Abbott Buys Isis’ Diagnostics Subsidiary, Ligand Binds With GlaxoSmithKline, Ardea Raises $30M & More San Diego BizTech News

Xconomy San Diego — 

It was the week before Christmas, and the deals were flying. Could San Diego’s economy be downturn defying? Heed the tech news and be of good cheer! We wish you an Xconomy Xmas and Xponential New Year!

The big deal of the week came Wednesday, when Abbott Labs (NYSE: ABT) exercised its option to acquire Ibis Biosciences from Isis Pharmaceuticals (NASDAQ: ISIS) for $215 million—plus continuing payments from sales of Ibis’ diagnostics products.

—San Diego’s Ligand Pharmaceuticals (NASDAQ: LGND) also scored with a big pharma partner, GlaxoSmithKline, (NYSE: GSK) by awarding exclusive rights to Glaxo for its drug candidate shown recently to effectively boost blood platelet cells. Glaxo agreed to pay $5 million now and as much as $158 million later, not including royalty payments.

—San Diego’s Solera Holdings, which makes software for the auto claims industry, announced it has paid $117.4 million to buy HPI Ltd, a British firm that compiles a data base of used car histories. Solera was founded in 2005 by Tony Aquila, a former president of Mitchell International, a rival auto claims software developer also based in San Diego.

—San Diego’s Huntington Capital raised $78 million in capital commitments for its second fund, which the boutique venture lender launched in May. The firm hopes to raise a total of $100 million for “Fund II” by early next year.

—Privately held Sierra Nevada Corp. of Sparks, NV, completed its buyout of SpaceDev, which is based in the suburban San Diego community of Poway, in a deal estimated at roughly $30 million. SpaceDev said its shareholders approved the deal Monday.

—Ardea Biosciences (NASDAQ: [[ticker: RDEA]]), the San Diego biotech developing small molecule drugs for inflammatory diseases, raised more than $30 million in a private stock placement.

—Pfizer (NYSE: PFE), sensing new opportunities in stem cell research for treating diabetes, formed a two-year collaboration with San Diego’s Novocell.

—Serial entrepreneur Michael Robertson, who made his fortune as the founder of, launched a new version of Gizmo5 technology at SIPphone. The new technology,, enables users to log onto a Web site to make VOIP calls (Voice Over Internet Protocol) and can be used with any computer running a Windows, Macintosh or Linux operating system.

—Finally, the government awarded a couple of noteworthy contracts this week to San Diego’s SAIC, (NYSE: SAI) the research and engineering company also known as Science Applications International Corp. The first, from DARPA, the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, was for a $14.9 million biofuel contract to develop ways of using algae to make JP-8 grade jet fuel. The second deal, from NASA, could be worth as much as $69 million over the next five years to SAIC for engineering services and support for the Constellation program, which calls for returning astronauts to the moon.