Assay Depot Creates Online Market for Pfizer, Advanced BioHealing Expands, Organovo Finds Market for Bio-Printing Technology, & More San Diego Life Sciences News

Xconomy San Diego — 

Bio-engineering tissue for use in humans seems to be gaining ground in San Diego, with Organovo and Advanced BioHealing reporting progress on separate fronts. We have that and more as part of our weekly review of local life sciences news.

—After developing an site that connects biotech scientists with clinical research organizations (CROs) that provide laboratory services, San Diego’s Assay Depot has developed a private version of its online marketplace for Pfizer, (NYSE: PFE). Assay Depot CEO Kevin Lustig told me the startup he co-founded in 2006 is now working on similar projects for at least three other global pharmaceutical companies.

Organovo CEO Keith Murphy has found a way to help support the San Diego startup’s development of 3-D bio-printer technology, which has the potential to someday create kidneys and other organs. Organovo is now licensing its technology so drug developers can test their prospective drug compounds on 3-dimensional clumps of human cells. Murphy says three partnership deals signed so far almost have Organovo operating in the black.

—San Diego’s Advanced BioHealing, which makes bio-engineered skin grafts used to treat diabetic foot ulcers, is planning to hire 50 new employees following its acquisition by Shire. Advanced BioHealing CEO Kevin Rakin told me the deal also gives Shire, based in Dublin, Ireland, a new base of operations on the West Coast.

—In his BioBeat column this week, Luke asks, “Where have all the courageous biotechies gone? He quotes Kevin Starr of Third Rock Ventures, who told him he works to instill a “nothing is impossible” attitude in the biotechs he has helped to start.

—San Diego-based Sequenom, which has been working on a noninvasive diagnostic prenatal test for Down syndrome, says it’s now getting genetic sequencing equipment and other supplies from Illumina under a three-year agreement with the San Diego-based diagnostics equipment maker. The partnership should help Sequenom’s credibility as it gets closer to seeking FDA approval for its test, which scans a blood sample from a pregnant woman for DNA linked to Down syndrome in the fetus.

—The National Institutes of Health have awarded a $698,000 small business innovation research (SBIR) grant to NanoSort, a San Diego startup developing technology to advance the development of flow cytometers. Flow cytometry is a widely used biomedical technique to enumerate, analyze, and sort cells and particles. With innovations done in the lab of UC San Diego Professor Yuhwa Lo, NanoSort is working to develop a system-on-a-chip approach to drastically reduce the size and cost of flow cytometers.