Swine Flu Could Benefit Some Biomedical Companies, Local Biotechs Are Looking Healthier, Arena Happy With Obesity Drug Results, & More San Diego Life Sciences News

Xconomy San Diego — 

As the flu season nears, it’s still unclear how severe the H1N1 strain of swine flu will be. But several San Diego companies are nevertheless riding a wave of investor enthusiasm for the public companies that could benefit. Get that and other biotech news here.

The financial health of San Diego’s public life sciences companies appears to be improving, according to Luke’s recent analysis of available data about the companies’ cash balances, burn rates, and financial projections. Luke concluded that 15 of the 27 public biotechs in the San Diego area are in stronger financial shape now than they were at the end of 2008.

—After presenting highlights of a clinical trial that enrolled more than 4,000 patients, San Diego’s Arena Pharmaceuticals (NASDAQ: ARNA) says its obesity drug candidate meets at least one FDA benchmark for effectiveness and is “safe and well-tolerated.” Arena CEO Jack Lief said the company has “accomplished what we set out to accomplish.”

—San Diego-based Ambrx, which has drug development partnerships with Merck, Eli Lilly, and Merck KGaA of Germany, has signed up another major partner—Wyeth. Ambryx will work with Wyeth to create new engineered antibody drugs against multiple diseases, and since New Jersey-based Wyeth (NYSE: WYE) is in the process of being acquired by Pfizer, it means Ambryx will continue to work on the antibody partnership with Pfizer—as long as the buyout goes through.

—San Diego’s Quidel (NASDAQ: QDEL) is among five San Diego biomedical companies that have benefitted from investor interest in swine flu-related products or services in recent months. But as Denise found, not all five companies will generate much additional business if the H1N1 flu season proves to be as serious and some health officials have predicted. The official start of the flu season is Oct. 4.

—Soon after Denise’s profile of San Diego “virtual” biotech Tioga Pharmaceuticals, Luke visited virtual company VentiRx, which has employees in Seattle and San Diego. VentiRx co-founder Rob Hershberg says VentiRx has enrolled 18 patients in its first clinical trial of a drug for cancer, and so far it appears safe.