San Diego Life Sciences Roundup: Optimer, Pfenex, OncoSec, & More

Xconomy San Diego — 

Venture funding for San Diego’s life sciences companies continued to flow at a healthy rate during the third quarter that ended in September, according to data released earlier today. We’ve got that and more.

—Former Optimer Pharmaceuticals (Nasdaq: OPTR) chairman Michael Chang, who was ousted by the company’s board earlier this year, will lead Taiwan’s Optimer Biotechnology (OBI), according to a report in the English language China Times. Optimer Pharmaceuticals recently disclosed plans to sell its 43 percent stake in OBI. The China Times identifies the buyer as Huei Hong Investment, led by Reuntex Financial Group CEO Samuel Yin, and says Chang will return to lead OBI. The sale of Optimer’s shares will sever all ties between OBI and its U.S. parent company.

—San Diego-based Pfenex said the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID) has awarded the company an initial $2.18 million to develop an alternative, needle-free delivery method for its anthrax vaccine. The contract could be worth as much as $22.9 million if all options are exercised. In a statement, Pfenex CEO Bertrand C. Liang said, “A recombinant solution for the production of this strategically relevant product has been sought for a number of years, and with continued government support and partnership we are confident Pfenex can deliver that solution.”

—Venture investors provided $241.5 million to 20 companies in the San Diego area during the third quarter that ended June 30, according to data from the latest MoneyTree Report. That’s an 11 percent increase over the $217.8 million that VCs invested in 24 deals during the same quarter last year. Almost $152 million, or 62 percent of all venture funding during the quarter, went to San Diego life sciences companies—including $50.1 million for Aragon Pharmaceuticals and $35.2 million for Tandem Diabetes Care. The MoneyTree Report was released by the National Venture Capital Association and PricewaterhouseCoopers, using data from Thomson Reuters

—San Diego stem cell pioneer Fate Therapeutics named former Amylin Pharmaceuticals R&D executive Christian Weyer as CEO, about 20 months after CEO Paul Grayson left the high-profile startup. The company, founded by leading scientists at Harvard University, Stanford University, and the University of Washington, adopted a new strategy last year. Bill Rastetter, a Venrock partner who was named interim CEO in November, will remain chairman of Fate’s board. At Amylin, Weyer contributed to the development, approval, and commercialization of several first-in-class diabetes medicines.

—San Diego’s OncoSec Medical, which has been developing an electroporation delivery system for chemotherapy treatments for solid tumor cancers, said it has received the European community’s regulatory approval. The company says authorization to use the CE mark means it can market its proprietary gene and drug technology in the European Economic Area (EEA).

—Stan Fleming, the longtime managing partner at San Diego’s Forward Ventures, is raising funding for a separate investment fund called Forward Medical Science Partners, according to a Dow Jones report. Fleming told the wire service he’s raising $100 million to $200 million, and plans to secure rights to individual drugs that can be developed and then sold.