Anadys Cuts Jobs, Obesity Drug Developers Show Intriguing Results, Trius Antibiotic Passes Key Test, & More San Diego Life Sciences News

Xconomy San Diego — 

There was a lot of life sciences news over the past week in San Diego, with much of it coming out of the American Diabetes Association annual meeting in New Orleans.

—At a time when San Diego’s Amylin Pharmaceuticals (NASDAQ: AMLN) doesn’t need more challenges, Denmark’s Novo Nordisk announced that liraglutide, its once-daily diabetes drug, is substantially better at controlling blood sugar in type 2 diabetes than Amylin’s exenatide, which is injected twice-daily.

—If Amylin Pharmaceuticals’ rivals are targeting the diabetes specialist, at least the San Diego biotech is a moving target. Amylin says the latest clinical data for the new formulation of its exenatide diabetes drug (which only has to be injected once weekly instead of twice daily) shows patients were able to maintain control over blood sugar for two years, helped them lose weight, and lowered their blood pressure.

—San Diego’s Orexigen Therapeutics (NASDAQ: OREX) posted new results of its late-stage drug for treating obesity, showing that 41.5 percent of patients on the drug lost 10 percent of their body weight. That compared with 20.2 percent who did as well taking a placebo.

—Another San Diego drug developer, Arena Pharmaceuticals, (NASDAQ: ARNA) says patients on its lorcaserin treatment for a year generally had reduced their risk of heart attacks.

—San Diego’s Anadys Pharmaceuticals (NASDAQ: ANDS) is cutting its workforce by 40 percent and focusing its remaining resources on its lead drug candidate for treating the hepatitis C virus. The company also says it’s raising $17.5 million.

—Trius Therapeutics, a San Diego biotech developing a new antibiotic against deadly MRSA bacterial infections, said a study showed 98 percent of patients on the lowest dose of its new compound achieved a clinical cure

—Raj Krishnan, a bioengineering Ph.D candidate at UC San Diego, began entering student entrepreneur and business contests as a way to raise money for Biological Dynamics, the cancer diagnostics company he co-founded. It worked. He has now won 13 awards, and his most recent win included a check for $40,000. Krishnan, 27, says his research is focused on technology to identify a key biomarker for almost every type of cancer.

—After getting a $20 million infusion from investors last month, San Diego’s Vical (NASDAQ: VICL) says it has enough resources to continue operating through the end of 2011, which should be enough time to complete its clinical study of an immune-stimulating therapy for metastatic melanoma. Vical also is developing a vaccine to prevent life-threatening cytomegalovirus infections in bone marrow transplant patients.

—Bothell, WA-based Sonosite (NASDAQ: SONO) says it’s acquiring San Diego’s CardioDynamics International (NASDAQ: CDIC) in a deal valued at about $10 million. Sonosite makes portable ultrasound machines and CardioDynamics makes noninvasive medical diagnostic tools for cardiovascular disease.

—San Diego-based Tocagen, which is developing gene therapy treatments for terminally ill cancer patients, was among three biotechs that raised cash recently. Tocagen has raised $10.8 million in an $11.2 million equity offering that began in September. The startup was founded in 2007 by Harry Gruber, who previously founded Gensia Pharmaceuticals, Viagene, Aramed, and Metabasis, among others.