Adventrx Shares Plummet, Pfizer Adds UC San Diego to its Network, New RNAi Center Opens, & More San Diego Life Sciences News

8/11/11Follow @bvbigelow

San Diego’s life sciences community was teeming with news over the past week. We’ve got it all cultivated for you.

—Shares of San Diego’s Adventrx Pharmaceuticals (NYSE Amex: ANX) plunged by more than 55 percent after the biotech company said the FDA refused to approve its new lung-cancer drug vinorelbine injectable emulsion (Exelbine) until a key bio-equivalence trial is repeated. Adventrx CEO Brian Culley has said the company has enough capital to shift its focus to other drugs in its pipeline.

Qualcomm’s (NASDAQ: QCOM) wireless health team hit the halfway mark today in an eight-week fitness challenge that has equipped 32 employees with wireless monitors and weight scales to help increase their activity and lose weight. I posted a Q&A with Qualcomm’s Don Jones, who also posted this update today on the Qualcomm blog. A Qualcomm spokesman tells me the 32 participants have burned a total of roughly 1.9 million calories and lost a total of 48.5 pounds.

—Pfizer added UC San Diego Health Sciences to its network of drug discovery innovation centers that includes prominent research institutions in Boston, New York, and San Francisco. UC San Diego Health Sciences’ partnership agreement with Pfizer could be worth as much as $50 million over the next five years.

The La Jolla Institute for Allergy & Immunology officially opened a new center today that is focused on RNA interference technology, and is intended to operate as a collaborative and open resource for the scientific community in San Diego and elsewhere. The RNAi Center was funded by a $12.6 million grant from the National Institutes of Health. If scientists make discoveries of potential clinical benefit, “the natural next step would be to seek partnering opportunities for clinical translation and potential drug development,” said Steve Wilson, the center’s executive director and chief technology officer.

—Former SKY MobileMedia CEO Naser Partovi introduced a year-old startup that provides outpatient management software called Wellaho. Partovi told me that Wellaho operates a HIPAA-compliant social media network around the chronically ill, and which is tailored to the needs of that patient. “You can’t just join Wellaho,” Partovi says. “It must be prescribed for you by your doctor.”

—San Diego’s Amylin Pharmaceuticals (NASDAQ: AMLN) and Japan’s Takeda Pharmaceuticals said they are halting further development of pramlintide/metreleptin for the treatment of obesity. Their program was in mid-stage development as a formulation for twice-a-day injection. The companies said their joint decision was based on a commercial reassessment of their prospects as well as “evolving dynamics” within the field of obesity therapeutics.

—In his BioBeat column, Luke argues that Seattle-based Dendreon’s (NASDAQ: DNDN) recent first-and-goal fumble was a self-inflicted, one-of-a-kind screw up. So there’s no reason for Wall Street to extrapolate from Dendreon’s troubles and see broader trouble throughout the life sciences industry.

—The FDA set a deadline of Jan. 28 to complete its review of a recently updated new drug application for exenatide once-weekly (Bydureon) that was submitted by Amylin Pharmaceuticals, Indianapolis-based Eli Lilly (NYSE: LLY), and Waltham, MA-based Alkermes (NASDAQ: ALKS).

—Foster City, CA-based Gilead Sciences (NASDAQ: GILD) agreed to buy a Genentech clinical biologics manufacturing facility in Oceanside, CA, about 36 miles north of San Diego. Terms of the deal were not disclosed.

—San Diego’s Actus Medical, a startup developing an improved way to map heart arrhythmias, raised $1 million in initial funding from private investors and Index Ventures, which has offices in Jersey, Geneva, and London.

—The FDA accepted changes that San Diego’s Santarus (NASDAQ: SNTS) made in its protocols for a late-stage clinical trial of a new heart drug the company is developing with the Netherlands-based Pharming Group under a special protocol assessment. The FDA wanted to see the changes in the trial of a recombinant human C1 inhibitor (Rhucin) as a treatment for Hereditary Angioedema, a disorder that can trigger acute swelling of the limbs, face, windpipe, and intestinal tract.

—San Diego-based ViaCyte named Allan Robins as acting CEO following the departure of John West, who resigned for personal reasons. With part of its funding coming from the California Institute for Regenerative Medicine, ViaCyte is focused on cell therapy treatments for diabetes.

Xconomy has published its third annual Xconomy Guide to Venture Incubators, which provides information on 64 incubator programs nationwide—nearly twice as many as our 2010 incubator guide. Most of the listings are tech incubators, but some cleantech and biotech incubators also are listed. We’d like to include more life sciences incubators in next year’s guide, so please bring those to our attention at editors@xconomy.com.

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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