San Diego Life Sciences Roundup: VC Outlook, Organovo, Life, & More

Xconomy San Diego — 

A spate of stories late last week, including three venture capital partners who gave their outlook for 2013 to the San Diego Venture Group, pushed back my roundup of life sciences news a little. Here’s the wrap up of news over the last week.

—Josh Green of Menlo Park, CA-based Mohr Davidow Ventures sees new opportunities arising for venture investments in cleantech and life sciences deals, even though data shows a downturn in VC deals in both sectors last year. Green was one of three VC partners who told a San Diego audience last week the industry has been “right-sizing,” and he saw a high level of interest in life science investments during the recent J.P. Morgan Healthcare conference in San Francisco. While VC funding for life sciences was down nationwide last year, Green cited data from the MoneyTree Report showing that more than two-thirds of the capital VCs invested in San Diego last year went to biotech and medical device startups. The report says VCs provided a total of $1.1 billion for 101 companies in 2012.

—San Diego’s Organovo has raised more than $7.6 million from investors through a financing arranged by Aegis Capital, according to a regulatory filing earlier this month. Organovo has been developing bioprinting technology, which lays down a pattern of cultured cells to create bio-engineered structures. Today the BBC also is reporting that Paypal co-founder Peter Thiel, who is one of Silicon Valley’s most prominent venture investors, has provided $350,000 in funding for Modern Meadow, a startup founded by Organovo founder Gabor Forgacs and his son Andras. They plan to use 3D bioprinting to produce synthetic meat for consumption.

—Carlsbad, CA-based Life Technologies (Nasdaq: LIFE), a leading maker of DNA-sequencing equipment and laboratory supplies used in biopharmaceutical research and manufacturing, said it has acquired BAC, a privately held company in the Netherlands that develops and makes protein purification products. Terms of the deal were not disclosed.

—Life Technologies also confirmed that it has retained Deutsche Bank AG and Moelis & Co. to provide strategic advisory services on a possible acquisition. Life has been reported to be in discussions with the Blackstone Group, KKR & Co, and two other private equity firms about a possible takeover of the Carlsbad, CA, company. Potential suitors, reported to include health-care companies, also have expressed interest in a Life Technologies buyout. Life, which has a current market value of about $10.7 billion, trades at about 15 times estimated earnings, compared with about 33 times for Illumina (Nasdaq: ILMN), its San Diego-based rival in DNA-sequencing machines.

Innovus Pharma, a specialty biopharmaceutical that trades over the counter under the ticker symbol INNV, said it is moving its corporate headquarters from Sierra Madre, CA, to San Diego. Innovus also named former Apricus Biosciences CEO Bassam Damaj as CEO. Damaj, who joined the Innovus board as well, replaces Vivian Liu, who has resigned but will continue with the board.

—San Diego-based Cylene Pharmaceuticals, a venture-backed bio-pharmaceutical startup developing first-in-class cancer drugs, has raised $867,000 of a planned $1 million financing, according to a recent regulatory filing. Cylene is developing small molecule drugs that activate the p53 tumor suppressor gene and related cancer targets.