Amylin Suspends Obesity Drug Development, Sapphire Energy Partners with Monsanto, 23andMe Gets Connected to UCSD’s Fowler, & More San Diego Life Sciences News

Xconomy San Diego — 

On this St. Patrick’s Day, it seems only appropriate to lead our roundup of biotech news with an item from San Diego’s Sapphire Energy, the algal biofuels startup using biotech tools to develop emerald-green crude. We’ve got the rest of the life sciences news too, as well as a hearty “Top o’ the morning” to you.

—San Diego biofuels startup Sapphire Energy signed a strategic partnership with Monsanto, the agricultural chemical specialist based in St. Louis, MO. Sapphire Energy said it is already in the business of identifying valuable traits for the use of algae in commercial agriculture, and plans to share information with Monsanto on stress tolerance, yield enhancement, and other traits.

Genomatica, the San Diego sustainable chemicals company, forged a strategic partnership with the U.K.’s Tate & Lyle. Genomatica plans to use a Tate & Lyle high-fructose corn syrup plant in Decatur, IL, to make commercial-scale quantities of “Bio BDO,” an intermediate chemical also known as 1,4-butanediol that is used to make spandex, running shoes, automotive plastics, and other consumer products.

—San Diego’s Amylin Pharmaceuticals and Takeda Pharmaceutical of Japan said they suspended a mid-stage clinical trial of an obesity drug candidate that combines two synthetic hormones. The drug companies said they want to investigate new antibody-related laboratory findings from a previous obesity trial involving metreleptin, one of the synthetic hormones.

—I talked with James Fowler, a professor of medical genetics and political science at UC San Diego about his research into social networks and Connected, the book he wrote with co-author Nicholas Christakis of Harvard. Since the book was published, Fowler said he’s done some work for 23andMe, the personal genomics company based in Mountain View, CA. “They realized that in order to provide information about genetics that you need to know something about the social environment as well,” Fowler said.

—The San Diego-based Polaris Group said it is expanding its leadership in conjunction with the advance of the company’s lead cancer drug candidate into late-stage clinical trials. Polaris named former Arena Pharmaceuticals CFO Robert E. Hoffman as its chief financial officer as it moves forward into trials of ADI-PEG 20, a drug developed to treat hepatocellular carcinoma.