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San Diego Life Sciences Roundup: Allergan, Qualcomm Life, & More

Xconomy San Diego — 

We saw a spate of funding deals and other activity in the week or so preceding Thanksgiving. Here’s our roundup of life sciences news, with best wishes from Xconomy for your Thanksgiving holiday.

—Allergan (NYSE: AGN), the Irvine, CA-based multi-specialty healthcare company, said it has agreed to pay $350 million upfront to buy the skin care business from Carlsbad, CA-based SkinMedica. The deal will expand Allergan’s line of skin-care products, which includes the wrinkle reducer Botox and skin filler Juvederm. SkinMedica’s products include Vaniqa, the only prescription product for reducing unwanted facial hair in women. Allergan said it will pay an extra $25 million if certain sales goals are met. The deal doesn’t include SkinMedica’s Colorescience makeup line, which will be spun out as a separate company

—San Diego’s Vital Therapies has extended its latest round to $86.1 million, according to a regulatory filing made earlier this month. The company, which is developing a product that combines liver cells with a medical device that could help people with acute liver failure, said in September that it planned to raise $76 million from existing investors. At the time, Vital Therapies said the capital would be used to fund three pivotal late-stage trials in a total of 375 patients with acute alcoholic hepatitis and fulminant hepatic failure. The company’s existing investors include including Delphi Ventures, DFJ DragonFund China, HBM BioMed China, Heights Capital Management, MedVenture Associates, Toucan Capital, Valley Ventures, and Versant Ventures.

BioNano Genomics, a nanotechnology startup that moved to San Diego from the Philadelphia area about two years ago, unveiled an automated benchtop instrument called the Irys System that takes a new approach to gene sequencing. The company says its technology images extremely long strands of a single DNA molecule, enabling scientists to visualize the genome architecture in its native state. Instead of fragmenting and amplifying DNA, BioNano Genomics says the Irys System uses proprietary technology to uncoil and confine long DNA molecules in nanochannel arrays.

—San Diego’s Epic Sciences said it has raised $13 million in a Series B round of equity financing for its ultra-sensitive cancer diagnostics technology. The company’s first application of the technology is to identify and analyze extremely rare circulating tumor cells in a blood sample. The investors included Domain Associates, Roche Venture Fund, and Pfizer Venture Investments, in addition to undisclosed individual investors.

Qualcomm Life, the wireless healthcare business created by San Diego’s Qualcomm (Nasdaq: QCOM) began marketing its 2net Platform technology and services in Europe. In a statement, Qualcomm Life said two of its European customers, Italy’s Telbios and Spain’s Cystelcom, already are using the technology. Telbios provides remote health monitoring services for chronic care and disease management. Cystelcom, an engineering software development company, created mHealthAlert as an open remote monitoring platform for chronic disease patients to reduce readmissions and the length of their hospital stay.

—San Diego’s Auspex Pharmaceuticals, which just raised $25 million to fund late-stage trials of its deuterium-based analog of tetrabenazine (Xenazine), said a U.S. patent granted for SD-900, another drug in its pipeline, validates the company’s innovative approach to drug development. SD-900 is a deuterium-based analog of the JAK kinase inhibitor tofacitinib, approved by the FDA for treating rheumatoid arthritis. In a statement from Auspex, CEO Larry Fritz said, “The issuance of a composition-of-matter patent for SD-900 is strong validation of Auspex’s technological approach to the creation of important new drugs.”

—San Diego-based Illumina, (Nasdaq: ILMN) identified the winners of its MiSeq grant program, gleaned from nearly 850 applications submitted by scientists in more than 40 countries. They are: Ramunas Stepanauskas of Maine’s Bigelow Laboratory for Ocean Sciences, for sequencing single cells from unculturable strains of bacteria in the dark ocean; Stephen Doyle of La Trobe University in Melbourne, Australia, for investigating drug resistance in African river blindness; and Karin Haack of the Texas Biomedical Research Institute in San Antonio, TX, for targeted resequencing of genes implicated in cardiovascular disease. Each winner gets a MiSeq genetic sequencing machine and related products and services valued at more than $150,000.