Novartis Acquires Genoptix, Elcelyx Raises $6M, Pfenex Gets Subcontract to Work on Malaria Treatment, & More San Diego Life Sciences News

Xconomy San Diego — 

Much of the life sciences news out of San Diego over the past week concerned new technologies and treatments for diabetes and obesity. We’ve got it covered.

—Switzerland’s Novartis AG agreed to pay $470 million to buy Genoptix (NASDAQ: GXDX), a Carlsbad, CA-based company that centralized the business of providing specialized diagnostic services for cancers in bone marrow, blood, and lymph nodes. Novartis is already a leading developer of certain cancer drugs, and the acquisition will help Novartis speed development of so-called companion diagnostics, tests that are designed to identify who may benefit most from a specific anti-cancer medication.

—San Diego-based Elcelyx Therapeutics has raised just over $6 million to develop new therapeutics for treating diabetes and other metabolic diseases, a regulatory filing revealed. Elcelyx was founded by Alain Baron, a Morgenthaler Ventures entrepreneur-in-residence who was previously a senior vice president for research at San Diego-based Amylin Pharmaceuticals (NASDAQ: AMLN).

Venture capital investing in San Diego fell by 43 percent during the fourth quarter that ended December 31st, with venture firms sinking $193.1 million into 26 startups, according to the MoneyTree Report. The top life science deals included aTyr Pharma ($23 million), Aires Pharmaceuticals ($20 million), and Ceregene ($11.5 million).

—Luke profiled Redwood City, CA-based Calibra Medical, which is developing technology that falls between the cheapest and easiest options for delivering insulin (syringes, pre-filled pens) and more complex and expensive alternatives (insulin pumps). Calibra CEO Jeff Purvin is among the speakers we’re expecting at tonight’s Xconomy Forum: San Diego’s Fight Against Diabesity.

—At the recent JP Morgan Healthcare Conference, Amylin Pharmaceuticals (NASDAQ: AMLN) CEO Dan Bradbury discussed the importance of keeping the company steady while Amylin works to satisfy FDA concerns about its diabetes drug, exenatide once-weekly (Bydureon).

The foundation of U.S. strength in medical device technologies is weakening, although the U.S. is still the undisputed leader, according to a report from PricewaterhouseCoopers.

—SAIC, the Virginia-based government contractor, awarded San Diego-based Pfenex a $3.1 million subcontract to help develop a scalable production process for a key Malaria antigen.

Vertex Pharmaceuticals (NASDAQ: VRTX), which has operations in San Diego and Cambridge, MA, said the FDA granted its request for a priority review of its application to market telaprevir as a new treatment for hepatitis C. That means the FDA will review the application in six months instead of 10.