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Illumina Launches Desktop Gene Sequencer, Avalon Raises $200M for Ninth Fund, Quidel Offering Raises Capital for New Strategy, & More San Diego Life Sciences News

Xconomy San Diego — 

Many life sciences executives have been making announcements timed to the annual J.P. Morgan Healthcare Conference in San Francisco this week, so we have plenty of biotech news to round up.

—A race among genetic device companies is dramatically lowering costs and accelerating the speed of sequencing complete human genomes. San Diego-based Illumina (NASDAQ: ILMN) introduced the MiSeq, a new desktop-sized DNA sequencing machine that will sell for less than $125,000 by April. Last month, Carlsbad, CA-based Life Technologies (NASDAQ: LIFE) introduced the Ion Torrent Personal Genome Machine, priced at $50,000. Luke also reported that Complete Genomics (NASDAQ: GNOM) of Mountain View, CA, also showed it’s in the run when it agreed to sequence 615 complete human genomes for the Seattle-based Institute for Systems Biology, a nonprofit research center that wants the genomes for its research into neurodegenerative diseases.

—San Diego’s Avalon Ventures closed its ninth fund at an oversubscribed $200 million. The venture firm, which divides its investments between the life sciences and digital media startups, said it plans to invest between $100,000 and $10 million in 15 to 20 companies over the next three years. New investors to the fund include Harvard Management Co., AlpInvest Partners NV, Grove Street Advisors, Paul Capital and Northgate Capital, according to VentureWire.

—At the J.P. Morgan Healthcare Conference in San Francisco, Amylin Pharmaceuticals CEO Dan Bradbury told reporters he still expects the company will meet its timetable and submit a heart-safety study for its once-weekly diabetes drug Bydureon by the end of 2011. “We will initiate the study in the first quarter and we remain very confident that we will be able to complete the required work by the end of 2011,” Bradbury said.

—San Diego’s Acadia Pharmaceuticals (NASDAQ: ACAD) raised close to $15 million in a stock sale intended to provide funding for late-stage trials of a Parkinson’s drug and extend Acadia’s available cash into 2013.

Quidel (NASDAQ: QDEL), the San Diego diagnostic test maker, said it expected to raise about $57.4 million by selling 4.6 million shares in a secondary public offering. The company plans to use the funding for working capital and other general corporate purposes, which could include buying other companies, acquiring or developing new technologies, and repaying its debts. Quidel CEO Doug Bryant outlined the company’s strategy Tuesday at the J.P. Morgan conference.

—San Diego’s Ligand Pharmaceuticals (NASDAQ: LGND said it licensed two of its liver drug candidates to Chiva Pharmaceuticals, a Los Altos Hills, CA-based affiliate of Hainan Kaihua Pharmaceutical. Ligand said the deal, which gives Chiva rights to develop and market the drugs in China, could be worth more than $100 million in milestone payments and royalties.

—San Diego-based Adventrx Pharmaceuticals agreed to acquire an unidentified biotechnology company developing a late-stage drug candidate for treating a painful blockage of blood vessels in people with sickle cell disease. Under terms of the deal, which were non-binding on both companies, Adventrx would give as much as 47 percent of its stock to the target company, providing that the FDA ultimately approves the drug for sale in the United States. The deal could be worth as much as $20.2 million.

Independa, a San Diego-based startup developing health IT technologies to help the elderly continue to live independently, introduced its “Smart Reminders” service at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas. The Web-based platform combines apps for smart calendaring and medication reminders into a browser-based system managed by caregivers.

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