SD Life Sciences Roundup: Celladon, Gen-Probe, Organovo, and More

Xconomy National — 

Here’s our wrap-up of news from San Diego’s life sciences sector since last week.

—San Diego’s Celladon raised $43 million to recapitalize the company and to conduct a 200-patient study of a gene therapy intended to help people with advanced heart failure. Celladon had previously raised more than $73 million in venture capital, according to VentureWire. Celladon’s therapy, Mydicar, delivers a gene that codes for an enzyme that helps to keep the heart beating, and which declines in late-stage heart failure.

The FDA approved San Diego-based Gen-Probe’s new diagnostic assay for prostate cancer gene 3 (PCA3), which can help doctors determine if repeated prostate biopsies are warranted for men who have elevated of the prostate specific antigen (PSA). While a high PSA level is not a definitive indicator of prostate cancer, Gen-Probe says the PCA3 gene is a biofactor that is typically over-expressed in 95 percent of prostate cancers.

Xconomist Peter Kuhn, a cell biologist at The Scripps Research Institute, talked with me about work that has advanced technology for conducting “liquid biopsies” and is sensitive enough to identify and analyze circulating tumor cells shed by solid tumor carcinomas. A San Diego startup, Epic Sciences, has licensed the technology for commercial development.

Organovo, the San Diego startup developing 3-dimensional “bio-printing” technology was listed on the Over the Counter market under the ticker ONVO, following a reverse merger with a public company and $6.5 million in private placement financing. Organovo CEO Keith Murphy describes the complex steps as an alternative public offering.

Option-to-buy deals are popping up more frequently in the life sciences sector. Xconomy New York Editor Arlene Weintraub noted that the French pharmaceutical giant Sanofi negotiated the right to acquire Cambridge, MA-based Warp Drive Bio sometime in the future, providing certain milestones are met, by providing part of the $125 million in funding that Warp Drive recently raised. Another Cambridge startup, Constellation Pharmaceuticals, signed a similar deal with Roche’s Genentech, which pledged $95 million in funding.

—San Diego’s Halozyme Therapeutics (NASDAQ: HALO) said it raised $81.8 million (after fees and expenses) in a recent secondary public offering of more than 7.8 million shares. Halozyme said it plans to use the proceeds to build its inventory for anticipated product launches, R&D, and general corporate purposes

—San Diego’s Cardium Therapeutics (NYSE Amex: CXM) said it raised a total of $5 million (before deducting fees and expenses) is a secondary public offering of more than 17.8 million shares. The company plans to use the net proceeds for general working capital purposes.