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Sanofi Buys TargeGen, Biogen Idec Hires CEO, Orexigen Obesity Drug Shows Promise Against Diabetes, & More San Diego Life Sciences News

It’s been barbell time for life sciences news in San Diego, with much of the developments happening yesterday and at the end of last week. Still, it shouldn’t require too much heavy lifting; your workout starts now.

—Sanofi-Aventis, the French pharma giant, is acquiring San Diego-based TargeGen in a structured deal that could be worth as much as $560 million if the lean biotech with just 11 employees can hit a series of clinical development goals. TargeGen has been working with Chinese clinical research organization WuXi Pharmatech to develop a drug that targets JAK2, a marker on cells found to be proliferating out of control in patients with blood disorders known as myeloproliferative diseases.

—San Diego’s Orexigen Therapeutics (NASDAQ: [[ticker:OREX[[) says results of its latest clinical trial support its contention that its drug candidate for obesity also offers promise for treating diabetes by helping overweight patients better control their blood sugar.

—San Diego’s Amylin Pharmaceuticals (NASDAQ: AMLN) confirmed that it has trimmed 60 jobs, or about 4 percent of its workforce, in R&D and other specific areas of the company. An Amylin spokeswoman told Luke that the company will look to both internal and external sources to find new ways of bringing innovative medicines to patients.

Biogen Idec (NASDAQ: BIIB), the Cambridge, MA-based pharmaceutical that also has significant operations in San Diego, named George Scangos as its new chief executive. The company has been without a CEO since June 8 when long-time chief executive James Mullen retired after a long battle with dissident shareholder Carl Icahn.

—Biotech startup Zacharon Pharmaceuticals raised an additional $500,000 in a combination of debt, securities, and warrants or rights. The San Diego biotech, which got $5.7 million a couple of years ago, intends to raise another $1.9 million for developing small molecule drugs that block the production of complex carbohydrates known as glycans.

—The National Institute on Drug Abuse has awarded an innovation grant worth $350,000 over two years to San Diego’s Multimeric Biotherapeutics to develop a vaccine against nicotine, and eventually other drugs of abuse. Multimeric says vaccines against nicotine are designed to generate antibodies that sequester nicotine in the blood and prevent the molecules from crossing into the brain and re-enforcing the nicotine habit. The two-year-old biotech is developing proprietary methods for boosting highly targeted antibody responses.

—The World Economic Forum convened a one-day summit on mobile health at the Estancia La Jolla Hotel & Spa. Some 75 or so academic, policy, and business leaders from eight countries were invited to attend the conference, which focused on ways to resolve the tangle of regulatory and policy problems that threaten to thwart the advance of wireless health technologies.