Halozyme Announces Recall, Pathway Genomics Halts Genetic Test Kit Rollout, Vertex Gets Ready for Hepatitis C Results, & More San Diego Life Sciences News

5/20/10Follow @bvbigelow

April was a dry month for life sciences news, but May has been roaring with Halozyme’s product recall, Pathway Genomics’ aborted sales plan, and funding news—lots of funding news. Your Xconomy life sciences briefing begins now.

—San Diego’s Halozyme Therapeutics (NASDAQ: HALO) and its manufacturing partner, Baxter Healthcare, announced that they are voluntarily recalling Hylenex, an injectable fluid used to enhance treatment of pediatric dehydration. The companies said they had discovered flakes of glass particles in a limited number of Hylenex vials.

—The FDA put the kibosh on plans by San Diego’s Pathway Genomics to sell over-the-counter genetic tests at the corner Walgreens, the drug store chain operated by the Walgreen Company of Deerfield, IL. The FDA says it wants to retain regulatory oversight of plans by Pathway Genomics and other companies to sell genetic tests and services.

—Nobel laureate K. Barry Sharpless and Scripps Research Institute colleague M.G. Finn told Luke they’re encouraged by the increased attention they’re getting for their work on “click” chemistry. By combining combinatorial chemistry, high-throughput screening, and building chemical libraries of molecular building blocks, they say click chemistry can be used to speed up drug discoveries by making multistep synthesis fast, efficient, and predictable.

Connect is developing a pilot program with a $100,000 grant from the Biogen Idec Foundation that will send the entrepreneurial founders of early-stage biotech companies into local classrooms to talk with teenagers about their breakthrough innovations and startup companies. Connect CEO Duane Roth says the program was conceived as a way to get young people excited about studying science, technology, engineering, and math.

—Cambridge, MA-based Vertex Pharmaceuticals, which has significant operations in San Diego, is anxiously awaiting the results from three crucial clinical trials of its lead drug candidate for treating hepatitis C. Bob Kaufman, the company’s chief medical officer, told Luke the first results are expected to be released sometime near the end of June.

—San Diego-based Celula, a molecular diagnostic startup that is developing a prenatal diagnostic test based on isolation of fetal cells from the mother’s blood, has raised $15 million in a secondary round of venture funding led by Skyline Ventures of Palo Alto, CA.

Stemgent, a startup based in Cambridge, MA, and San Diego that provides stem cell research materials, has raised $5.6 million of a planned $10.1 million round of equity funding.

Afraxis, a San Diego biotech startup developing a promising compound for treating fragile X syndrome, the most common cause of inherited mental retardation, has raised $1.2 million of a planned $6 million venture round.

—Avalon Ventures founder Kevin Kinsella, whose biotech investment portfolio includes deals involving Aurora Biosciences, Illumina, Onyx Pharmaceuticals, Avelas, AnaptysBio, Amira, InCode, and Sirion, says any robust startup ecosystem needs local venture capital. In recent years, San Diego’s startup ecosystem has been losing local venture capital firms.

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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