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San Diego Life Sciences Roundup: Health IT, Illumina, & More

Xconomy San Diego — 

San Diego’s digital health community was following a three-day hearing on health IT held in Washington D.C. The House Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations said it was focused on potential regulations and taxes on smartphones, tablets, mobile apps and other health-related IT. My roundup of the rest of San Diego’s life sciences news is below.

Illumina (NASDAQ: ILMN) had some good news and some bad news on the patent front. The San Diego maker of gene sequencing equipment said a U.S. District Court in San Diego had granted its request for a summary dismissal of a patent infringement lawsuit filed by Life Technologies (NASDAQ: LIFE) in 2009. But a federal jury in Tacoma, WA, found that Illumina’s BeadChip array technology infringed a Syntrix Biosystems patent, and the judge in that case ordered Illumina to pay about $96 million in damages. Illumina said it plans to contest the jury’s findings.

—A new analysis from the San Diego-based West Health Institute estimated that making medical equipment and devices seamlessly communicate and share information could save more than $30 billion a year in healthcare costs and improve patient care and safety. The institute’s chief medical and chief science officer, Joseph Smith, was among the healthcare experts who raised concerns about FDA regulation of mobile health apps at a Congressional hearing Wednesday.

Connect officially inducted Ron Taylor as the 11the member of the San Diego nonprofit group’s Entrepreneur Hall of Fame. Taylor oversaw development of the Pyxis Medstation as the founding chairman and CEO of Pyxis, a medical equipment business now operated by San Diego-based CareFusion (NYSE: CFN). At a luncheon ceremony Thursday, Venture investor and Pyxis co-founder Tim Wollaeger said, “Pyxis was not successful for the first three years, from 1987 to 1990. If it had been written off, nobody would have noticed. But Ron listened to the marketplace, and modified his strategy until it worked.”

—After touring a new proton therapy center in Seattle, run by the private company ProCure and the Seattle Cancer Care Alliance, Xconomy’s Luke Timmerman questioned the merits of the advanced cancer treatment in his BioBeat column. He cited studies showing that proton therapy is significantly more expensive than standard radiation treatment for cancer patients.

—The student-run Rady Venture Fund at UC San Diego’s Rady School of Management joined the Tech Coast Angels and other angel investment groups in a $16 million Series B investment in Savara Pharmaceuticals of Austin, TX. Savara has been developing an inhaled antibiotic to treat methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) infections in patients with cystic fibrosis (CF).

—The American Academy of Neurology released a mobile app during its annual meeting in San Diego this week that is intended to help users quickly assess whether someone has suffered a sports concussion. The “Concussion QuickCheck” app is available for the iOS and Android mobile platforms, and was developed in partnership with the Academy’s updated guidelines for diagnosing and evaluating sports concussions.

Sapphire Energy, the San Diego-based industrial biotech startup, began year-round production of algae-based crude oil at its “Green Crude Farm” near Columbus, NM. Sapphire also signed its first commercial production agreement with Tesoro, the independent oil company based in San Antonio, TX.

—San Diego’s MediciNova (NASDAQ: MNOV) said data from an early stage study of ibudilast in treating opioid withdrawal has reinforced its fast track designation. The company says the early data reported in a poster session at the American Academy of Neurology annual meeting in San Diego showed a significant reduction in opioid withdrawal symptoms, no safety or tolerability issues, and no discontinuations due to treatment.