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Agradis Takes Root, Illumina Cuts Back, Verenium Arranges Financing, & More San Diego Life Sciences News

Xconomy San Diego — 

It was another big week for life sciences news in San Diego, with interesting developments in agricultural biotech, industrial biotech, and genomic sequencing. This is our wrap up of what you need to know.

—San Diego’s Synthetic Genomics spun out a new San Diego-based agricultural biotech, Agradis, with $20 million in Series A financing and proprietary technology that can be used to develop improved hybrid crops such as castor and sweet sorghum. Mexican investor and businessman Alfonso Romo is a co-founder of Agradis, along with J. Craig Venter, Synthetic Genomics’ chairman and CEO.

TedMed is underway this week at the Hotel del Coronado. Peter Diamandis, the chairman and co-founder of the X Prize Foundation, took the stage yesterday to announce some changes in its $10 million competition in genomic sequencing. The foundation, based near Los Angeles, says the $10 million Archon Genomics X Prize presented by Medco will be awarded to the first team that accurately sequences the whole genome of 100 people within 30 days for $1,000 or less per genome, and at an error rate no greater than one per million base pairs. The prize is intended to open the way to new era of personalized medicine with unprecedented accuracy.

—San Diego’s Illumina, (NASDAQ: ILMN), the market-leading maker of DNA sequencing equipment, said it’s eliminating 200 jobs, or about 8 percent of its workforce. Illumina said a restructuring of its business is expected to add a $15 million to $17 million charge on the company’s income statement, mostly in the fourth quarter.

—In a separate announcement, GenoLogics of Victoria, BC, said it has raised $8 million through a strategic financing in the company by San Diego’s Illumina. GenoLogics said it plans to develop genomics software tailored for cheaper desktop sequencers, to build up its sales and marketing efforts, and develop new applications.

—The MoneyTree Report on third-quarter venture capital activity found that VCs invested $201.8 million in 21 deals in San Diego. Of that total, though, VCs invested just $26 million in nine local life sciences deals, or 13 percent of the total capital invested. In the preceding quarter, VCs sunk $186 million in San Diego life sciences startups—or 87 percent. The survey is prepared by PricewaterhouseCoopers, National Venture Capital Association, and Thomson Reuters.

—Mountain View, CA-based 23andMe said it had found a gene that appears to help protect against the known mutation of another gene that is associated with Parkinson’s disease. The Michael J. Fox Foundation hailed the findings. The foundation awarded a $500,000 grant to San Diego’s Scripps Research Institute to study the both genes as a potential therapeutic target for Parkinson’s.

—Analytix On Demand, an Irvine, CA-based provider of Web-based business intelligence services for healthcare, said it acquired Carlsbad, CA-based Integrated Revenue Management, a national healthcare consulting and education company. The combined company, called CentraMed, will be based in Irvine. Financial terms were not disclosed.

Verenium (NASDAQ: VRNM), the San Diego-based industrial biotech, said it has secured credit lines totaling $13M with Comerica Bank and the Export-Import Bank of the United States. The company said it secured an additional $3 million loan to help support the planned build-out of its research and bioprocess development laboratories and corporate headquarters here.

Conatus Pharmaceuticals, a San Diego biotech focused on fibrotic disease and oncology, said it had terminated a mid-stage clinical trial of its drug candidate for patients with chronic Hepatitis C. The decision was prompted by “laboratory abnormalities and adverse events in a subset of clinical trial participants,” according to the company. Conatus continues to work on its lead drug candidate for fibrotic disease.