SD Life Sciences Roundup: Illumina, Sophiris Bio, & New Funding Deals

Xconomy San Diego — 

The clock is ticking down on the shareholder vote for Roche’s unsolicited offer to buy San Diego-based Illumina (NASDAQ: ILMN). We also saw a bunch of new funding deals for local life sciences companies, so get your briefing now.

—In a letter sent ahead of Illumina’s showdown shareholder meeting—set for April 18—CEO Jay Flatley and Chairman William Rastetter urged shareholders to reject moves by Roche, the Swiss pharmaceutical giant, to acquire the San Diego company in a $6.7 billion hostile takeover. Roche wants to increase Illumina’s board of directors and has submitted its own slate of nominees in a bid to force its offer through. In their letter opposing the deal, Flatley and Rastetter cite a BioBeat column Luke wrote that offers five reasons why Illumina should fight Roche’s low-ball bid. Roche moved to acquire Illumina in January; its latest offer is $51 a share.

—Stock in a new San Diego drug development company, Sophiris Bio, began trading today at 55 cents a share on the Toronto Stock Exchange under the ticker symbol SHS. Sophiris, which has a late-stage drug targeting benign prostatic hyperplasia (enlarged prostate), moved to San Diego last year from Vancouver, B.C., where the company was known as Protox Therapeutics. A spokesman for the company says Sophiris also has secured more than $26 million in financing from the private equity firm Warburg Pincus.

—San Diego-based CalciMedica, which has been developing oral drugs that target calcium channels on the surface of cells, has raised $13.2 million in debt and rights to securities, according to a recent regulatory filing. CalciMedica, which Luke profiled in 2010, has been advancing a drug to treat psoriasis. CalciMedica’s investors include Biogen Idec, Sanderling Ventures and SR One.

—San Diego’s Huya Bioscience raised $7.6 million of a planned $18 million in debt and equity, according to a recent regulatory filing. Founding CEO Mireille Gingras told me in 2009 that Huya is obtaining licenses for Chinese compounds, including pre-clinical and clinical drug candidates in oncology, neurology, immunology, and hematology.

—San Diego-based Ridge Diagnostics, founded in 2006 as Precision Human Biolaboratory, has raised $6 million in equity, debt, and securities, according to a recent regulatory filing. Using a proprietary biomarker library and related technology, Ridge has developed multi-variant assays to diagnose Major Depressive Disorder (MDD) and other neuropsychiatric disorders—and to guide doctors in selecting anti-depressants and in monitoring and managing their patients.

Sonexa Therapeutics, a San Diego startup founded in 2008 to develop new drug treatments for Alzheimer’s disease and related disorders, has raised slightly more than $1.2 million in debt, rights to acquire securities, and securities, according to a regulatory filing. The company’s investors include Domain Associates (Domain partner Eckard Weber is Sonexa’s CEO), Alta Partners, and Scale Venture Partners.

—San Diego’s Axikin Pharmaceuticals, has raised $2 million of a planned $11 million in equity, rights, and securities, according to a recent regulatory filing. Axikin was spun out of Actimis Pharmaceuticals to develop small molecule drugs to treat respiratory disorders such as asthma, allergic rhinitis, and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. Investors include Mitsui Ventures and Sanderling Ventures.

—Carlsbad, CA-based Obalon Therapeutics raised $1.5 million in debt and rights to acquire securities, according to a recent regulatory filing. The medical device developer has maintained a low profile since it was founded in 2008. Obalon appears to have no website and provides little information about its development of a “gastric space occupying device” for treating obesity. Investors include Domain Associates, Okapi Ventures and Phagia Technology.

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