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San Diego Life Sciences Roundup: Topera, Afraxis, Trovagene, & More

It was a week of deals, deals, and more deals for San Diego’s life sciences sector. Here’s my rundown.

—San Diego’s Abide Therapeutics entered into a drug development collaboration with Merck, the New Jersey pharmaceutical giant, that could eventually be worth as much as $430 million for Abide. Founded just two years ago, Abide has developed proprietary technology to identify small molecules that block the activity of a superfamily of enzymes known as serine hydrolases, which are associated with a wide range of diseases and disorders. Abide agreed to use its technology to help Merck develop three new drugs for treating type 2 diabetes.

—San Diego-based Topera Medical, which has been developing diagnostic technology and software to pinpoint the origins of electrical impulses that cause abnormal heartbeats, said it has closed on $25 million in a Series C round of financing that was led by New Enterprise Associates, a new investor. Topera, founded in the Boston area in 2008, has developed technology that gives electrophysiologists a dynamic, 3-D view of the heart’s electrical activity during cardiac ablation. The round included funding from an unnamed strategic industry partner and existing investors.

—When San Diego-based Afraxis licensed all of its proprietary drug compounds in a $187.5 million deal with Roche’s Genentech in January, it looked like the company’s work would end on Fragile X syndrome, a leading cause of mental retardation, because it was not part of the deal. But Afraxis restarted last month under the leadership of a new CEO, Carmine Stengone (who led negotiations in the licensing deal with Roche), with Christopher Rex as chief scientific officer. Afraxis is now focusing its business on proprietary technology that can be used to assess the preclinical safety and efficacy of drug candidates in central nervous system disorders—including Fragile X syndrome. Afraxis also said it had signed a non-exclusive collaboration to work with Servier, the French pharmaceutical company also known as Institut de Recherches Servier.

—In his BioBeat column, Xconomy’s Luke Timmerman explains why Thermo Fisher Scientific’s (NYSE: TMO) $13.6 billion buyout of Carlsbad, CA-based Life Technologies (NASDAQ: LIFE) represents more of an opportunity than an obstacle for San Diego-based Illumina. He describes Illumina as the unrivaled No. 1 in the fast-emerging field of high-speed DNA sequencing.

—The U.S. Defense Threat Reduction Agency awarded an $11 million contract to Ichor Medical Systems of San Diego to assess the … Next Page »

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