An ambitious bid to build the world’s biggest human genome sequencing operation in San Diego dominated the region’s life sciences news this week. Here are the details, along with other local developments.
—J. Craig Venter, one of the pioneers of human genetic research, said he has co-founded a new San Diego-based company called Human Longevity to build what Venter says will be the largest human DNA sequencing operation in the world. Human Longevity already has raised $70 million from investors, including the Malaysian billionaire KT Lim, to sequence 40,000 human genomes a year. Venter plans to correlate the genetic information with other medical data in a bid to identify patterns that can be used to develop new diagnostics and therapies for treating cancer and age-related diseases.
—San Diego’s Acadia Pharmaceuticals (NASDAQ: ACAD) said it expects to raise gross proceeds of $182 million in a secondary public offering of its common stock. Acadia is developing drugs for neurological disorders. Its lead drug candidate, pimavanserin, is in late-stage trials for treating Parksinson’s disease-related psychosis as well as mid-stage trials for Alzheimer’s disease-related psychosis. Acadia said it plans to use the cash from the offering to advance pimavanserin. The company plans to file a New Drug Application, or NDA, with federal regulators by the end of this year.
—San Diego-based Ignyta, which is developing companion cancer drugs and diagnostics, aims to raise as much as $40 million in an IPO, according to a recent regulatory filing. Using an integrated drug-and-diagnostic strategy, or Rx/Dx, Ignyta intends to develop drugs for cancer patients whose tumors harbor specific molecular alterations. The idea is to develop a biomarker-based diagnostic that would be paired with each cancer drug product. Founded three years ago, the company plans to list its shares on the Nasdaq market under the symbol RXDX. Ignyta shares currently trades over the counter.
—San Diego-based Tracon Pharmaceuticals said it would receive an upfront payment of $10 million from Japan’s Santen Pharmaceutical as part of a deal to develop some of its experimental antibody drugs, including lead drug candidate TCR105, as potential treatments for eye diseases like age-related macular degeneration. Under the agreement, Santen has gotten the rights to Tracon’s lead drug candidate, TCR105—and other unspecified, similar antibody drugs in the company’s portfolio—in all eye-related diseases, including AMD. Santen will cover all development costs related to the effort, and agreed to pay Tracon commercialization milestones and royalties on drug sales if TCR105 makes it to market as an ophthalmic drug. Tracon still has full rights to the drug’s potential use in treating various cancers. TCR105 is antibody designed to inhibit the growth of new blood vessels by hitting a target on the surface of cells called CD-105.
—San Diego insulin pump maker Tandem Diabetes (NASDAQ: TNDM) said it generated total sales of $29 million in 2013, the first full year of commercial sales of its t:slim device. Tandem Diabetes became a public company in November. The company’s net losses widened to $63.1 million over the same timeframe, up from an annual loss of $33 million in 2012.
—San Diego-based Sequenom (NASDAQ: SQNM) said Harry Hixon plans to step down as CEO at the company’s annual meeting on June 10, although he plans to continue serving as chairman. William Welch, Sequenom’s chief operating officer, will succeed Hixon as CEO. The company also said Dirk van den Boom will take on new duties as Seqenom’s chief scientific and strategy officer. He was the company’s executive vice president for research and development.