SD Life Sciences News: Auspex, BrainCells, and J&J’s Startup Center

Xconomy San Diego — 

Here’s our weekly roundup of San Diego’s life sciences news.

Jeff Shuren, director of the FDA’s Center for Devices and Radiological Health (CDRH), briefed reporters in San Diego on his efforts to make the regulatory review of new medical devices more predictable, transparent, and efficient. Shuren is undertaking reforms at a time when eight out of 10 biomedical CEOs say they “agree or strongly agree” that the FDA regulatory approval process has slowed the growth of their organizations.

—More than 500 people turned out Monday evening for the open house that Johnson & Johnson’s (NYSE: JNJ) new Janssen Labs startup center. The first four startups to be inducted are Diomics (diagnostics, integrated DNA analysis); Neurolixis (drugs for schizophrenia, Parkinson’s and other CNS disorders); Tem Systems (comprehensive blood test for anti-coagulants); and Yolia Health (optometry device company).

—San Diego-based Auspex Pharmaceuticals, which is developing deuterium-based drugs, has raised $3 million of a $6 million round of debt and convertible promissory notes, according to a regulatory filing. Previous investors include CMEA Ventures, Costa Verde Capital, and Thomas McNerney & Partners. Auspex uses deuterium to replace metabolically sensitive hydrogen atoms in compounds to create new versions of existing drugs.

BrainCells, a San Diego developer of neurological drugs, raised $2 million toward an $8 million round of debt, rights and securities, according to a regulatory filing. BrainCells previously raised $77 million from Alexandria Real Estate Equities, Bay City Capital, MedImmune Ventures, Mitsubishi UFJ Capital, Mizuho Capital, NeuroVentures, New Enterprise Associates, Oxford Bioscience Partners, Pappas Ventures and Technology Partners, according to VentureWire. The company says it is developing novel therapies for treating central nervous system (CNS) diseases, based on the principal of blocking select metabotropic glutamate receptors (mGluR).

—To have the skills needed in 2022, San Diego Xconomists Robert Noble and Larry Bock recommend that students should “learn how to learn.” Drew Senyei says students should study anything they are passionate about; Duane Roth would like to see a new major that encompasses engineering, biology, chemistry, physics, law, business, humanities and communications; and Ramesh Rao would emphasize studying new techniques for sensing data, as well as data analysis. They all offered their views for an Xconomy special report on education, and what students should be studying today to be prepared for 10 years from now. Their comments are available online here.

—In a talk with Sanofi CEO Chris Viehbacher, Luke explained the company’s strategy since it acquired Cambridge, MA-based Genzyme, and cut back on its internal research and development.