San Diego Life Sciences Roundup: Halozyme, Acadia, Trovagene, & More
A number of San Diego’s public life sciences companies were on the move over the past week. Here’s our briefing of the latest developments.
—Shares of San Diego’s Halozyme Therapeutics (NASDAQ: HALO) spiked more than 30 percent last Friday, after partner Baxter (NYSE: BAX) said European regulators recommended approving HyQ, their jointly developed drug for treating immunodeficiency disorders. But it was a short-lived rally, as Halozyme shares fell from Monday’s Nasdaq opening of $7.20 a share to close yesterday at $5.77 in regular trading. FDA regulators raised concerns last summer about the potential effects HyQ might have on human fertility and reproduction. Still, HyQ sales could begin in some European countries this year if the European Commission gives its OK.
—Shares of Acadia Pharmaceuticals (NASDAQ: ACAD) hit a 52-week high of $8.81 earlier this week. The San Diego-based pharmaceutical company was buoyed by investor optimism about the prospects for its drug candidate pimavanserin, developed to treat psychosis in patients with Parkinson’s disease. Jefferies analyst Thomas Wei triggered the rise with a “Buy” rating for Acadia shares and a price target of $13 a share. Acadia reported positive results in a comeback study of pimavanserin more than four months ago.
—San Diego’s Trius Therapeutics (NASDAQ: TSRX) reported encouraging top-line results from its second late-stage trial of tedizolid phosphate, an antibiotic for treating acute skin infections, including those caused by methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) bacteria. The company says the results support the promise of tedizolid as a safe and effective new antibiotic that is needed at a time when the incidence of multi-drug resistant staph infections is increasing.
—San Diego-based Trovagene (NASDAQ: TROV) said it’s introducing its first commercial product, a non-invasive diagnostic test for human papillomavirus (HPV), the most common sexually transmitted virus in the country. Some HPV strains can lead to cervical cancer. The Associated Press said the Trovagene diagnostic test is easier than existing technology, by using a urine sample and DNA sequencing to identify the 15 strains of HPV most frequently associated with cervical cancer.
—San Diego’s Vital Therapies, which is developing a product that combines liver cells with a medical device to help people with acute liver failure, has extended its latest financing round to about $100 million. Since announcing it had roughly $70 million in commitments six months ago, the company has received another $30 million in pledges. In a statement, Vital Therapies said the initial tranche of invested capital amounted to about $30 million, and about $70 million of the commitment is pending. Vital Therapies is moving to late stage trials of artificial liver therapy with 375 patients enrolled in the U.S., Europe, and Australia.
—ZeaKal, an agricultural biotech based in San Diego, said it has raised $3.8 million in a Series A round of funding to develop technology that increases the yield and oil content of soybeans and rice. Finistere Ventures, Two Oceans, and the Missouri Soybean Merchandising Council led the investment. A ZeaKal spokeswoman said Han Chen, a former investment manager at Finistere Ventures, heads the startup, which is developing its technology with the University of Missouri.
—In his BioBeat column, Luke describes how venture firms that specialize in early stage investments in life sciences deals have broken from the syndicate/herd mentality. Using recent examples from Third Rock Ventures, Flagship Ventures, Domain Associates, and Avalon Ventures, Luke contends that a “go-it-alone” strategy lets a VC firm keep more ownership, retain more control, and make board-level decisions quickly.