Amylin Pharmaceuticals Gets New Directors (But Who Are They?), Ophthonix and Vical Raise Capital, Metabasis Cuts Back—Again, & More San Diego Life Sciences News

Xconomy San Diego — 

After months of buildup to get to yesterday’s shareholder vote to determine the makeup of Amylin Pharmaceuticals’ board of directors, a key question remains unresolved. Happily for those who like more closure, the rest of the week held more definitive news for San Diego’s life sciences companies.

—The protracted proxy battle between San Diego’s Amylin Pharmaceuticals and activist shareholders Carl Icahn and Eastbourne Capital Management came to a somewhat anticlimactic conclusion yesterday. The vote recap: Icahn and Eastbourne each got at least one of their candidates elected to the company’s 12-seat board, while Amilyn says it got 10 of its candidates elected. Final results are expected in a week or two, but a big question lingers: Which two of Amylin’s incumbent directors lost their board seats?

—The annual meeting of the American Society of Gene Therapy began yesterday in San Diego, with some 2,000 scientists gathering for presentations on the latest developments in the field. The society’s president, David M. Bodine, told Denise that a severe falloff in venture capital funding “has really slowed very promising trials from getting to patients.”

—San Diego’s Fate Therapeutics says a drug candidate it is developing to spur the growth of blood-forming stem cells has been used to treat the first patient in an early-stage clinical trial. The study is being conducted at the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute in Boston to determine the safety and tolerability of the drug in some cancer patients.

—San Diego’s Ophthonix raised $25.9 million in a “Series AA” venture round, with investors Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers, Enterprise Partners, DAG Ventures, Gund Investment Corporation, InterWest Partners, Trex Enterprises, and Wasatch Advisors’ Cross Creek Capital Fund participating in the deal. The vision correction company determines each patient’s lens prescription by using a laser to analyze how light travels through the eye.

—San Diego biotech Vical (NASDAQ: VICL) raised $20 million in private stock sales arranged with several institutional investors. The deal includes two longtime backers, the Pittsburgh, PA-based Federated Kaufmann Fund and New York’s Special Situations Funds. Vical is developing a vaccine for the H1N1 swine flu.

—Metabasis Therapeutics is reducing its workforce by another 45 employees, or 85 percent, leaving just seven employees remaining at the San Diego diabetes drug company. Metabasis says it may be forced to cease operations entirely.

—President Rolf Muller of San Diego’s Biomatrica says the company is starting to gain market acceptance for technology designed to store biological samples at room temperature. The Biomatrica products, which basically dehydrate and shrink-wrap samples, offer potential energy savings to biotech and research laboratories. Muller told Luke that sales have doubled in the last year, and that the company has grown from 13 to 25 employees.