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San Diego Life Sciences Roundup: Illumina, Sequenom, Acutus, & More

Xconomy San Diego — 

The unsolicited $5.7 billion offer that Roche made for Illumina will no doubt dominate San Diego’s biotech news for weeks to come. We have it and more.

—Switzerland’s Roche offered $5.7 billion, or $44.50 a share, for San Diego-based Illumina (NASDAQ: ILMN in a hostile bid disclosed yesterday. Roche’s bid to stake a claim in genetic diagnostics by acquiring the market-leading maker of DNA sequencing instruments would be the Swiss pharma giant’s biggest deal since its $46.8 billion buyout of Genentech almost two years ago. Roche is the world’s biggest maker of cancer drugs, which suggests its quest for Illumina represents a significant move to base cancer treatments on each patient’s genome.

—Venture capital investors sank $4.73 billion into 446 biotechs nationwide in 2011, according to the MoneyTree report from the National Venture Capital Association, PwC, and Thomson Reuters. But as Luke pointed out in his BioBeat column, there is an alarming drop in support for early stage life sciences startups. Only 153 biotech and medical device startups got their first round of financing in 2011, the lowest amount of seed investment activity in 15 years.

—At an Xconomy dinner discussion, former Amira Pharmaceuticals CEO Bob Baltera said insufficient access to capital is the biggest driver for decision-makers on both sides of biotech-pharma partnerships. So what are some other key factors? We asked some of San Diego’s life sciences leaders to explore the question in an “on the record” dinner discussion late last year.

—San Diego’s Sequenom (NASDAQ: SQNM) completed its secondary public offering, raising roughly $62 million in gross proceeds (before underwriting costs) in the sale of 14.95 million shares, including additional allotments granted to underwriters. Sequenom said it plans to use the net proceeds for general corporate purposes, including R&D expenses, capital expenditures, working capital, and general administrative expenses.

Vertex Pharmaceuticals (NASDAQ: VRTX) plans to run a series of small clinical trials intended to test different combinations of antiviral medicines against hepatitis C. The Cambridge, MA-based company, which has significant operations in San Diego, says the series of trials it’s running with South San Francisco-based Alios Biopharma will help to identify a combination of drugs that can raise the hepatitis C cure rate while reducing the side effects for millions of patients.

—The non-profit West Wireless Health Institute said it began a year-long study of Sense4Baby, the San Diego institute’s first experimental wireless medical device for monitoring fetal vital signs, in Yucatan, Mexico, under a joint research agreement with the Carlos Slim Health. By providing wireless remote monitoring by clinicians and community health workers, the institutes are demonstrating their mutual goal of extending the reach of patient care anywhere.

—San Diego’s La Jolla Pharmaceutical, which trades on the over-the-counter market, acquired rights to an experimental drug from privately held Solana Therapeutics that appears to inhibit a specific immune response implicated in cancer and chronic organ failure. La Jolla Pharmaceutical also named former Solana Therapeutics CEO George Tidmarsh as CEO.

—London’s Advent Venture Partners said it has invested $2.2 million from its dedicated life sciences fund in Acutus Medical, a medical technology company based in San Diego and Zurich that is developing an electrophysiological mapping system to help treat patients with irregular heartbeats. Advent said its investment is part of a $5.4 million Series A Round that was previously disclosed. Index Ventures and company founders also participated.