BioNanomatrix Moves HQ, Awarepoint CEO Talks Strategy, Ambit Raises $30 Million, & More San Diego Life Sciences News

6/16/11Follow @bvbigelow

There seemed to be a spate of financings among San Diego’s life sciences companies in recent weeks, and some local CEOs are telling me more deals are in the works. Your briefing begins now.

San Diego has added another startup to its growing cluster of companies developing next-generation genome sequencing and molecular diagnosis technologies. BioNanomatrix, which has raised nearly $29 million to develop its proprietary nano-scale DNA mapping technology, said it has moved its headquarters from Philadelphia to San Diego’s Torrey Pines mesa.

Awarepoint‘s new CEO, Jay Deady talked with me about his strategy for expansion at the company, which specializes in proprietary wireless real-time location system for tracking equipment and supplies in hospitals and other health care facilities. Deady, who has been working to raise another round of venture capital, has moved to diversify Awarepoint’s products and has beefed up the company’s sales reps and account managers.

—Cambridge, MA-based Vertex Pharmaceuticals (NASDAQ: [[VRTX]]), which has substantial operations in San Diego, agreed to pay $60 million upfront, and as much as $1.46 billion in follow-on payments to license new hepatitis C drug candidates from South San Francisco-based Alios Biopharma. I got a note from the Latham Watkins law firm, which was involved in the deal, that says: “This is the largest partnering deal Latham has ever done, the largest preclinical deal in history, the largest [hepatitis C] deal in history, and one of the 5 largest deals overall in biotech history. Had the full economics been announced, it would have been the largest biotech deal ever.”

—Luke’s BioBeat column argued that Twitter has become too useful for biotech executives to ignore anymore, and I think the same argument could be made for executives in other industries as well. As Luke put it: “I’ve been careful to follow people that have valuable and relevant information to report and share, while unfollowing everything else. I’ve expanded my professional network around the world by having conversations with readers I never would have met any other way. I’ve gotten story tips. And this is all happening even while I surmise that fewer than 1 percent of all U.S. life sciences professionals are using the service.”

—Shortly after withdrawing its IPO, San Diego’s Ambit Biosciences said it raised $30 million in a second Series D round of venture capital. Ambit said that among other things, the additional funding would enable the company to continue a pivotal mid-stage trial for its lead drug candidate, a potential treatment for acute myeloid leukemia.

—Pacira Pharmaceuticals (NASDAQ: PCRX), a Parsippany, NJ-based specialty pharma with operations in San Diego, said the FDA asked for more information and extended its review of Pacira’s lead drug candidate, a long-acting version of the pain drug bupivacaine. Investors reacted to the three-month extension by chopping roughly 15 percent from the price of Pacira shares.

—Peter Dresslar, who moved his analytics software startup Torrey Path to San Diego in 2009, told me he’s now unwinding the business and selling its assets. Dresslar has started a new company, Sequencethree, with bioinformatics scientist Derren Barken, to develop new uses of computational technology for analyzing the immunological properties of peptides and similar molecules.

—San Diego’s Somaxon Pharmaceuticals (NASDAQ: SOMX) raised a total of $5 million by selling nearly 2.2 million shares of its stock to Paladin Labs in a private placement. Paladin has exclusive rights to commercialize Somaxon’s doxepin (Silenor) in Canada, South America, and Africa.s

—San Diego-based Sequenom (NASDAQ: SQNM) said it secured a $30 million financing commitment from Silicon Valley Bank. The medical diagnostics company plans to will use the financing to support the development and commercialization of new products and other near-term growth initiatives.

AnaBios, a contract research provider that raised $800,000 in April from Southern California’s Tech Coast Angels, raised an additional $200,000, according to a recent regulatory filing. That brings the running tally to just over $1 million of a potential $2 million series A round. The two-year-old startup deploys assays and develops databases to assess drug safety and efficacy.

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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