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San Diego Life Sciences Roundup: Isis, Elcelyx, Acutus, and More

Xconomy San Diego — 

Much of the big news in San Diego’s life sciences community over the past week was coming out of Chicago, where the American Diabetes Association was holding its annual meeting. We’ve got it all wrapped up here.

—San Diego’s Acutus Medical, founded in 2011 to develop minimally invasive technology for creating a 3-D mapping system for treating complex heart arrhythmias, said it has raised $21 million in a Series B financing round led by OrbiMed, the New York healthcare investment fund. The company says proceeds will be used to support its continuing efforts in research and development. Existing investors Advent Ventures and Index Ventures joined in the round.

Banyan Biomarkers, based in Carlsbad, CA, and Alachua, FL (near Gainesville), said it raised $6 million from private investors to advance development of a blood test for biomarkers that indicate the extent of damage in traumatic brain injury. The company is now enrolling 2,000 patients at eight locations for a pivotal clinical trial funded by a $26.3 million contract with the U.S. Department of Defense. In a Q&A with UT San Diego’s Brad Fikes, Banyan CEO Jackson Streeter says there are 1.7 million brain injuries in the U.S. each year.

—The FDA has granted an investigational device exemption to San Diego’s Aethlon Medical for its blood purification device, a dialysis-like system for filtering life-threatening infectious disease and cancer glycopathogen particles from the blood. The FDA exemption allows a medical device to be used in a clinical study in order to collect safety and effectiveness data. In a statement, Aethlon said it has focused primarily on using the device to remove hepatitis C viral particles from the bloodstream.

—San Diego’s Elcelyx Therapeutics drew wide attention at the annual meeting of the American Diabetes Association in Chicago last weekend by releasing primary data for a mid-stage clinical trial of NewMet, a new delayed-release version of the generic drug metformin. Elcelyx said the study showed that metformin works primarily in the lower gut. If borne out in further studies, the results would dispel the long-held belief that high serum concentrations of metformin help control blood sugar. Elcelyx is developing NewMet as a preferred alternative to generic metformin, which cannot be taken by about 40 percent of patients with diabetes because high serum concentrations pose a host of tolerability issues.

—The price of Isis Pharmaceuticals (NASDAQ: ISIS) shares soared by more than 20 percent this week after the Carlsbad, CA-based company reported positive test results on a drug to lower triglycerides during the American Diabetes Association’s meeting. Isis said the drug, ISIS-APOCIIIRx, targets patients with extremely high levels of triglycerides and who are unable to achieve safe levels with existing medications. Isis shares that were trading above $22 last week jumped to more than $27 after the company reported its findings.

—San Diego-based GenomeDx Biosciences published data showing that its prostate cancer test outperformed existing diagnostics in predicting metastatic prostate cancer in patients following prostate surgery. The company said its “Decipher” test, which measures 22 genomic biomarkers associated with metastatic cancer, has identified high-risk patients who were four times more likely to have metastatic cancer and reclassified as “low-risk” 60 percent of the patients who had been deemed to be at higher risk for metastatic cancer.

MD Revolution, a San Diego startup founded two years ago by cardiologist Samir Damani, rolled out RevUp, a web-based platform used to combine patient data from wireless health devices with genetic and metabolic assessments to provide personalized health management coaching for employee groups, health systems, and physician practices. The RevUp system creates a personalized diet and exercise regime for each individual based on health status and goals.

—Switzerland-based ADC Therapeutics Sarl has made a licensing deal with San Diego-based BioAtla’s therapeutic development division for a novel antibody drug conjugate against undisclosed targets of blood cancer. Financial terms were not disclosed. In a statement, BioAtla’s chairman and CEO, Jay Short, said, “By creating an antibody that is optimized for expression, target binding and potency, BioAtla and ADCT are paving the way to make powerful next generation cancer drugs with the potential to save lives.”

—Scientists at the San Diego Supercomputer Center, on the campus of UC San Diego, have unveiled Prism, a high-performance optical network intended to help genomics researchers, climate scientists, and others move data at 100 billion bits per second. UCSD said that’s a step up from the 10-billion-bit network the university has been operating for nearly a decade. “We are entering the era of integrated, personalized ‘omics,’” said Larry Smarr, director of the California Institute for Telecommunications and Information Technology, CalIT2. “For San Diego to be a leader, we need to share biomedical data across the Mesa, regardless of which lab generates it.”