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San Diego Life Sciences Roundup: Sophiris, Isis, Qualcomm, & More

Xconomy San Diego — 

Another San Diego life sciences company is in line for an IPO, and the untimely death of Connect CEO Duane Roth has left a void in the leadership of San Diego’s innovation community. Here’s our review of developments over the past week.

—San Diego’s Sophiris Bio is nearing its debut as a U.S. public company, after setting its terms last week at about $13 per share in an initial public offering of 5 million shares. Sophiris said it plans to use net proceeds of $66 million to initiate two late-stage clinical trials of its drug PRX302 (Topsalysin) to treat non-cancerous prostate enlargement. According to a recent SEC filing, The company’s shares are currently listed on the Toronto Stock Exchange, and will begin trading on the Nasdaq market under the ticker symbol SPHS following a nearly 54.2-to-1 consolidation of shares. Warburg Pincus, which recently sold 50 million of its Sophiris shares to Tavistock Life Sciences, will hold an 11.9 percent stake after the IPO. Tavistock, which also has invested in San Diego’s Ambryx and Kalypsys, will hold an 11.5 percent stake post-IPO.

Duane Roth

Duane Roth

—Duane Roth died Saturday of injuries he sustained in a July 21 bicycling accident. He was the CEO of Connect, the San Diego nonprofit that promotes technology entrepreneurship and vice chair of the California Institute for Regenerative Medicine, the state-run stem cell organization. He was scheduled to become chairman of the board at the Sanford-Burnham Medical Research Institute next month. Roth, a  longtime pharmaceutical executive, took over Connect at the end of 2004, and led a turnaround that expanded the nonprofit group’s reach throughout San Diego’s innovation economy. A memorial service will be held at 11 a.m. tomorrow (Aug. 9) at the University of San Diego’s Church of the Immaculata.

—Carlsbad-based Isis Pharmaceuticals said patients with rheumatoid arthritis (RA) who were treated with its antisense drug ISIS-CRPRx reduced their levels of C-reactive protein (CRP) by as much as two-thirds. That was the good news, as CRP is associated with many diseases, including numerous inflammatory and cardiovascular diseases. The bad news, however, was that improvements in the RA patients’ symptoms were not statistically significant in comparison to RA patients who received a placebo. Isis said it would halt further development of ISIS-CRPRx for RA, but plans to continue to evaluate the drug for treating other diseases, including atrial fibrillation.

Assay Depot, an e-commerce marketplace for scientific services, said it has created an online medical research exchange in partnership with the Center for Cancer Research, part of the National Cancer Institute (NCI). The Center for Cancer Research Exchange, or CREx, is intended to enable NCI scientists to connect to a global network of internal and external research partners. In a statement, Assay Depot’s NCI Site Director Sherman Tang, said, “CREx is an entirely new way for NCI scientists to collaborate effectively with internal and external research partners.”

—A “Wired for Health” study undertaken by scientists at San Diego’s Scripps Translational Science Institute has set out to determine if wireless health devices and online social networks can have a direct effect on healthcare spending. Scripps Health said the project targets patients with diabetes, high blood pressure, or heart arrhythmias who have generated high health costs over the past year. Collaborators in the effort include Scripps Health, Qualcomm Life, HealthComp, and Accenture.

—San Diego-based Qualcomm (NASDAQ: QCOM) said it is collaborating with Rady Children’s Hospital on a 3G-enabled kit for monitoring the activities of 50 asthmatic patients between 7 and 17 who were chosen from hospital’s the Pulmonary and Asthma/Allergy clinics. The kits, funded by Qualcomm Reach and using Qualcomm Life technology, are intended to help determine whether therapies can be personalized, reducing serious asthmatic attacks, hospitalization, and associated health costs. Qualcomm noted that asthma is the third-leading cause of hospitalization among children under 15.

—San Diego’s Targeson said it has been awarded a first-year grant of nearly $924,000 from the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute of the National Institutes of Health to explore the use of Targeson’s targeted microspheres in diagnostic testing for heart disease. Targeson President Jack DeFranco wrote in an e-mail that the Small Business Innovative Research grant totaled $1.6 million, with the remaining portion to be funded in the second year, upon completion of first-year milestones. DeFranco said the grant would fund research that uses microspheres that target a molecular marker of recent myocardial ischemia as a contrast agent, enabling visualization of reduced blood flow to the heart muscle during echocardiography.