San Diego Life Sciences Roundup: Amylin, Optimer, and the Economy

Xconomy San Diego — 

—San Diego’s Amylin Pharmaceuticals says Bydureon, its new once-a-week drug for treating Type 2 diabetes can hit the market as early as next month, after the FDA cleared Bydureon. The FDA rejected the Amylin’s drug twice before. An estimated 26 million people in the United States, or roughly 8 percent of the population, have type 2 diabetes.

San Diego’s life sciences sector has expanded since 2009, with employment increasing by more than 5,550 jobs, or 15 percent, over the past two years, according to a new economic report from Biocom, the local industry group. The comprehensive study counted more than 1,700 life sciences companies with a total of 41,937 employees throughout San Diego County in 2011, and says those numbers are expected to grow over the next two years.

—The FDA gave its approval to Cambridge, MA-based Vertex Pharmaceuticals (NASDAQ: VRTX), which has substantial operations in San Diego, for a new drug called Ivacaftor (Kalydeco), developed to treat a rare form of cystic fibrosis. The twice-a-day pill targets about 4 percent of the 30,000 patients in the U.S. with cystic fibrosis.

—Johnson & Johnson’s reorganized R&D operation in San Diego, now known as Janssen Healthcare Innovation, is trying an experiment in innovation by creating an incentive prize challenge. Janssen is offering a total of $250,000 for technology that helps improve care for patients who have just been discharged from a hospital.

—The folks who produce the quarterly MoneyTree report on venture capital funding just released a deeper dive into the details of life sciences investments. The survey shows that VC funding for life sciences increased 21 percent nationwide in 2011, with a total of $7.5 billion going into 785 deals. San Diego ranked third among metropolitan regions in terms of capital invested in the fourth quarter. The top five are Bay Area ($498 million), Boston ($384 million), San Diego Metro ($193 million), NY Metro ($98 million), and Orange County ($97 million

Optimer Pharmaceuticals (NASDAQ: OPTR) CEO Pedro Lichtinger outlined his plans for expanding the market for the company’s first product, the antibiotic fidaxomicin (Dificid), as a preventative therapy for hospital patients at risk for a nasty intestinal infection called C. difficile. San Diego-based Optimer is planning a clinical trial to prove the drug can help prevent severe diarrhea in patients undergoing bone-marrow transplants.

—A tweet from Bob More of Frazier Healthcare Ventures prompted Luke to delve into the importance of character among life sciences leaders in his BioBeat column. “Politics pretty similar to backing CEO’s,” More said. “Newt may be smart and a good debate guy. But Newt=Smug. Never back smug,”