweden, has technology that transmits ultrasound and X-ray medical images to any mobile device.

—Luke chatted with Internet pioneer Larry Smarr about his personal program to create a “quantified self” by having his blood regularly analyzed for 30 or 40 measurements, like cholesterol levels. Smarr, founding director of the California Institute for Telecommunications and Information Technology, says taking his measurements helped him lose 20 pounds.

Astute Medical, a medical diagnostics startup, completed a $26.5 million series B round of venture funding co-led by Domain Associates and Delphi Ventures. The three-year-old company, which has raised total funding of more than $32.7 million, says its focus includes abdominal pain, acute coronary symptoms, cerebrovascular injury, kidney injury, and sepsis.

—Novocell, a preclinical stem cell engineering company focused on diabetes, changed its name to ViaCyte. In a separate announcement, the company says it also recently obtained three additional U.S. patents.

Optimer Pharmaceuticals (NASDAQ: OPTR), a company working on antibiotics, named former Pfizer executive Pedro Lichtinger as its new chief executive officer. Lichtinger will replace Michael Chang, who will continue at Optimer as chairman of the board and as a consultant, the company said in a statement.

Amylin Pharmaceuticals (NASDAQ: AMLN) and its partners, Indianapolis-based Eli Lilly and Waltham, MA-based Alkermes (NASDAQ: AKLS) said the FDA has set a deadline of Oct. 22 to finish reviewing the application to start selling exenatide once-weekly (Bydureon) for diabetes. The first application was filed in May 2009, and the FDA said in March that it wasn’t ready to be approved.

—Pat Bradley, CEO of Solana Beach, CA-based PriceDoc, a Priceline-type service for medical and dental care, told Luke that more than 1 million searches have been performed at the company’s site, but just 10,000 consumers have registered. Medical providers are using the site to advertise their prices, but few are accepting bids.

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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