San Diego Life Sciences Roundup: Ambit, Lithera, Histogen, & More

Xconomy San Diego — 

Here’s our wrap up of the latest developments in San Diego’s life sciences community.

—The increasing importance of emerging markets to portfolio companies of life sciences VC Domain Associates led partner Brian Halak to create a new business model in China. Domain, which has offices in San Diego and Princeton, NJ, joined forces the Beijing-based firm Elite Consulting to create Domain Elite, an incubator for in-licensing drug, device, and diagnostic technologies from the West for commercialization in China.

—San Diego’s Ambit Biosciences said it is still “fully committed” to proceeding with mid-stage trials of its anti-cancer drug quizartinib after Japan’s Astellas Pharma exercised its right to terminate their worldwide licensing agreement. Quizartinib is Ambit’s lead drug candidate for patients who have a particularly aggressive form of acute myeloid leukemia (AML), and who have relapsed.

—San Diego-based Lithera said it has begun a 500-patient mid-stage trial of salmeterol xinafoate for use as an injectable fat reduction drug. CEO George Mahaffey said Lithera revised its initial formulation of salmeterol to optimize its use in reducing abdominal fat tissue in normal, healthy people who are under 45 years old, and who find it hard to lose their bothersome fat, even though they exercise and eat a healthy diet.

Histogen, a San Diego regenerative medicine startup, formed a joint venture called PUR Biologics to develop gels that could be used to promote healing and regeneration in bone, tendon, cartilage, spinal disc, and ligament. Histogen formed PUR in Aliso Viejo, CA, with a group of medical device investors.

—In his BioBeat column this week, Luke applied his obsessive knowledge of baseball to his encyclopedic coverage of life sciences. He selected Alnylam Pharmaceuticals (NASDAQ: ALNY) as his pick for biotech player of the year after the Cambridge, MA, company settled some disputes and forged ahead with RNA interference drugs. He chose Cambridge, MA-based Ironwood Pharmaceuticals (NASDAQ: IRWD) as his wild card player and Hyperion Therapeutics as rookie of the year.

—Adventrx Pharmaceuticals, a San Diego biopharmaceutical, said it had changed its corporate name to Mast Therapeutics. The company also changed its ticker symbol from ANX to (NYSE: MSTX). The company has been seeking a partner to advance an anti-cancer drug it had under development, and is now recruiting subjects for a late-stage trial of MST-188, a compound designated for treating sickle cell disease.