Amylin Targets Obesity, Tioga Shows Virtual Business Model, Roka Bioscience Spins Off Gen-Probe, & More San Diego Life Sciences News

Xconomy San Diego — 

The pharmaceutical industry has set its sights on winning a huge new market, with four life sciences companies (three of them in San Diego) in a race to develop the next big obesity drug. Get the latest news as that story unfolds and other developments in San Diego’s life sciences sector.

—Business has been surging for San Diego-based Quidel (NASDAQ: QDEL), which says it went to seven-day-a-week manufacturing of its diagnostic flu test kits last April. The company says it’s experienced an unprecedented volume of orders in anticipation of a worsening global flu pandemic.

—San Diego’s Tioga Pharmaceuticals, which was founded in 2005 and has received about $24 million in venture funding, has been developing a drug for irritable bowel syndrome as a virtual company. As Denise reported, Tioga’s team—which officially consists of only one full-time employee—has seldom been in the same room. Instead, they connect through email and conference calls that can last up to two hours.

—Luke profiled a new entry in the race to develop a new obesity drug. In addition to San Diego’s Arena Pharmaceuticals (NASDAQ: ARNA), crosstown rival Orexigen Therapeutics (NASDAQ: OREX), and Vivus (NASDAQ: VVUS) of Mountain View, CA, San Diego-based Amylin Pharmaceuticals (NASDAQ: AMLN) is developing an obesity drug that combines its pramlintide diabetes drug with metreleptin, a genetically modified version of the leptin hormone.

—Gen-Probe (NASDAQ: GPRO), the diagnostic test maker based in San Diego, plans to spin off a new business called Roka Bioscience that will use Gen-Probe technology to develop tests for industrial uses such as food safety and pharmaceutical production. Roka, which will be based in San Diego, will have 18 former Gen-Probe employees and be headed by former LifeCell CEO Paul G. Thomas.

Celladon, a San Diego life sciences company focused on gene therapy , has raised another $2.8 million in recent weeks. The latest financing will keep Celladon operating until the company completes its clinical trial of a groundbreaking treatment for congestive heart failure.

—Denmark’s Santaris Pharma has recruited former Isis Pharmaceuticals (NASDAQ: ISIS) drug development executive Art Levin to open a U.S. subsidiary in San Diego. The six-year-old Danish company plans to hire 8 to 10 employees in San Diego as part of its quest to develop new drugs based on microRNA technology.

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