SD Life Sciences Roundup: Optimer, Illumina, & Deals, Deals, Deals

4/12/12Follow @bvbigelow

In an encouraging sign for San Diego’s life sciences sector, a number of new financing deals recently went to local companies. Here’s our roundup of all the news.

—Shareholder suits have begun to pile up after San Diego’s Optimer Pharmaceuticals (NASDAQ: OPTR) shook up its leadership, citing concerns over a stock grant issued by a Taiwanese affiliate. The board removed founder Michael Chang as chairman (and asked him to resign from the board), and named former Pfizer (NYSE: PFE) CEO Hank McKinnell as chairman. Optimer’s board also dismissed the CFO and a vice president over corporate governance concerns.

—With the annual meeting for San Diego-based Illumina (NASDAQ: ILMN) less than a week away, three proxy advisory firms—Glass Lewis, International Shareholder Services (ISS), and Egan Jones—have sided with the company in its proxy fight with the Swiss giant Roche. Roche is battling to control the Illumina board, which has rejected its $6.7 billion hostile takeover bid. Roche urged Illumina shareholders in a letter yesterday to vote their proxy cards for Roche’s slate of independent director nominees.

—There’s a new molecular diagnostics company in town. San Diego-based NexDx says it finalized an exclusive worldwide licensing agreement with the UC San Diego School of Medicine to commercialize discoveries made in the lab of rheumatology specialist Gary Firestein. NexDx raised about $250,000 six months ago to develop new diagnostics technology for rheumatoid arthritis. UCSD’s Firestein and Jonathan Lim of San Diego’s City Hill Ventures founded NexDx last year.

Genalyte, a San Diego life sciences company developing a new approach for autoimmune testing, said it raised $11.8 million in a Series B round of financing that included two new investors, the Redmile Group and Claremont Creek Ventures. Private investors from Genalyte’s Series A round also participated. The company says it plans to introduce its product this summer, initially addressing the autoimmunity research and testing markets.

—San Diego’s Tioga Pharmaceuticals, which is developing new drugs for treating gastrointestinal diseases, has raised $10 million from investors, according to a recent regulatory filing. On its website, Tioga says it was founded in 2005 by Forward Ventures and raised $24 million in Series A financing with New Leaf Venture Partners and BB Biotech Ventures.

—San Diego-based Adamis Pharmaceuticals has raised $3.3 million in equity, debt, and rights to securities, according to a recent regulatory filing. The company says it is combining specialty pharmaceuticals and biotechnology to develop innovative drugs in three areas, allergies, asthma, and respiratory diseases; cancer; and immunology and infectious diseases. The company was previously known as Cellegy Pharmaceuticals.

—San Diego-based Ocera Therapeutics has raised $1.5 million of a targeted $3 million in debt, rights, and securities, according to a recent regulatory filing. On its website, the company says CEO Laurent Fischer founded the company with Domain Associates partner Eckard Weber in 2005 to develop new drugs for treating liver and gastrointestinal diseases.

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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