San Diego Life Sciences Roundup: BeneChill, Sotera, Imthera, & More

12/16/11Follow @bvbigelow

—After naming former Boston Scientific executive Fred Colen as CEO last month, San Diego’s BeneChill raised nearly $15 million in a round that’s targeting a total of $25.6 million, according to a recent regulatory filing. BeneChill, founded in 2004, has been developing therapeutic hypothermia medical products. The company’s European headquarters is in Lausanne, Switzerland, and BeneChill has European approval to sell its intra-nasal cooling system—which induces therapeutic hypothermia immediately following cardiac arrest.

—San Diego’s Sotera Wireless has been busy getting its ducks in a row. After applying for FDA approval of its vital signs wireless patient care monitoring technology in August, Sotera raised $12.2 million last week in Series D financing. Sotera said it also signed a commercial partnership agreement with Kansas City, MO-based Cerner, the giant health IT systems provider. If all goes as planned, funding from the current financing round will be used to support the launch of Sotera’s “ViSi Mobile System” in early 2012.

—Melinda Richter, the founder and CEO of San Francisco-based Prescience International sat down with me to discuss her plans for the life sciences incubator going in at Johnson & Johnson’s pharmaceutical R&D facility in San Diego. The J&J facility, known as the Janssen Labs at San Diego, will host 18 to 20 early stage startups. Richter, who will manage the facility under a contract with Janssen, said she wants to dramatically lower the costs for starting a life sciences company.

Optimer Pharmaceuticals (NASDAQ: OPTR) said it won approval to start selling its new antibiotic, fidaxomicin (Dificlir) in Europe as a new treatment for C. difficile infections of the gut. Japan’s Astellas Pharmaceuticals has the rights to market the drug in Europe under a partnership agreement that paid Optimer $68 million upfront. The FDA cleared fidaxomicin for treatment of C. difficile in the U.S. earlier this year.

—San Diego’s Imthera Medical, which has been developing an implantable medical device for treating obstructive sleep apnea, has raised about $1.5 million in financing from Richmond, VA-based Allied Beacon Partners, according to a recent regulatory filing. The financing includes a combination of equity, options to acquire securities, and securities. Houston’s Cyberonics invested $4 million in Imthera several months ago.

Connect gave its most prestigious honor, the William W. Otterson Award for innovation, to San Diego’s Gen-Probe (NASDAQ: GPRO for its Procleix test, which has been used in the U.S. since 2002 to test samples of donated blood for HIV and hepatitis.

Connect gave a most innovative new product award (for diagnostics and medical technologies) to Life Technologies (NASDAQ: LIFE) for the Ion Personal Genome Machine (PGM), a bench-top system for gene sequencing. In another life sciences category, Connect gave one of its annual innovative product awards to Hypnoz Therapeutic Devices for its Jaw Elevation Device, which helps an anesthesia provider keep a patient’s airway open.

Fate Therapeutics named former Idec Pharmaceuticals CEO Bill Rastetter as chairman and interim CEO. Rastetter wears many hats, but he told Luke his new job at Fate would become his major time commitment. John Mendelin, who was Fate’s executive chairman, moved to vice-chairman, and will oversee “scientific excellence.”

—Cambridge, MA-based Vertex Pharmaceuticals, which has operations in San Diego, named Jeff Leiden as CEO, replacing Matt Emmens as of Feb. 1. Vertex is confronting tough new competition with its flagship hepatitis C drug, and is preparing to launch a second new drug for cystic fibrosis.

—In his BioBeat column, Luke talked with San Diego’s Kleanthis Xanthopoulos about new competition that has been roiling the scene for hepatitis C drug developers. Xanthopoulos, the Regulus Therapeutics CEO and co-founder of hepatitis drug concern Anadys Pharmaceuticals, said it’s going to take some time before a clear leader emerges.

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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