West Wireless Repositions Itself as an Impartial Arbiter, Amylin Makes Headway in Europe, VCs Debate Viability of Venture-Backed Biotech, & More San Diego Life Sciences News

Xconomy San Diego — 

While overall venture funding in San Diego was off dramatically during the first quarter, three life sciences deals disclosed last week suggest that a turnaround is underway. We’ve got those details and more.

—By making a few management changes, shedding some commercial initiatives, and distancing itself from Qualcomm (NASDAQ: QCOM), San Diego’s West Wireless Health Institute is recasting itself as a more independent and impartial nonprofit research organization. The two-year-old institute also is now emphasizes its philanthropic funding and commitment to cutting the costs of healthcare.

The MoneyTree venture capital survey found that VCs invested just over $100 million in 22 San Diego startups during the first quarter of 2011. That’s a 55 percent drop in capital and a 29 percent decline in deals from the same quarter a year ago. The top five life sciences deals were Conatus Pharmaceuticals ($25.3 million); Elcelyx Therapeutics ($6.1 million); Mpex Pharmaceuticals ($5.1 million); Opthonix ($4.1 million); and Next Therapeutics ($3 million).

—The San Diego Venture Group hosted a spirited debate that had Avalon Ventures’ Kevin Kinsella and Bob More of Frazier Healthcare arguing against the long-term viability of biotech with Camille Samuels of Versant Ventures and Wende Hutton of Canaan Partners. More won my imaginary door prize for funniest jibes (e.g.”venture capital is a math exercise for people who never took math.”). But the audience grew somber when all four VCs agreed that venture-backed venture biotech is going to shrink substantially.

—The European Commission is expected to act in the next two to three months on an application from San Diego-based Amylin, along with Eli Lilly and Waltham, MA-based Alkermes, to market their once-weekly version of exenatide (Bydureon). Last week a European advisory committee recommended approving the drug for human use in the European Union. The U.S. application for once-weekly exenatide was sent back in October by the FDA, which wants … Next Page »

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