San Diego Life Sciences Roundup: Optimer, Volcano, Avelas Bio, & More

Xconomy San Diego — 

San Diego’s life sciences community experienced an early December flurry of deals over the past week, led by Optimer, Volcano, Avelas Bio, and Biomatrica. We’ve got that and more.

Optimer Pharmaceuticals (Nasdaq: OPTR), which recently opened a new headquarters in Jersey City, NJ, said it had signed an agreement with AstraZeneca to commercialize Optimer’s fidaxomicin tablets in South America. The deal could be worth as much as $23 million for Optimer, which developed fidaxomicin to treat diarrhea caused by Clostridium difficile infections. The company says its corporate headquarters and R&D laboratory are still in San Diego, and Jersey City is only Optimer’s new commercial headquarters. CEO Pedro Lichtinger lives in the New York City area, according to his LinkedIn profile.

—San Diego medical device maker Volcano Corp. (Nasdaq: VOLC), which specializes in devices used in the diagnosis and treatment of coronary and peripheral vascular disease, agreed to pay at least $36 million to acquire Menlo Park, CA-based Crux Biomedical. Crux has developed an innovative inferior vena cava (IVC) filter, used to treat pulmonary embolisms—a type of blockage typically caused by a blood clot that has broken free.

—San Diego-based Avelas Biosciences, a three-year-old biotech developing fluorescing peptides for use in cancer diagnostics, closed on a $7.65 million round of Series A funding, raised entirely from San Diego’s Avalon Ventures. Proceeds of the funding would be used to advance development the use of fluorescing tags that change color in the presence of cancer cells. The technology originated in the UC San Diego lab of Roger Tsien, who shared the 2009 Nobel Prize in chemistry for his work.

Biomatrica, a San Diego startup developing anhydrobiosis technology for preserving and storing biological samples at room temperature, said it has raised $5 million in private financing. In a statement from the company, Biomatrica CEO Judy Muller-Cohn said the proceeds would enable Biomatrica to accelerate the launch of new technologies and products that will stabilize diagnostic assays at ambient temperature. Biomatrica said it also is getting funding from the Defense Advanced Research Project Agency (DARPA) to help research some of the hardest problems in keeping biological samples stable.

Sialix, a Cambridge, MA-based startup developing products to treat and prevent cancer and chronic inflammation, said its laboratory has moved into San Diego-based Janssen Labs, the no-strings-attached accelerator for life sciences startups. Sialix said it also has established a scientific advisory board to help guide the company’s research and development around diseases associated with ingesting non-human sialic acid, found in red meat and other dietary sources. Sialix also formed a business advisory board to guide the company’s strategy for both oncology and nutritional supplements.

—San Diego-based Qualcomm (Nasdaq: QCOM) said its Qualcomm Life subsidiary signed an agreement with Tri-City Medical Center and Valued Relationships to use the company’s proprietary 2net Platform and Hub to help reduce hospital readmissions. Under the agreement, Qualcomm Life will provide its 2net wireless health monitoring technology to patients in their homes within 48 hours of discharge from the Oceanside, CA-based hospital.