FDA Adopts New Initiative, Scripps Health Begins Longevity Study, & More San Diego Life Sciences News

10/6/11Follow @bvbigelow

What was the biggest life sciences news over the past week? It might be that five San Diego companies landed financing deals, grants, and payments. Here are our highlights.

—The U.S. Food and Drug Administration outlined a new strategic initiative intended to address industry criticism that the agency has been thwarting life sciences innovation through its bureaucratic reviews and overall unpredictability. “The number of new products in the development pipeline is not where we’d like it to be,” FDA commissioner Margaret Hamburg told reporters last week in releasing a 40-page overview. “Timelines are long, costs are high, and rates of failure are distressingly high.”

—Mountain View, CA’s Complete Genomics said it has agreed to generate the whole genome sequences of 1,000 healthy senior citizens for a study underway at the Scripps Health system in San Diego. The trial dubbed as the Wellderly Study is enrolling people from 80 through 108 years old who are without long-term health complications. Scripps cardiologist Eric Topol, who is overseeing the Wellderly Study, wants to identify factors that have enabled them to live such long, healthy lives.

—It’s clear that the kind of fast and inexpensive genome sequencing to be used in Scripps Wellderly Study is provoking widespread attention. Xconomy is convening an Oct. 24 conference in San Francisco on the implication of fast and cheap genome sequencing and the role computing will play in this big story over the coming decade. In San Diego, Biocom has organized an Oct. 26 event to discuss how life sciences organizations can take advantage of advances in fast and cheap sequencing.

—Cyberonics (NASDAQ: CYBX) said it’s making an investment in ImThera Medical that could eventually total as much as $12 million if ImThera meets certain milestones. ImThera, which initially got $4 million in funding, has been developing an implantable neurostimulation device for treating obstructive sleep apnea. Cyberonics makes a neurostimulation device used to treat epilepsy and depression.

—DARPA, the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, awarded a $6.8 million contract to San Diego’s Aethlon Medical to advance technology that could be used to reduce the incidence of sepsis, a potentially fatal bloodstream infection. Aethlon has been developing dialysis-like blood purification equipment.

—Carlsbad, CA-based Life Technologies (NASDAQ: LIFE) CEO Greg Lucier visited the company’s plant in Renfrewshire, Scotland, earlier this month to tell managers there that Life is considering building a factory there. Renfrewshire is vying with prospective sites in the United States and China for a Life plant that would be in the tens of millions of dollars, according to a BBC report.

—San Diego-based CalciMedica has raised a $4 million round of debt, options, warrants and rights, according to a report in VentureWire. CalciMedica, which is developing a drug for treating plaque psoriasis, closed on a $6 million financing tranche earlier this year from.

—San Diego-based Neurocrine Biosciences (NASDAQ: NBIX) said it received a $20 million milestone payment from Abbott. The two companies are collaborating in the development of a new drug for treating endometriosis, and Neurocrine indicated it is ready to begin late-stage trials.

Square 1 Bank, based in Durham, NC, said it provided a $6 million loan to San Diego-based CoDa Therapeutics, which is developing drugs for wounds that heal poorly, including venous leg and diabetic foot ulcers. The company arranged the financing after closing on a $19 million funding round in April.

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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