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Qualcomm Buys Multimedia Technology, SD Consortium Advances Biofuels Initiative, Biotech VCs Adapt, & More San Diego BizTech News

Xconomy San Diego — 


Before the economic downturn deepened last September, many venture capital firms maintained that their operations were unaffected by the overall economy. They’re not saying that anymore. VCs are reacting to hard times in different ways—and so are the startups and technology companies that make up the innovation economy. Some examples of how they are coping, along with other deals and drama, can be found in our roundup of last week’s biz-tech news.

—With negligible debt and about $11.3 billion in available cash at the end of September, Qualcomm (NASDAQ: QCOM) is in a position to shop for bargains. The wireless technology giant agreed to pay $65 million to acquire mobile-graphics and multimedia technology from chipmaker AMD. (Qualcomm also is scheduled to report its fiscal first-quarter financial results this Wednesday.)

—Biofuels may be one of the next big things in the cleantech sector, and a consortium of academic and company researchers have organized SD-CAB, the San Diego Center for Algae-based Biofuels, to help advance development of the nascent industry in the region.

—San Diego’s biotech VCs say they are still doing deals, despite the economic downturn. But the message that three prominent VCs delivered to a breakfast meeting of Biocom, the life sciences industry association, is that different firms are adopting different ways to maximize their returns and minimize their risks.

—Axikin Pharmaceuticals, a San Diego life sciences startup that was spun out from Actimis Pharmaceuticals last June, got $3 million in a first round of venture funding. The investors were Sanderling Ventures, which has offices in San Diego and San Mateo, CA, and Mitsui & Co. Venture Partners in New York.

After enacting substantial cutbacks in November and December, Metabasis Therapeutics laid off 43 percent of its remaining workforce and is focusing its remaining business on its best drug candidates. The biotech says it is seeking a strategic partner willing to collaborate or acquire certain assets.

—Luke revisited Life Technologies, which was formed in the November merger of Invitrogen and Applied Biosystems, to see how the consolidation is really going. Mark Stevenson, who is the president and chief operating officer, told Luke that Life intends to grow its business and keep its headquarters in Carlsbad, CA.

—Meanwhile, Carlsbad, CA-based Regulus Therapeutics, a joint venture founded 18 months ago by Carlsbad’s Isis Pharmaceuticals and Cambridge, MA-based Alnylam Pharmaceuticals, revealed plans to reorganize as an independent corporation. Luke says the CEOs of both Isis and Alylam supported the move during the recent JP Morgan Healthcare Conference in San Francisco.

—Google’s green energy czar Bill Weihl told a San Diego symposium on “Greening the Internet” how the Mountain View, CA-based Internet company has cut its energy use roughly in half.

—San Diego’s Overland Storage (NASDAQ: OVRL) has been straining to pull out of a spiral since 2005 when the data storage equipment maker lost its biggest customer, Hewlett-Packard. Now CEO Vern LoForti has a new vision for Overland as an “end-to-end provider” of data storage solutions so customers can backup up their critical computerized business records or for archiving their video surveillance data.

—San Diego’s The Active Network, which raised $80 million in venture funding in August, revealed plans to buy online campground reservation provider ReserveAmerica from New York-based IAC. Financial terms were not disclosed in the transaction, which will give Barry Diller’s IAC a 9 percent stake in the privately held Active Network.