Carl Icahn Nominates Scripps Researcher to Biogen Idec Board, BrainCells Pursues New Drug Combo for Depression, Illumina Adds to Oxford Nanopore Investment, & More San Diego Life Sciences News

Xconomy San Diego — 

San Diego-based aFraxis is working to advance a possible drug treatment for Fragile X syndrome identified by MIT’s Susumu Tonegawa. Meanwhile Waltham, MA-based Syndax Pharmaceuticals is developing an anti-cancer drug that came out of Ron Evans’s lab at San Diego’s Salk Institute. That’s life sciences, and this is Xconomy:

—San Diego-based aFraxis CEO Jay Lichter told Luke the early stage biotech has identified several hundred compounds that appear capable of turning off a possible drug target for Fragile X syndrome, the second leading cause of mental retardation. Denise, who worked with Luke on the story, reported that aFraxis was founded in 2007, with funding from Avalon Ventures and based on research by the Nobel laureate Susumu Tonegawa of MIT.

BrainCells, a San Diego biotech, is planning its drug development strategy after reporting attention-getting results six months ago from a clinical trial of a combination drug for treating depression. When the anti-anxiety drug busiprone was combined with the hormone melatonin, BrainCells researchers got results comparable to standard anti-depression treatments based on selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors.

—San Diego’s Illumina (NASDAQ: ILMN) is among the investors that just placed a $28 million bet on U.K.-based Oxford Nanopore Technologies, which has plans to sequence entire human genomes, possibly for as little as $1,000 per genome. Illumina previously invested $18 million in Oxford Nanopore as part of a deal to sell Oxford’s DNA sequencing machines when they’re ready for market.

—Waltham, MA-based Syndax Pharmaceuticals, which is developing anti-tumor drugs based on the scientific research of the Salk Institute’s Ron Evans, has raised $9 million of a targeted $16 million round, according to a recent SEC filing. The offering comprises equity, options, and warrants, according to the filing. Syndax, which was founded in 2005, raised $40 million in 2007.

—Billionaire investor Carl Icahn and his affiliated investment firms have filed the paperwork needed to nominate three people to the board of Biogen Idec (NASDAQ:BIIB), the Cambridge, MA-based biotech that maintains a significant presence in San Diego. Icahn has nominated Thomas Deuel, a former board member at Imclone and a cancer researcher at The Scripps Research Institute in San Diego. Also nominated is MIT biologist Richard Young and Eric Rowinsky, the former chief medical officer at Imclone.

—Just in time for next week’s Bio-Based Chemicals Summit in San Diego, Allylix has raised $6 million in new equity capital, according to a recent filing with the SEC. San Diego-based Allyx, which was founded in 2002, uses genetically engineered yeast to develop specialty products based on terpenes, which are produced in minute quantities in green plants.