San Diego Life Sciences Roundup: Receptos, Auspex, Avelas, and More
Amid the flurry of announcements leading up to next week’s JP Morgan Healthcare Conference in San Francisco, you might have missed some significant funding deals coming out of San Diego’s life sciences sector. Here are the highlights, along with my wrap-up of other news.
—San Diego’s Auspex Pharmaceuticals said it has raised $35 million in a combination of equity financing and venture debt to advance its deuterium-based drug pipeline, which includes a drug candidate for a movement disorder associated with Huntington’s disease. The company said it raised $20 million in a Series E round of venture funding led by Deerfield Management, which was joined by existing investors, Thomas McNerney & Partners; CMEA Capital; Panorama Capital; BioMed Ventures; and Costa Verde Capital. In a separate financing, Auspex secured a $15million, four-year venture loan from Oxford Finance. Auspex also plans to raise as much as $69 million through an IPO, according to a regulatory filing the company submitted last month.
—San Diego-based Receptos, which raised $73 million in an IPO eight months ago, revealed plans to sell another 3.3 million shares through a secondary public offering that is expected to raise about $102 million. The offering is expected to close next week, according to a statement from the company. Receptos plans to use the proceeds to advance development of RPC1063, an experimental drug in clinical trials for treating relapsing multiple sclerosis and ulcerative colitis.
—San Diego’s Avelas Biosciences closed on $6.85 million in venture funding to advance its lead product, a fluorescing peptide conjugate that can be used during breast cancer surgery to illuminate cancerous tissue. The round was led by San Diego-based Avalon Ventures, and was joined by Torrey Pines Investment, WuXi AppTec, and an additional unnamed investor.
—Intrexon (NYSE: XON), the Germantown, MD-based synthetic biology company, agreed to buy San Diego’s Medistem in a cash and stock deal valued at about $26 million, according to a statement. Medistem has been developing a universal stem cell product, ERC-124 that stimulates new blood vessel formation and can differentiate into a variety of tissues, and the FDA has cleared the company to begin a clinical trial of ERC-124 for treating critical limb ischemia.
—San Diego agricultural biotech Cibus Global said it has acquired Nucelis, an industrial biotech using core technology from Cibus to produce squalane, an oil compound used in cosmetics, pharmaceuticals, and specialty lubricants, and the provitamin ergosterol. Financial terms of the deal were not disclosed. Cibus already held a stake in Nucelis, which will become an independent operating unit of Cibus.
—As part of a continuing restructuring and cost-cutting effort, San Diego’s Cardium Therapeutics said it was delisting its shares from the New York Stock Exchange and moving to over-the-counter trading. The company’s stock traded over the counter before 2007, when Cardium moved to the American Stock Exchange, which later merged with the NYSE. The company is reorganizing to focus on its two key biologics products, a regenerative medicine treatment for the potential treatment of coronary artery disease, and another for advanced wound care.
—Fabrus, a private San Diego biotech founded in 2007, is merging with Senesco Technologies, a Bridgewater, NJ-based biotech that specializes in cancer therapeutics, according to a statement. Fabrus, whose backers include Pfizer and Opko Health, has developed a platform technology for producing specialized monoclonal antibodies for targeting a variety of diseases. Senesco is in early stage trials of therapies that target cancers related to excessive B-cell production, including multiple myeloma, chronic lymphocytic leukemia, and non-Hodgkin’s B-cell lymphomas.
—San Diego-based Ignyta said it has secured a $10 million loan from Silicon Valley Bank to advance its new focus on developing companion drug and diagnostic products targeting various cancers. As I reported last month, Ignyta raised more than $50 million last year as part of a major change in strategy.
—San Diego-based Orexigen Therapeutics (NASDAQ: OREX) said the FDA has agreed to review a revised new drug application for its extended-release formulation of bupropion (Contrave) after the agency raised questions with the initial application in 2011. The FDA told the company it would complete its review by June 10. If approved, Orexigen said it could begin marketing Contrave in the latter half of 2014.