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Life Sciences Roundup: Halozyme, Avalon Ventures, Auspex & More

Xconomy San Diego — 

In case anyone noticed last week that I was missing, I’ve enclosed a photo below from Rocky Mountain National Park, where I spent much of my vacation.  And in case anyone is wondering why I came back, here’s my latest update on San Diego’s life sciences news.

—In a huge setback for Halozyme Therapeutics (NASDAQ: HALO), the FDA asked the San Diego company and two pharma partners to halt patient testing of combo drugs that use Halozyme’s recombinant human hyaluronidase, or rHuPH20. The FDA asked the company for pre-clinical data to put to rest agency concerns that the Halozyme enzyme would not affect human reproduction or fertility. More than 10.6 million Halozyme shares changed hands on the news, a 1,307 percent increase over its 65-day average volume, as the share price fell by almost 50 percent to $4.30. P

—San Diego-based Avalon Ventures, which is one of the most active life sciences VC firms in San Diego, has begun to raise capital for its 10th investment fund, according to a Dow Jones. The venture firm founded by Kevin Kinsella, which also has an office in Boston, plans to raise at least $200 million, according to the report.

Auspex Pharmaceuticals, which is developing deuterium-based analogs of clinically validated drugs, has raised $1.5 million of a planned $3 million round of debt and rights, according to a recent regulatory filing. Auspex, which has raised a total of at least $17 million from CMEA Ventures, Costa Verde Capital, and Thomas McNerney & Partners, says deuterium replaces metabolically sensitive hydrogen atoms to create novel therapeutics.

—The National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute awarded a National Institutes of Health grant to San Diego-based OrPro Therapeutics—not to be confused with Irvine, CA-based OrPro Prosthetics and Orthotics. OrPro Therpeutic’s Chief Operating Officer, Jeff Raser, told me in an email the $183,089 Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) grant will be used to advance development of its lead product, ORP-100, a recombinant engineered variant of thioredoxin, for the treatment of cystic fibrosis.

—The La Jolla Institute for Allergy & Immunology made the top 10 list of “Best Places to Work” in academia in the 10th annual survey by The Scientist magazine. In a list of best places to work in the biotech and pharmaceutical industry, San Diego-based Genomatica made the list.

Prometheus Laboratories, the San Diego specialty pharmaceutical and diagnostic company acquired last year by Nestlé Health Science, introduced a new proprietary test for patients taking infliximab to control their inflammatory bowel disease. The company said its test is intended to help doctors identify potential causes for loss of treatment response and to help guide patient management decisions. In its statement, the company says a loss of treatment response may be the result of insufficient infliximab levels, or it could be due to the development of antibodies to infliximab (ATI).