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Sequenom Plans $19M Lab in North Carolina, Illumina Shares Plunge, PatientSafe Advances Device, & More San Diego Life Sciences News

Xconomy San Diego — 

It was a full and busy week for life sciences news in San Diego, with interesting advances in wireless health and a variety of deals. I’m planning at least one more report from the Wireless Health 2011 Conference, but in the meantime, here’s everything else.

North Carolina Gov. Beverly Burdue said yesterday that San Diego-based Sequenom (NASDAQ: SQNM) plans to build an $18.7 million molecular diagnostics clinical laboratory in the Research Triangle Park. Tar Heels state officials offered the diagnostics company as much as $2.3 million in incentives if Sequenom can meet certain hiring and investment goals. Sequenom, which currently has more than 280 employees in San Diego, would nearly double in size, as the North Carolina lab is expected to create 242 jobs over the next five years. Sequenom has been working to commercialize its noninvasive test for Down syndrome, which identifies a fetal marker for the condition that circulates in the maternal bloodstream.

—The Wireless Health 2011 Conference, a scientific and technical symposium, continues through today at the Hilton La Jolla Torrey Pines. In a keynote presentation earlier this week, Qualcomm (NASDAQ: QCOM) CEO Paul Jacobs demonstrated a mobile app developed by San Francisco-based AliveCor that turns an iPhone into an electrocardiograph device. “The future is already here,” Jacobs said, quoting the sci-fi writer William Gibson. “It’s just not very equally distributed.” AliveCor raised $3 million in first round venture funding earlier this year from Qualcomm Ventures, Burrill & Co., and the Oklahoma Life Sciences Fund.

The price of shares in San Diego-based Illumina plunged by 32 percent after the company posted disappointing third quarter sales of $235 million, about $40 million short of expectations. Illumina, the market leader in high-speed gene sequencing instruments, also withdrew its 2011 sales forecast “due to the many market uncertainties.” Illumina’s stock, which had been trading around $40 a share, fell to $27.08 on the news last week. Illumina (NASDAQ: ILMN) shares closed yesterday at $26.04.

—I sat down with the chairman and CEO of PatientSafe Solutions, Jim Sweeney, who talked about the wireless healthcare company’s PatientTouch device, a souped-up Apple iPod Touch that’s been extensively modified to help hospital nurses manage their workload. The PatientTouch device is designed to help nurses manage their clinical care workflow, guide patient care, coordinate tasks and communicate with other nurses and doctors (using a hospital’s Wi-Fi network for text messaging or Voice-over-Internet Protocol calls), and to collect and record patient vital signs and other data in real time.

—San Diego-based Acutus Medical, which raised $1 million from Index Ventures in August, now has $3.3 million of a planned $4.6 million venture round, according to VentureWire. Acutus, founded earlier this year, has been developing technology for mapping atrial fibrillation and other types of cardiac arrhythmias.

—San Diego-based Ligand Pharmaceuticals (NASDAQ: LGND) said it signed a global licensing agreement with Chiva Pharmaceuticals, the U.S. affiliate of a Hong Kong drug company, for lasofoxifene (Fablyn), a drug used to treat osteoporosis in post-menopausal women. The European Union approved lasofoxifene in 2009. Ligand said it will get $4 million in licensing payments over the next eight months, and also would be eligible for additional payments on worldwide sales of the drug.

—BioNanomatrix, which moved its headquarters to San Diego from Philadelphia this summer, said it has changed its name to BioNano Genomics to better reflect the company’s focus on using nano-scale technology to analyze DNA and other long biomolecules. BioNano Genomics’ proprietary nanoAnalyzer System uses single-molecule imaging technology to visualize extremely long nucleic acids, making genomic analysis more available to biomedical researchers and clinicians who want simpler ways of examining whole genomes.

—San Diego-based AnaptysBio, which has been developing antibody therapeutics, named Carol Gallagher as executive chairwoman of its board. AnaptysBio also named Hamza Suria as chief business officer and acting CEO, and David J. King as chief scientific officer. Gallagher was the CEO of Seattle’s Calistoga Pharmaceuticals before it was acquired by Gilead Sciences earlier this year. In September, the company said the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) had extended its contract with AnaptysBio to help develop antibody-based biosensors to detect bioterror agents.