Illumina Buys Helixis, Genzyme Shares Soar on Buyout Report, & More San Diego Life Sciences News

Xconomy San Diego — 

There wasn’t a lot of San Diego life sciences news over the past week, but what we got was big. Here’s our summary.

—San Diego-based Illumina (NASDAQ: ILMN), which makes high-speed gene sequencing equipment for biomedical laboratories, acquired Carlsbad, CA-based Helixis for at least $70 million, with an additional $35 million tied to meeting certain milestones. Helixis was founded three years ago and has raised a total of $17.3 million in venture capital from Domain Associates, Advanced Technology Ventures, and Okapi Venture Capital.

—The Paris-based drug giant Sanofi-Aventis plans to press ahead with a formal offer for Cambridge, MA-based Genzyme (NASDAQ: GENZ), according to a report yesterday from Reuters. News accounts of Sanofi’s informal offer earlier this week sent Genzyme shares soaring—but failed to stir the intended response at the company.

—San Diego’s Sapphire Energy has rapidly expanded its use of genetic engineering in its quest to make algae-based biofuels since last October, when president Cynthia “C.J.” Warner told me the biofuels startup was just using high-throughput screening techniques. Sapphire spokesman Tim Zenk said the pace of genetic engineering has been accelerating—although the algae used in Sapphire’s first biofuels production plants will not be genetically engineered.

—San Diego-based Sequenom (NASDAQ: SQNM) said it was one of 14 medical diagnostics manufacturers to get FDA letters earlier this month that question whether they got proper regulatory approval for the genetic tests they make. The Food and Drug Administration’s letters to the manufacturers, which are available on the agency’s website, follows FDA action against Poway, CA-based Pathway Genomics and five other companies involved in marketing direct-to-consumer genetic tests. In a filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission, Sequenom said it does not provide direct-to-consumer genetic testing, and that tests marketed under its SEQureDx program are laboratory developed tests (LDTs), certified under the Clinical Laboratory Improvement Amendments (CLIA) of 1988.