Optimer Antibiotic Gets Panel Nod, CareFusion Buys Vestara, Tracon Raises $16.5M, & More San Diego Life Sciences News

4/7/11Follow @bvbigelow

The past week was big for life sciences news in San Diego, with acquisitions, funding deals, and important advances in new antibiotics grabbing much of the attention. We’ve got it rounded up for you here.

—An FDA advisory panel voted 13-0 in favor of recommending approval of a new antibiotic that San Diego’s Optimer Pharmaceuticals (NASDAQ: OPTR) developed to combat C. difficile, a dangerous bacterial infection people usually get in hospitals. The panel’s recommendation means Optimer’s drug, fidaxomicin, will likely be approved by the FDA, though the agency is not required to follow the recommendation. The company has spent nearly $200 million developing the drug over the past decade.

—The day after the panel vote, Optimer announced an agreement with Lexington, MA-based Cubist to co-promote fidaxomicin, sales of which could reach $250 million a year, according to some analysts. Optimer could pay Cubist as much as $47.5 million over the two-year period covered by the agreement. After the deal was announced Optimer shares fell by 81 cents, or almost 6 percent, to close at $12.99 a share.

Orexigen Therapeutics reported Monday that its experimental diet pill, naltrexone SR/bupropion SR (Contrave), didn’t affect the blood pressure of people who took the drug as part of a late-stage study. Orexigen presented its data at the American College of Cardiology conference in New Orleans, saying normal 24-hour blood pressure patterns were seen in 182 obese people who took the drug. The results were important because the drug failed to win FDA approval in February, and the agency said Orexigen needed to do more studies of the drug’s effects on heart function.

—While there is no shortage of ideas for new ways to fight dangerous bacterial infections, Luke wrote in his BioBeat column that the lack of innovation in the antibiotics field is worrisome. By coincidence, several San Diego leaders in antibiotics R&D are holding a news conference this afternoon at the Sanford-Burnham Medical Research Institute on antimicrobial resistance to antibiotics as part of World Health Day.

—San Diego-based CareFusion (NYSE: CFN) paid $17 million to acquire Irvine, CA-based Vestara and the technology it developed to help hospitals safely dispose of pharmaceuticals. Vestara’s software uses bar codes to cross-reference drugs to obtain information about federal, state and local laws regarding their disposal.

La Jolla Pharmaceutical said it has acquired the rights to a novel class of compounds known as Regenerative Immunophilin Ligands (RILs) from privately held GliaMed, and plans to focus its resources on this emerging field of regenerative medicine. The biotech says RILs are small-molecule compounds that could be used to promote the regeneration of a wide range of tissues, including complex skin tissue, lung tissue, cardiac muscle, cartilage, and bone, following acute injury. Financial terms were not disclosed.

—Several local life sciences companies participated in funding deals over the past week, following what seems like a prolonged drought in the sector. They were:

Tracon Pharmaceuticals, which has been licensing and developing drugs for cancer and age-related macular degeneration, raised $16.5 million of a planned $24.5 million equity round. The company declined to comment on the report.

—San Diego-based Biotix, which provides pipette tips and other lab supplies, raised $2 million out of a planned $4 million round of equity funding. A spokeswoman told me Biotix has raised a total of $74 million since it was established in the 2005 merger of Continental Lab Products and a predecessor startup.

AnaBios, a San Diego contract research organization that specializes in assessing drug safety and efficacy, raised $800,000 of a planned $2 million round led by Southern California’s Tech Coast Angels.

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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