San Diego Life Sciences Roundup: Vical, Fate, Arcturus, and More

8/15/13Follow @bvbigelow

Amid favorable market conditions for the life sciences industry, another San Diego biotech has filed to go public. We have details, along with other local developments over the past week.

—San Diego’s Fate Therapeutics revealed plans to raise as much as $69 million through an IPO. Fate Therapeutics, founded to develop stem cell technology, is in mid-stage trials of a it calls ProHema to improve the success of bone marrow transplants, which are often performed on cancer patients whose own bone marrow stem cells have been destroyed by chemotherapy for blood cancers like leukemia and lymphoma.

— Another San Diego life sciences company, Sophiris Bio, remains on track for its IPO after completing a 52-1 consolidation of its common shares traded on the Toronto Stock Exchange. Sophiris has been developing a treatment for benign prostatic hyperplasia, or enlargement of the prostate.

—San Diego’s Vical (NASDAQ: VICL) terminated work on its lead drug candidate, a treatment for cancer, after a late-stage trial failed to show that Allovectin was significantly better than chemotherapy. Vical’s stock has been trading around $1.50 a share, after losing $2 a share (about 57 percent) on the news. Vical was developing Allovectin to treat advanced melanoma, the deadliest form of skin cancer. In a statement, Vical CEO Vijay Samant said the company would refocus its resources on its infectious disease vaccine programs.

Arcturus Therapeutics, a San Diego startup founded earlier this year, said it has acquired the patented portfolio of Unlocked Nucleobase Analog (UNA) intellectual property from Marina Biotech. Financial terms of the UNA agreement were not disclosed. Arcturus, which moved into space at the Janssen Labs life sciences incubator, said the use of UNAs to silence aberrant gene expression through in RNA interference (RNAi) is a promising new approach in treating disease. Using UNA technology could improve potency, selectivity, and duration of action, according to Pad Chivukula, the startup’s chief scientist.

—San Diego’s Torrey Pines Investment said it’s committing as much as $20 million to BioMotiv, a Cleveland, OH-based business accelerator, to help commercialize life sciences breakthroughs from anywhere around the world over the next seven years. The 11-year-old investment firm, which has close ties to the Russian and Ukrainian pharmaceutical industries, said it also will provide its expertise in contract research to startups formed to advance new technologies. BioMotiv is an accelerator associated with The Harrington Project for Discovery & Development, a $250 million program at the University Hospitals of Cleveland.

Biocom, the San Diego life sciences trade association, has joined a chorus of calls for San Diego Mayor Bob Filner to resign following a series of sexual harassment complaints. In a statement, Biocom CEO Joe Panetta said, “Nothing even vaguely resembling this level of behavior would ever be tolerated in the private sector. At a time when the life science community in San Diego has enjoyed unprecedented success, the city of San Diego itself has effectively become a punch line, and the mayor’s credibility has been damaged beyond the point of any reasonable expectation of rehabilitation.”

—After partnering with Pfizer in 2011 to create a private online marketplace that enables scientific research providers to bid for research contracts, San Diego-based Assay Depot said it is extending the project for three years with an improved technology platform. In a statement, Assay Depot said its enhanced Pfizer Research Exchange now serves as an end-to-end sourcing, purchasing, and tracking system for research projects. Assay Depot also has developed similar online exchanges for the National Cancer Institute (announced last week) and AstraZeneca. The company said it has deals with two other large pharma partners that have not yet been formally announced.

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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