SD Life Sciences (and Cleantech) Roundup: DexCom, Ligand, Genomatica

Xconomy San Diego — 

In addition to some advances on the life sciences front, we saw a flurry of developments among San Diego’s industrial biotechnology startups over the past week.

—San Diego’s DexCom (Nasdaq: DXCM), which makes continuous glucose monitoring devices for patients with diabetes, acquired SweetSpot Diabetes Care, a Portland, OR, health IT company. DexCom said it will pay as much as $8.5 million in payments over time for SweetSpot, which developed a cloud-based service that helps process data from monitoring devices. SweetSpot’s service, which is aimed at the diabetes market, has been cleared under federal regulations for medical devices.

—In his BioBeat column, Luke profiled Bruce Booth, a partner at Cambridge, MA-based Atlas Venture whose LifeSciVC blog has gained a strong following in the life sciences startup community. As a self-described “biotech optimist fighting gravity,” Luke writes that Booth has shown “he loves nothing more than tackling industry dogma with data-driven analysis, heavy on the charts and graphs.”

Avanir Pharmaceuticals (NASDAQ: AVNR), the onetime San Diego life sciences company now based in Aliso Viejo, CA, bought a worldwide license to an experimental drug developed by Lexington, MA-based Concert Pharmaceuticals for neurological and psychiatric disorders. Avanir is making an undisclosed upfront payment, and could pay out more than $200 million for the compound.

—-San Diego’s Ligand Pharmaceuticals (NASDAQ: LGND) licensed a DARA compound (Dual Acting Receptor Antagonist of Angiotensin and Endothelin receptors) to Retrophin, a New York startup founded last year by Martin Shkreli, a 28-year-old hedge fund manager. The companies said Ligand will get a net upfront payment of $1 million, and might receive more than $75 million in milestone payments plus royalties. The price of Ligand shares has climbed by roughly two-thirds since I profiled the company almost exactly a year ago.

Sapphire Energy, the San Diego startup developing algal biofuel, said it successfully modified certain cyanobacteria, also known as blue-green algae, to produce significantly higher yields of “green” crude oil. Sapphire said it also has tapped into the deep expertise in producing blue-green algae through a licensing agreement with Irvine, CA-based Earthrise Nutritionals, which produces food colors and nutritional supplements from a type of blue-green algae known as Spirulina.

—San Diego’s Genomatica said the Japanese industrial giant Mitsubishi Chemical has agreed to negotiate “definitive agreements” for a joint commercial operation in Asia, where they plan to use Genomatica’s sustainable biotechnology to produce the key industrial chemical 1,4-butanediol, or BDO. Genomatica has modified a standard strain of E. coli to produce BDO, a so-called intermediate chemical used as a raw material to make spandex clothing, skateboard wheels, car bumpers, dashboards and other resilient plastic materials.

—Xconomy Detroit Editor Sarah Schmidt profiled MBI International, a wholly owned subsidiary of the Michigan State University Foundation, which has had some notable successes in helping to advance life sciences and industrial biotech companies. In particular, MBI helped Genomatica prove that its technology for making BDO was feasible.

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