A Contract Services Cluster Emerges, the Burnham Gets a Big Donation, Somaxon Resubmits Sleep Drug Application, & More San Diego Life Sciences News

Xconomy San Diego — 

San Diego’s life sciences sector had a busy week. Allow me to recap it for you.

—Working with Assay Depot, a San Diego-based online marketplace for CRO services, Bruce found 144 companies in San Diego that provide contract services to life sciences companies, providing a glimpse of what appears to be a thriving new sector. CRO stands for contract research organization.

Zogenix, a specialty pharmaceutical company that raised $71 million last year, led Xconomy San Diego’s 2009 list of top venture financing deals. Total venture investment in San Diego startups during the fourth quarter increased over the same period in 2008, when the economy was in deep recession.

—The San Diego-based nonprofit formerly known as the Burnham Institute for Medical Research is now the Sanford-Burnham Medical Research Institute, thanks to a $50 million donation pledged by philanthropist T. Denny Sanford.

—I had an interesting chat with Kurt Gustafson, CFO of San Diego-based Halozyme Therapeutics (NASDAQ: HALO), which is developing a portfolio of products around its recombinant enzyme hyaluronidase. Separately, Roche announced plans to manufacture a device that would deliver a cancer drug reformulated with Halozyme’s enzyme.

—San Diego Xconomist Duane Roth proposes some ideas to address the funding challenge facing the innovation economy.

Elevation Pharmaceuticals, a San Diego-based biotech co-founded by serial entrepreneur Cam Garner, raised a tranched $30 million in Series A venture funding.

Helixis CEO Alex Dickinson told Luke the Carlsbad, CA-based startup plans to market its desktop PCR machines over the Internet. The first orders will ship in April. The technology was spun out of the Caltech laboratories of Nobel laureate David Baltimore and Axel Scherer.

—San Diego-based Somaxon submitted a revised application for its experimental sleeping pill doxepin (Silenor) to the FDA and expects a decision by March 21.

Amylin Pharmaceuticals (NASDAQ: AMLN) CEO Dan Bradbury told Luke the company is ready and able to launch once-weekly exenatide. An FDA decision on Amylin and Eli Lilly’s application to market the drug is due March 5.

Prometheus Laboratories, a San Diego-based specialty pharmaceutical and diagnostics company will sell Novartis’ aldesleukin (Proleukin) in the United States. Prometheus is in registration for a $100 million IPO, according to PE Hub.

—Matt Emmens, CEO Cambridge, MA-based Vertex Pharmaceuticals (NASDAQ: VRTX), talked with Luke about his path to the top. The biotechnology company employs 175 in San Diego.

Denise Gellene is a former Los Angeles Times science writer and regular contributor to Xconomy. You can reach her at dgellene@xconomy.com Follow @

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