Zacharon Aligns with Pfizer, Conatus Raises Big Bucks, Software Veteran Wins Wireless Institute Challenge, & More San Diego Life Sciences News

4/14/11Follow @bvbigelow

A couple of San Diego biotechs have managed to raise some venture capital in recent weeks. We’ve got details on their good fortune, along with the rest of the local life sciences roundup.

—In its first big partnership with a major pharmaceutical, San Diego’s Zacharon agreed to share its expertise in developing small-molecule drugs that interact with glycans with New York-based Pfizer (NYSE: PFE). The deal that could be worth as much as $210 million to Zacharon. Glycans are thought to be promising drug targets for rare diseases, including lysosomal storage disorders.

Conatus Pharmaceuticals, a San Diego startup with a promising compound for treating Hepatitis C, said it has raised a total of $32.5 million in a Series B round of venture equity funding. The biotech closed the round with a $7.5 million investment by MPM Capital of South San Francisco, CA.

—Luke’s BioBeat column was about Stephen Friend, who quit his job as a senior vice president of cancer research at Merck to found Sage Bionetworks, a Seattle non-profit aiming to harness the “wisdom of crowds” to improve drug development and personalize medicine. Friend is building Sage with the idea that our genomic symphony is too cacophonic for any individual or team to sort out.

—In another turn of the wheel, Avalon Ventures founder Kevin Kinsella responded to comments made by Sofinnova Partners’ Antoine Papiernik in a continuing debate over criticisms that Kinsella has leveled against Big Pharma for its “bad behavior” in dealing with venture-backed biotechs. Because the costs and time required for extended pre-clinical development and extensive clinical trials have moved beyond the scope of venture capital, Kinsella says that biotech ventures are focusing their resources on easier bets with lower risks.

The West Wireless Health Institute named Rhode Island software developer Steven Palmer as the winner of its $10,000 challenge to develop a cost-effective wireless device or mobile app that enables VA patients and their healthcare providers to share pertinent patient care data. Palmer, a Vietnam Veteran and melanoma survivor, won for an iPhone app he developed for use in a monthly self-examination for signs of the deadly skin cancer.

—San Diego’s Digital Healthcare Systems has raised $1.1 million of a planned $2.4 million from undisclosed investors. The two-year-old startup is not related to Cambridge, England-based Digital Healthcare, an 11-year-old health IT company that provides ophthalmologic image management and storage solutions.

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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