Ion Torrent Racing to Change Healthcare, VentiRx to Close SD Office, RF Surgical Raises $12M, and More San Diego Life Sciences News

9/15/11Follow @bvbigelow

San Diego’s biggest life sciences stories over the past week were fundamentally about the potential of new technologies. We’ve got what’s happening at Life Technologies’ Ion Torrent and Panmira Pharmaceuticals wrapped up for you here.

—Luke talked with Ion Torrent founder Jonathan Rothberg about the company’s increasingly high profile in sequencing genomes at high speed and very low cost. The company, now part of Carlsbad, CA-based Life Technologies (NASDAQ: LIFE) posted $13 million in sales in the most-recent quarter that ended in June, a 50 percent gain over the previous quarter. “It’s like the race to the South Pole 100 years ago,” said Rothberg. “The guys that win now will change healthcare forever.”

—Bellevue, WA-based RF Surgical, which has an R&D facility in San Diego, raised $12 million from venture investors. RF Surgical, which is developing technology to make sure surgical sponges and intstruments aren’t left inside patients, plans to use the money to do more R&D on its technology and build up its sales and marketing.

—In his BioBeat column, Luke talked about how biotechies can use Twitter to expand and enhance their professional networks and gain visibility in their fields. His examples included Michael Gilman, the founder and CEO of Cambridge, MA-based Stromedix, who also has written about the power of Twitter.

VentiRx Pharmaceuticals plans to close its business and administrative headquarters in San Diego by the end of the year. The company is consolidating is operations in Seattle to conserve cash and concentrate more specifically on an experimental immune-booster for cancer.

—Following Luke’s story about the fortuitous windfall for investors in San Diego-based Amira Pharmaceuticals, San Diego Union-Tribune reporter Keith Darce reported that the former owners and executives have formed a new company, Panmira Pharmaceuticals. They hope to repeat their success at Amira by developing a pair of experimental inflammatory disease drugs that were left out of Bristol-Myers Squibb’s Amira acquisition.

—San Diego-based Targeson said it would get $1.3 million over the next two years under a Small Business Innovative Research (SBIR) 2 grant from the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases. The company is exploring the use of Targeson’s microspheres as a way to delver nucleic acid therapies in kidney disease. The company plans to conduct its research in conjunction with Kumar Sharma, director of UC San Diego’s Center for Renal Translational Medicine.

—San Diego’s Crinetics Pharmaceuticals found an unusual source of funding, according to a report by Keith Darce in the San Diego Union-Tribune. The early stage biotech, which is developing ovarian cancer drug candidates, has received $1.4 million in grants from the Found Animals Foundation, a nonprofit animal welfare organization based in Los Angeles. Crinetics now is competing to win the $25-million Michelson Prize, an incentive prize created by the foundation to produce a low-cost, nonsurgical way to sterilize dogs and cats.

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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