Brain Cells’ Antidepressant Disappoints in Clinical Study, Otonomy Hears the Sound of Money, Cognionics Wins Startup Competition, & More San Diego Life Sciences News

6/17/10

A spate of financings dominated the headlines in the past week. We’ve got it summarized for you here.

Brain Cells’ experimental antidepressant was no better than placebo in a mid-stage clinical trial, but the results hinted the drug might help people with a combination of depression and anxiety. Thecompany hasn’t decided what to do next, although it might pursue development of the drug for people with both depression and anxiety or post-traumatic stress.

Cognionics, a startup formed by graduate students in engineering, science and business at UC San Diego, the Salk Institute, and The Scripps Research Institute, won the top prize of $25,000 in funding and $15,000 in legal services at the UCSD Entrepreneur Challenge. The company aims to develop a wireless sensor that can be used for remote monitoring of cardiac data and other health information.

Otonomy, a company working on drugs for disorders of the ear, converted $10.5 million in bridge loans from Avalon Ventures into equity. The startup is working on drugs for Meniere’s disease, which causes dizziness and leads to hearing loss, and otitis media, an inflammation of the middle ear.

Illumina was among five companies to receive letters from the FDA notifying them that the agency believes that genome-sequencing tests offered directly to consumers are medical devices requiring FDA approval. Illumina (NASDAQ: ILMN) got a letter because it knowingly provides two of the companies that sell genetic tests—23andMe and deCode Genetics—with gene-chip technology that has not been approved for clinical use. Besides Illumina, 23andMe and deCode, Navigenics and Knome received the FDA letters, which do not order the companies to stop selling the tests, but suggest it may not be legal to market certain genetic testing services. 23andMe and Navigenics are based in the San Francisco Bay area and Knome is based in Cambridge, MA.

—Bruce identified a trio of life sciences companies that raised fresh financing. Cylene Pharmaceuticals, a developer of cancer drugs, raised $6.1 million; Access Scientific, a medical device company, nabbed $2.6 million; and Ridge Diagnostics raised $577,000.

—Trius Therapeutics and the FDA agreed on a special protocol assessment establishing the design of a pivotal clinical trial for Trius’ lead drug candidate, torezolid phosphate. The company postponed IPO plans in March after new FDA guidelines delayed the pivotal antibiotic study.

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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