San Diego Life Sciences Roundup: Celladon, Halozyme, Zogenix, & More

4/11/14Follow @bvbigelow

A big drop in biotech stocks set the backdrop for much of the news out of San Diego’s life sciences community this week. The tide rises, and the tide falls. But the surf is forever—at least in San Diego.

—A broad selloff in biotech stocks has prompted widespread concern that the biotech bubble is popping. The Nasdaq Biotech Index slipped after today’s opening, hitting a level that was 21 percent down from the intraday peak set on Feb. 25. For some experts, a 20 percent decline from the most recent peak means the sector is flirting with a bear market. Talk of the biotech bubble bursting has even prompted some gallows humor, exemplified by a video, “Hitler Reacts to Biotech Bubble,” a meme created from the film “Downfall.”

—San Diego’s Celladon Corporation (NASDAQ: CLDN) gained $1.22, or 11.5 percent, closing at $11.87 in regular trading Thursday, after the company said the FDA gave its “breakthrough therapy” designation to Celladon’s gene therapy treatment for patients with advanced heart failure. It is the first time the FDA has given the designation to a gene therapy program, and means the development and review of Celladon’s Mydicar therapy can be expedited, Wiklund said.

—The FDA put Halozyme Therapeutics’ (NASDAQ: HALO) pancreatic cancer drug candidate PEGPH20 on clinical hold. The move came a week after Halozyme said it had voluntarily suspended enrolling patients and dosing of PEGPH20, a pegylated formulation of its human hyaluronidase enzyme (Hylenex). An independent monitoring committee asked the company to suspend the trial as a precautionary measure until scientists can analyze whether PEGPH20 increases the potential blood-clot risks among patients taking the drug.

—Meanwhile, at the American Association for Cancer Research meeting in San Diego this week, Halozyme presented two scientific papers concerning the benefits of PEGPH20. The first showed that treating tumors with PEGPH20 enhances the action of immune-based cancer therapy such as monoclonal antibodies, according to preclinical data. The second presentation, also based on preclinical data, showed that overproduction of hyaluronan in tumor stroma enhances tumor growth, and that PEGPH20 suppresses the growth of hyaluronan-rich tumors.

—San Diego’s Vital Therapies, which is developing an artificial liver for treating acute liver failure, lowered the proposed deal size for … Next Page »

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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