Rempex Raises $67.5M, Vertex Shares Tumble, & More San Diego Life Sciences News

Xconomy San Diego — 

The price of shares at San Diego’s Gen-Probe, Amylin Pharmaceuticals, and Optimer were clipped for various reasons over the past week, but several local startups successfully raised capital. Our good news, bad news briefing begins here.

Rempex Pharmaceuticals, a San Diego biopharmaceutical startup developing a new approach to antibiotics resistance, said it raised $67.5 million in Series B venture funding—bringing total funding for the company to $76 million since its founding less than five months ago. The startup is on a fast track, and plans to use the capital to accelerate the commercialization of its therapies for treating gram-negative bacterial infections. Rempex said it plans to file a new drug application for its first drug candidate in the second half of 2012. New investors Frazier Healthcare Ventures and Vivo Ventures joined existing investors SV Life Sciences, OrbiMed Advisors, and Adams Street Partners in the latest round.

—Cambridge, MA-based Vertex (NASDAQ: VRTX) has held the high ground in hepatitis C therapies since the FDA approved its protease inhibitor drug telaprevir (Incivek) last year. But two rivals are gaining ground. The price of Vertex shares have fallen with the rise of Alpharetta, GA-based Inhibitex (NASDAQ: INHX) and Princeton, NJ-based Pharmasset (NASDAQ: VRUS). Vertex, which has operations in San Diego, hit a 52-week high of $58.87 on May 12, but it has been trading around $31 in recent days.

—Adding to the competition in hepatitis C drugs, San Diego-based iTherX Pharmaceuticals raised almost $3.2 million to advance its development of a prophylactic treatment for Hepatitis C, according to a regulatory filing earlier this week. The startup said in March that its drug candidate TX-5061 appears to prevent the hepatitis C virus from entering liver cells, and has shown “potent preclinical antiviral activity against all HCV genotypes.” Former UCSD virologist Flossie Wong-Staal is a co-founder and chief scientific officer. The company raised $2.8M in 2010.

—San Diego-based Amylin Pharmaceuticals (NASDAQ: AMLN) agreed to pay Eli Lilly more than $1.5 billion as it gradually reassumes responsibility for global commercialization of its best-selling diabetes drug in a deal that ends its 10-year partnership with Lilly. Under their agreement, which also ends litigation with Lilly, Amylin will take over sales of exenatide (Byetta) in the U.S. by the end of this month—and global sales of both Byetta and an experimental, extended release version (Bydureon) over the next two years. Amylin shares, which hit a 52-week high of $16.65 on Jan. 27, have been trading around $10 a share over the past few weeks.

—Xconomy east coast biotechnology editor Arlene Weintraub profiled PharmaSecure, a four-year-old startup in Lebanon, NH, with operations in San Diego, Michigan, and India. The company provides machines to drug-makers that print unique bar codes and serial numbers on drug packaging. PharmaSecure raised $3.9 million last month from Innovation Endeavors, Gray Ghost Ventures, Healthtech Capital, and angel investors. The Tech Coast Angels (TCA) participated in an earlier $2 million round with Life Science Angels, according to San Diego TCA member Jay Kunin, who told me in an e-mail, “which is how I ended up on the board.” Kunin says he also is PharmaSecure’s acting CTO, but he won’t be moving to India, where the company’s technology team and data centers are based.

—San Diego-based Gen-Probe (NASDAQ: GPRO) wrote off $39.5 million of its $50 million investment in Pacific Biosciences, the DNA sequencing company based in Menlo Park, CA. “Even though we have both the ability and the intent to hold this investment for the long-term, we wrote it down because the trading price of Pacific Biosciences’ stock may remain below our cost basis for an extended period of time,” Gen-Probe CEO Carl Hull told analysts in a third-quarter earnings call. Gen-Probe said the write-down contributed to its net loss of $15.4 million, which contrasts with the $27.4 million profit posted in the same quarter last year. Revenue rose 5 percent to $139 million.

Perminova, a San Diego startup developing Web-based software to manage the workflow at cardiac centers, raised $3 million in equity and secured a $4 million loan in a Series A financing. Perminova’s technology began as a database for tracking cardiac patient care but has evolved into a more comprehensive system for everything from patient scheduling to post-procedural documentation and billing.

—San Diego-based Optimer (NASDAQ: OPTR) generated almost $11 million in new revenue during the quarter that ended Sept. 30 from its sale of fidaxomicin (Dificid), its drug for treating intestinal bacterial infections caused by the C. difficile bacteria. Optimer reported a net loss of $26.8 million in the quarter, which prompted a sell-off in Optimer shares. The company’s stock price, which hit a 52-week peak of $17.95 on Sept. 23, has been trading above $11 a share in recent days.

The Sanford-Burnham Medical Research Institute has joined the global network New York-based Pfizer has been building to foster collaborations between basic research and new clinical applications. The institute will be working closely with UC San Diego at Pfizer’s Centers for Therapeutic Innovation, which UCSD joined in August.