FDA Panel Recommends Orexigen’s Obesity Drug, Sequenom Raises Capital, CommNexus Reorganizes Its Free Incubator, & More San Diego Life Sciences News

12/9/10Follow @bvbigelow

San Diego’s life sciences community gained a new company when HemaQuest Pharmaceuticals decided to move its headquarters here, and a couple of Bay Area executives will also be working at San Diego’s Otonomy and Receptos. Get all your life sciences coming and goings here.

A Food and Drug Administration advisory panel voted 13-7 to recommend approving bupropion/naltrexone (Contrave), a weight-loss drug developed by San Diego’s Orexigen Therapeutics for the U.S. market. The FDA is expected to follow the recommendation by Jan. 31. The FDA last approved a weight-loss drug in 1999. The FDA’s Endocrinological and Metabolic Drugs Advisory Committee recently blocked two other obesity drugs from approval—one by Arena Pharmaceuticals of San Diego and the other by Mountain View, CA-based Vivus.

San Diego-based Otonomy named a Bay Area biotech entrepreneur, David A. Weber, as CEO and director. He replaces Avalon Ventures managing director Jay Lichter, who co-founded Otonomy in 2008. Lichter will continue to as a member of Otonomy’s board.

—Former Favrille CEO John Longenecker, who was named to head Seattle’s HemaQuest Pharmaceuticals a few weeks ago, has hired two former Favrille executives, Richard Ghalie and Tamara Seymour, to join him at HemaQuest. HemaQuest also is moving its headquarters to San Diego.

Faheem Hasnain, the former CEO of Redwood City, CA-based Facet Biotech, is replacing interim CEO Bill Rastetter at San Diego’s Receptos, a startup looking to produce super high-res images of an important class of new drug targets. Hasnain sold his previous company to Abbott Laboratories.

CommNexus, the San Diego non-profit wireless industry group, has reorganized its EvoNexus technology incubator by folding it within its own menu of programs. Former DivX CEO Kevin Hell has volunteered to serve as the pro bono chairman for EvoNexus and Cathy Pucher, who served as executive director, has accepted an offer to join Grid2Home, a smart grid software startup. Medical device and health IT startups based at the free incubator include Medipacs, Crisi Medical, and Independa.

—San Diego’s Sequenom (NASDAQ: SQNM) completed a stock offering that raised gross proceeds of $96.6 million (before costs of the offering are deducted) for the biomedical diagnostics company. The company offered 16.1 million shares, after underwriters exercised their option to purchase an additional 2.1 million shares, at a public offering price of $6 a share.

Carlsbad, CA-based Verdezyne has raised $6.3 million of a targeted $15 million equity round. Verdezyne is developing gene libraries for use in industrial biotechnology, as well as developing its own sustainable technology processes to make adipic acid and other chemicals usually derived from fossil fuels.

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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