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San Diego Life Sciences News: AnaptysBio, Life, NeuroGenetic & More

Xconomy San Diego — 

There was a whole lot of life sciences news over the past week. Here’s my roundup.

—Carlsbad-based Life Technologies (NASDAQ: LIFE) said it’s taking orders for a benchtop genome sequencer that can to decode an individual’s DNA within 24 hours and at a cost of roughly $1,000. The company priced its new Ion Proton Sequencer at $100,000 to $150,000, which also represents a dramatic reduction compared with the cost of existing DNA sequencers, and might even entice some practicing physicians to buy into the idea of personalized medicine. A cross-town rival, San Diego-based Illumina, also introduced an improved version of its gene-sequencing machine capable of same-day service, although Forbes’ Matthew Herper says Illumina’s HiSeq 2500 is priced at $740,000.

—A $1 million gift to the Tech Coast Angels from the family of slain TCA member and life sciences investor John G. Watson has enabled the angel group to establish a nonprofit foundation to support entrepreneurism in the San Diego region. A financial adviser, who awaits sentencing following his conviction two months ago, murdered Watson in his La Jolla town home. Watson’s sister, Gillian Ison, told the TCA, “John loved investing, innovation, and the entrepreneurial spirit that he discovered when he arrived in San Diego. We believe that a foundation supporting entrepreneurism is the best way to honor his memory and his life.”

—San Diego’s AnaptysBio said it has established strategic alliances with Novartis and an undisclosed pharmaceutical company. The company plans to use its proprietary technology to discover and develop new therapeutic antibodies with multiple cancer-related therapeutic targets. AnaptysBio said the two deals provide global rights to develop and commercialize a limited number of antibodies against each cancer target that AnaptysBio generates.

—In his BioBeat column, Luke previewed the five myths likely to make the rounds at this week’s JP Morgan Healthcare Conference in San Francisco. You could say that Luke inoculated readers from excessive optimism by writing, “Hope and hype are a couple essential ingredients in this business, and every year both are on display at this conference. Sometimes the wishful thinking can congeal into conventional wisdom.” Is that good, or what?

— Wylie Vale, a Salk Institute scientist, renowned expert on brain hormones, and founder of San Diego’s Neurocrine Biosciences (NASDAQ: NBIX), died on Jan. 3 while vacationing in Hana, Hawaii. He was 70 years old. In a statement from Neurocrine, CEO Kevin Gorman said, “Wylie’s intellect was matched by his terrific wit and disarming good nature. He was a good friend.” The company described Vale as a thoughtful leader with an incredible scientific mind who will be sorely missed.

—San Diego-based Cebix, a startup developing a peptide replacement therapy for vascular complications that arise from type 1 diabetes, said it plans to raise more than $20 million in a Series B round needed to fund pivotal trials.

—San Diego-based NeuroGenetic Pharmaceuticals, a biopharmaceutical startup focused on Alzheimer’s disease therapeutics, said Abbott Biotech Ventures has made an undisclosed investment to accelerate development of its lead drug candidate, NGP 555. The company, founded in 2009, earlier received a $280,000 Small Business Innovation Research grant from the National Institutes of Health for preclinical work on the compound. NeuroGenetic CEO William Comer said the funding from Abbott would help the company reach its immediate goal of initiating clinical trials.

—San Diego’s TrovaGene said it signed an agreement to acquire the laboratory assets of MultiGEN Diagnostics, a San Diego subsidiary of Canada’s Bio-ID Diagnostics. TrovaGene, which trades over the counter under the ticker TROV.PK, agreed to issue 750,000 shares of its common stock, with an additional $3.7 million in cash and stock subject to meeting certain sales and earnings milestones. The diagnostics lab has been certified by the State of California under the Clinical Laboratory Improvement Amendments (CLIA). TrovaGene is developing diagnostics technology to detect short nucleic acid fragments in urine that are indicative of diseased cell death.

Verenium (NASDAQ: VRNM), the San Diego-based industrial biotech, introduced a high-performance enzyme the company calls Vereflow alpha-amylaze for removing filter cake, which acts as a barrier to hydrocarbon in petroleum drilling operations. The company said its new enzyme-based treatment is environmentally safer than existing chemicals used in the oilfield services industry to clear the hole drilled in the creation of an oil well.

—San Diego’s Pfenex and Hayward, CA-based ProZyme said they agreed to collaborate in the development and production of complex reagent-grade proteins, which will be marketed to customers in research and diagnostics. Pfenex, spun out of Dow Chemical in 2009, will be responsible for developing production strains, fermentation process conditions and supplying bulk protein. ProZyme will be responsible for final product release, and global sales and marketing.

SkinMedica, a venture-backed skin care products company in Carlsbad, CA, said it acquired Dana Point, CA-based Colorescience, a mineral makeup company that provides cosmetics that cover skin discolorations and other blemishes. Financial terms were not disclosed.