CareFusion Trims Workforce, Undeterred Ramius Still Wants to Buy Cypress Bio, Biotech Entrepreneurs Want “Virtual Incubator,” & More San Diego Life Sciences News

Xconomy San Diego — 

There wasn’t a lot of life science news over the past week, but what we had was pretty interesting. Judge for yourself.

—There’s a cat-and-mouse game underway between New York’s Ramius Value and Opportunity Advisors and San Diego’s Cypress Bioscience (NASDAQ: CYPB). Ramius, which offered $160 million to acquire Cypress last month, renewed its call yesterday for Cypress to meet to discuss its unsolicited buyout offer—and added a nearly $15 million incentive to sweeten the deal. Cypress, meanwhile, said it was “withdrawing from the commercial market” and laying off 86 percent of its workforce.

—The San Diego Entrepreneurs Exchange (SDEE), a fast-growing organization of rank-and-file biotech scientists and entrepreneurs, is working to develop a “virtual incubator” that can help get seed-stage biotech companies get started. Organizers said a lot of scientist who want to start their own companies need laboratory space to get the technical data they need to reach a “proof of concept” threshold needed to get funding—without having to buy capital equipment or sign a long-term lease for laboratory space

—Shares of San Diego-based CareFusion (NYSE: CFN) gained almost 9 percent, or $1.86 per share yesterday, after the medical equipment maker said it’s laying off 700 employees, or 5 percent, of its workforce. That includes 180 of CareFusion’s 2,000 San Diego-based employees.

—Cambridge, MA-based Vertex Pharmaceuticals (NASDAQ: VRTX), which maintains a substantial presence in San Diego, said its lead drug candidate for treating hepatitis C infections has passed another late-stage trial. In the supplemental test, the drug wiped out the virus that causes hepatitis C in 92 percent of the patients after 24 weeks.

—Lisa Suennen, who is a Northern California co-founder of New York venture firm Psilos Group Managers, told Ryan she regularly comes to San Diego to attend the board meetings of PatientSafe Solutions. Psilos was a lead investor in the startup, which provides handheld devices that help reduce hospital medication errors. Suennen said her firm invests in health IT, healthcare services, and medical technologies.

—San Diego-based MabVax Therapeutics got a $1.1-million follow-on grant from the Small Business Technology Transfer Program of the National Cancer Institute. The privately held company is developing a human monoclonal antibody therapy to target a specific antigen expressed by colon, pancreatic, and breast cancer cells.

—San Diego-based Orphagen Pharmaceuticals said it got a two-year, $520,000 grant from the National Cancer Institute through its Small Business Innovative Research (SBIR) program to develop a new class of drugs for treating adrenocortical and prostate cancer.