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San Diego Life Sciences Roundup: Regulus, Aragon, Cytori, & More

Xconomy San Diego — 

[Corrected 10/09/12, 1:45 pm. See below.] We saw some significant financing transactions in San Diego’s life sciences community over the past week. Here’s our rundown of those deals, along with other recent developments. It was a busy week!

—[Thanks to Greg Greenberg of suburban Kansas City for calling out my error on Astra Zeneca’s stake in Regulus.] Trading in San Diego’s newest public company, Regulus Therapeutics (Nasdaq: RGLS), opened yesterday at $4.73 a share—18 percent above its $4-a-share IPO price. Regulus dropped its offering price to that figure from an estimated range of $10 to $12 a share in the early morning before the market opened. Shares of the biopharmaceutical firm closed yesterday at $4.25 a share in regular trading. A Big Pharma partner, AstraZeneca, purchased $25 million of Regulus’s common stock in a private placement. AstraZeneca will own about 18.3 percent of Regulus’s outstanding shares after the offering.

Aragon Pharmaceuticals, a three-year old San Diego biopharmaceutical developing drugs for hormone-driven cancers, said it’s raised $50 million in a Series D financing led by venBio, the life sciences private equity firm based in San Francisco. Existing investors Topspin Fund, Aisling Capital, OrbiMed Advisors, and The Column Group also participated. Aragon said the capital would be used to advance drug development, including of ARN-509, the company’s experimental drug for treating castration-resistant prostate cancer. In results reported earlier this week, Aragon said ARN-509 was well-tolerated in three different patient groups. The company has raised $88 million so far this year.

Vital Therapies, a San Diego biotechnology startup focused on treatments for acute liver failure, said it had raised the first $16 million in a multi-stage commitment from its existing private investors. The closing was part of a plan to raise $76 million needed to fund three late-stage trials of the company’s liver therapy. The company has raised more than $75 million since it was founded nine years ago.

The Qualcomm Foundation awarded a $3.75 million grant to San Diego’s Scripps Health and its affiliated Scripps Translational Science Institute to support the development of innovative digital health technologies. Scripps said the funding would advance clinical trials of advanced biosensor systems, the creation of rapid diagnostic tests intended to match patients with the prescribed drug that’s best-suited for their genetic makeup, and the development of apps and sensors for tracking and predicting heart attacks, Type 1 diabetes, and certain cancers.

—San Diego’s Cytori Therapeutics (Nasdaq: CYTX) said it received a contract from the Department of Health and Human Services’ Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority (BARDA) that could be worth as much as $106 million. The contract calls for Cytori to develop its stem cell therapy technology to treat thermal burns associated with radiation exposure and injury. The company says the contract is intended to create a new treatment following a mass casualty event.

—San Diego-based Senomyx (NASDAQ: SNMX) said the FDA has determined that the company’s new flavor ingredient, known as S9632, meets criteria established for additives that are Generally Recognized As Safe (GRAS). The finding enables S9632 to be used in certain drinks and food products. Senomyx said S9632 can be used to restore the desired taste in drinks and foods with reduced sugar content.

—San Diego’s Peak Health Solutions, which provides health information management services to health plans and healthcare facilities, said it has acquired the assets of Health Data Essentials (HDE), a Baltimore, MD, consulting firm. HDE works with health care plans that contract with the federal Medicare program or state Medicaid programs. Financial terms were not disclosed. Peak, founded in 2004, provides risk-adjustment coding services to healthcare providers and Medicare Advantage (MA) plans.

—San Diego’s Sequenom (Nasdaq: SQNM) said recently it had closed on $130 million in debt financing. The company plans to use proceeds from the deal to commercialize its diagnostic test for Down syndrome and other corporate purposes.