SD Life Sciences Roundup: Organovo, Aethlon, & Deals, Deals, Deals

Xconomy San Diego — 

San Diego’s life sciences community saw a spurt of venture deals over the past week. We’ve got a roundup for everyone who’s been on vacation.

Ignyta, a San Diego startup focused on improving the diagnosis and treatment of rheumatoid arthritis and other autoimmune disorders, said it had raised a total of $6 million for its Series B round in a combination of venture funding and debt. The company, which was founded in 2011 as NexDx, uses molecular diagnostics to identify key traits in DNA methylation, changes in methyl group compounds in DNA that affect the function of the genome without changing the nucleotide sequence. Ignyta’s diagnostics technology takes advantage of advances in epigenetics, a broader field that studies how individual genes are activated and deactivated.

—San Diego’s Sanford-Burnham Medical Research Institute said it has agreed to collaborate with Intrexon, a synthetic biology specialist based in Germantown, MD, on research using induced pluripotent stem cells. The deal gives Sanford-Burnham access to Intrexon’s latest stem cell processing technology in exchange for commercial and intellectual property rights to technological advances. Financial aspects of the deal were not released.

—Congressional lawmakers agreed to raise personal income taxes to avoid going off the fiscal cliff, but the deal didn’t resolve substantial cutbacks mandated for the federal budget through a process known as sequestration. In his BioBeat column, Luke said the fallout could result in an 8 percent budget cut to biomedical research grants awarded by the National Institutes of Health.

—San Diego-based Independa, a health IT startup developing Web-based services to help seniors keep their independence, said it had raised a total of $5 million in an expanded Series A financing that included the conversion of $2.35 million in debt to preferred stock. San Diego’s City Hill Ventures and LG Electronics USA provided most of the new funding, but Independa did not break out how much investors provided.

—Jeff Behrens, the CEO of Cambridge, MA-based Sialix, talked with freelance writer Juliet Preston about the startup, which moved into San Diego’s Janssen Labs life sciences business accelerator in November. Sialix is developing nutritional supplements and drugs that moderate or inhibit the body’s inflammatory response to a particular sialic acid sugar molecule found in red meat, dairy products, and other foods. Behrens said Sialix also plans to develop drugs that target certain cancers.

—San Diego-based Aethlon Medical, which has been developing a dialysis-like filtration device for straining infectious microbes and cancer particles from the blood, said it has asked the FDA for permission to begin a clinical feasibility study that would use its blood purification device to treat patients infected with Hepatitis-C. Aethlon said its application for an Investigational Device Exemption would allow the use of Aethlon’s “Hemopurifier” to collect the safety and effectiveness data needed to support a premarket approval application.

—San Diego’s Organovo said it is working with researchers at Autodesk to develop 3D design software for Organovo’s bioprinting technology, which lays down a pattern of cultured cells to create bio-engineered structures. In a statement, Organovo said the software development effort represents a major step forward in usability and functionality for designing three-dimensional human tissues, including vital organs like kidneys and bladders.

Domain Associates, the VC firm based in San Diego and Princeton, N.J., said it has invested about $93 million from a $760 million venture fund created last March through a partnership with Russia’s Rusnano. The fund invested $20.6 million in San Diego-based Lithera, a specialist in “aesthetic medicine” developing an injectable drug treatment to selectively reduce fat tissue. The fund also invested $21 million in Branford, CT-based Marinus Pharmaceuticals and $51 million in Regado Biosciences of Basking Ridge, NJ.