Biogen Idec Closing San Diego Center, Cadence Wins FDA Approval, Adventrx Files New Drug Application, & More San Diego Life Sciences News

11/4/10Follow @bvbigelow

The question with the life sciences roundup this week is not so much, “Where to begin?” as it is “Where can we resume?” With the closure of Biogen Idec’s San Diego operation, local business leaders say it’s now a matter of picking up the pieces and starting over.

— Weston, MA-based Biogen Idec (NASDAQ: BIIB) said it plans to close down its San Diego cancer R&D center as part of a major restructuring in which it is cutting 13 percent of its workforce and getting rid of 11 drug development programs.

Biogen Idec CEO George Scangos, who took the helm less than four months ago, told Xconomy’s Ryan McBride he wants to make Biogen more like a biotech and less like a pharmaceutical firm. As part of that, Scangos is divesting the company’s cancer and cardiovascular drug pipelines to focus on developing drugs for neurological disorders.

Reaction among local business leaders in San Diego tended to be on the fatalistic side—or maybe just pragmatic, with Biocom CEO Joe Panetta saying the local talent cut loose will go on to start new San Diego biotech companies. Still, Idec Pharmaceuticals founder Ivor Royston voiced a common sentiment, telling The San Diego Union-Tribune, “It’s disappointing that we can’t develop a major pharmaceutical company that stays here.”

—On the plus side, San Diego’s Cadence Pharmaceuticals (NASDAQ: CADX) won FDA approval to begin selling an intravenous form of the pain reliever acetaminophen (Ofirmev) for use in hospitals. Cadence said it plans to introduce the drug in the U.S. by the end of March.

—Luke profiled RF Surgical Systems, a Bellevue, WA-based company with an engineering center in San Diego, which is developing surgical sponges with radio-frequency tags embedded that makes it easier to track the dozens of sponges that might be used in surgery.

Synthetic Genomics‘ founding CEO, J. Craig Venter, explained to scientists at the NASA Ames Research Center in Mountain View, CA, how rapid sequencing of genes could help the space agency better select astronauts who can cope with confinement in space during long flights.

—The TEDMED conference returned to the San Diego area last week, with dozens of talks over the four-day event. Peter Daszak, a disease ecologist and president of the New York-based EcoHealth Alliance, says approximately 75 percent of emerging infectious diseases that affect humans today originated in wild or domestic animals.

—San Diego-based Adventrx Pharmaceuticals (NYSE Amex: ANX) submitted a new drug application to the FDA for vinorelbine, its reformulated chemotherapy drug.

—Good news for San Diego’s Ligand Pharmaceuticals (NASDAQ: LGND): Japan’s Ministry of Health, Labor, and Welfare approved partner GlaxoSmithKline’s application for eltrombopag (Revolade), a drug developed to treat a blood disorder called chronic idiopathic thrombocytopenic purpura (ITP).

David Schlotterbeck said he’s retiring on February 28 as chairman and CEO of San Diego-based CareFusion (NYSE: CFN).


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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