Finistere Planning New Venture Fund, National Cancer Institute Official Offers SBIR Insights, Ramius Still Tries to Woo Cypress Bio, & More San Diego Life Sciences News

Xconomy San Diego — 

Funding for San Diego life sciences startups can come in the form of small financing deals and as federal Small Business Innovation Research grants that can help to keep small biotechs alive. Allow me to aggregate all that and other life sciences news of the week for you.

—At a time when venture capital funding remains at low ebb, the National Cancer Institute plans to award a total of $110 million nationwide in Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) grants and Small Business Technology Transfer (STTR) grants. Life Science entrepreneurs also can now get as much as $3 million over three years under the new Phase II Bridge Award program.

—I profiled San Diego-based Biocept, which is aiming its diagnostics technology at four of the most common types of solid tumors: prostate, breast, colorectal, and non-small cell lung cancers. Biocept CEO Stephen Coutts says the technology is sensitive enough to consistently capture and quantify extremely rare tumor cells that might comprise only one in 5-to-10 billion cells in a blood sample.

Finistere Ventures, a San Diego venture capital firm that has maintained a low profile over the past five years, plans to raise another venture fund next year. Finistere invests mainly in early stage medical device and agricultural biotech startups.

—New York-based Ramius Value and Opportunity Advisors is still trying to meet with board members at San Diego’s Cypress Bioscience (NASDAQ: CYPB) to discuss the private equity firm’s $160 million buyout offer. Cypress has spurned Ramius so far.

—A sweep of San Diego’s “under-the-radar” deals in July by CB Insights yielded three life science financings, including Novalar Pharmaceuticals, the specialty dental pharmaceutical company that raised just over $1 million in debt, options to acquire securities, and other securities. CB Insights, a New York firm that tracks private companies, also turned up a $552,500 financing for Althea Technologies, a San Diego contract research organization, and $145,000 in debt for Chimeros, a San Diego biotech developing nano-scale cancer therapeutics.

SG Biofuels of Encinitas, CA, and Life Technologies (NASDAQ: LIFE) of Carlsbad, CA, said they completely sequenced the genome of Jatropha curcas, a shrub that SG Biofuels is developing as a source for jet fuel. I was reminded after the story published that Synthetic Genomics said it already had sequenced the Jatropha Genome in May 2009.

Procter & Gamble boosted San Diego-based Somaxon’s efforts to launch its new insomnia drug yesterday by saying it would help sell doxepin (Silenor) to thousands of U.S. doctors and pharmacies. The partners plan to begin marketing the drug next month.

—San Diego-based NeuroVigil’s founding chairman and CEO, Philip Low, was selected as a 2010 TR35 award recipient yesterday. The MIT magazine Technology Review cited Low for developing the iBrain, a small portable wireless device that monitors electrical brain activity through a single electrode instead of the mass of wires and pads usually needed for gathering such measurements.

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