Biotech is Biggest Winner in Second-Quarter VC Funding, Zogenix Strategy Unfolds, Intellikine Builds Clinical Trial Capabilities, & More San Diego Life Sciences News

7/21/11Follow @bvbigelow

There’s been a deluge of venture capital news over the past week, and a flash flood of VC cash during the second quarter went mostly to San Diego’s life sciences sector. Our briefing begins now.

—San Diego venture firms invested a total of $198.2 million in 29 local startups during the second quarter that ended June 30, according to a breakout of regional data from the MoneyTree Report. The single biggest deal was the $50.4 million for San Diego’s Sangart, but in fact, 24 of the 25 deals were categorized as life sciences deals, accounting for roughly $193.1 million—or more than 97 percent of the $198.2 million total invested here.

—San Diego’s Zogenix (NASDAQ: ZGNX) said it signed an agreement with Durect (NASDAQ: DRRX) of Cupertino, CA, to develop Durect’s long-lasting reformulation of the anti-psychotic drug risperidone (Risperdal) for use with the Zogenix needle-free injector. Zogenix says its collaboration with Durect is a good example of its unfolding strategy, and could lead to the first long-lasting formulation of the anti-psychotic drug available in a needle-free injector for once-a-month use.

Intellikine, a San Diego startup developing new anti-cancer drugs, hired former Celgene vice president Greg Berk as chief medical officer responsible for overseeing Intellikine’s clinical trials. Intellikine CEO Troy Wilson says he’s encouraged by the company’s progress in developing INK128, a compound that blocks a mutated kinase linked to a variety of cancers from wreaking its havoc in what he calls the PI3K/mTOR signaling pathway.

—In his BioBeat column this week, Luke makes his case for resisting the pressure for life sciences companies to rush into mergers and acquisition deals with Big Pharma. He argues that the winners in these deals are often celebrating a pyrrhic victory.

—San Diego-based Celladon, which reported encouraging results last year in using gene therapy for heart failure, has secured $400,000 in a debt and securities financing. But that hardly seems sufficient to move its drug development forward. Celladon has raised more than $60 million in venture capital from Enterprise Partners Venture Capital, Venrock Associates, and Johnson & Johnson.

—Synteract, a full-service, global contract research organization (CRO) based in San Diego, named Wendel Barr as CEO. Barr  succeeds Synteract Co-Founder Ellen Morgan, who remains as board chairman. Barr previously was the chief operating officer at Covance, the largest public CRO with $2 billion of revenue. Barr led six global divisions with more than 10,500 employees at Covance, and oversaw all aspects of their operations.

After securing FDA clearance in May, San Diego’s Optimer Pharmaceuticals said it has begun selling its first commercial product, a prescription antibiotic for treating a form of diarrhea caused by Clostridium difficile bacteria. Optimer says its compound, fidaxomicin (DIFICID), was more effective in treating the potentially deadly intestinal infection than existing antibiotics.

—San Diego-based Comprendia, which provides social media tools for life sciences companies, says it is introducing an online social networking website to support research in epigenetics, a quickly growing field with important implications for oncology, neurology, metabolism, and disease mechanisms. The online resource is being sponsored by New England Biolabs of Ipswich, MA.

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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