San Diego Life Sciences Roundup: Trius, CoDa, Zacharon, & More

1/11/13Follow @bvbigelow

The annual International CES in Las Vegas again featured a Digital Health Summit, which included a number of San Diego-based startups. Rick Valencia of Qualcomm Life posted an interesting blog here, and an end-of-year report from Rock Health showed that investments in digital health startups increased more than 44 percent in 2012, to $1.4 billion from $968 million in 2011. We have a rundown, along with the rest of the week’s life sciences news.

—Novato, CA-based BioMarin Pharmaceutical (Nasdaq: BMRN) said it acquired San Diego’s Zacharon Pharmaceuticals for $10 million, with potential milestone payments that were not disclosed. Zacharon, backed by San Diego’s Avalon Ventures, specializes in developing small-molecule drugs that interact with complex carbohydrates known as glycans, which are thought to be promising drug targets for rare diseases. Zacharon is working on treatments aimed at mucopolysaccharidosis disorders, as well as genetic disorders such as Tay-Sachs and Sandhoff disease.

—The FDA approved 39 new drugs in 2012, and life sciences companies in California developed nine, according to the annual California Biomedical Industry Report. The 2013 report found the biomedical industry ranked as California’s No. 1 industry in jobs (269,997), venture capital investments ($1.98 billion through the first three quarters), and federal research funding through the National Institutes of Health ($3.3 billion).

—San Diego-based CoDa Therapeutics, which received $20 million earlier this month from a fund administered by Domain Associates and Moscow-based Rusnano, said its once-a-week topical treatment for venous leg ulcers greatly improved healing in a mid-stage trial. The company said the gel’s active ingredient, an unmodified antisense oligonucleotide (Nexagon), was safe and increased complete healing. The treatment dampens the inflammatory response, leading to reduced inflammation, swelling, and scarring.

—The FDA has designated a late-stage experimental antibiotic being developed by San Diego’s Trius Therapeutics (Nasdaq: TSRX) for fast-track review once the company files its new drug application later this year. Trius said the antibiotic, tedizolid phosphate, has been undergoing Phase 3 clinical trials to treat skin infections caused by MRSA, the multi-drug resistant strain Staphylococcus aureus bacteria. The special designation means the FDA review will take about eight months, instead of the standard 10 months or longer. If approved, tedizolid also would get an additional five years exclusivity against generic competitors.

San Diego’s Tandem Diabetes Care said it plans to develop a new dual-chamber infusion pump for patients with type 1 diabetes under a new partnership with JDRF, under the New York non-profit group’s multi-year artificial pancreas project. In a statement, Tandem Diabetes said the agreement is intended to accelerate the development of a next-generation, fully automated artificial pancreas system using therapies in conjunction with insulin. The JDRF was previously known as the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation.

—San Diego-based Independa said its Web-based services designed to help seniors live independently is now available on Samsung’s Galaxy tablet. The startup’s online eldercare services also became available recently on LG Pro:Centric Healthcare TVs under the partnership that Independa established with LG Electronics USA just over a year ago.

—San Diego’s GreatCall, the mobile virtual network operator that provides wireless services, apps, and Jitterbug and 5Star handsets, said it introduced “Urgent Care,” a medical app for iOS and Android devices. The 24/7 service enables users to discuss a medical ailment or injury with a registered nurse and other medical specialists, including doctors.

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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