San Diego Life Sciences Roundup: Qualcomm, Amylin, Organovo & More

Xconomy San Diego — 

San Diego’s emerging agricultural biotech cluster has added three new companies, with DSM, ZeaKal, and Algenetix setting down roots here. I’ve got details about them below, along with the rest of the life sciences news over the past week.

—A White House initiative to spend $1 billion over the next decade to map the brain and determine how it functions could provide added funding to neuroscience researchers in San Diego at a time when federal spending on biomedical research is under pressure. Connect CEO Duane Roth told U-T San Diego he expects the project will induce significant local investment in science and entrepreneurial companies. By coincidence, a new RAND Corp. study says the financial burden of caring for people with dementia is outpacing cancer and heart disease in the U.S.

Qualcomm (NASDAQ: QCOM), the San Diego wireless giant, also has been working at the frontiers of neuroscience. A startup venture backed by Qualcomm called Brain Corp. was founded in 2009 to develop radically different computer systems and software that are based on mathematical models of the way neurons work in the human brain.

—The shutdown rumors began flying soon after Bristol-Myers Squibb closed its $5.3 billion acquisition of San Diego’s Amylin Pharmaceuticals last year. Now it’s official. A spokesman for the New Jersey pharmaceutical giant told U-T San Diego’s Brad Fikes BMS plans to shut down its Amylin-related operations in San Diego by the end of 2014. About 420 employees will be affected, with a small number remaining to close the facility by March 2015.

—Last week a new San Diego agricultural biotech called ZeaKal announced itself with a $3.8 million funding deal. This week, an industrial biotech company called Algenetix said it has closed on a $2 million tranche of Series A funding to commercialize technology it has developed to improve oil productivity in microbes. The common thread in both deals is San Diego-based Kapyon Ventures, a new firm commercializing breakthroughs in industrial from global research institutes.

—The Dutch multinational industrial conglomerate, Royal DSM, officially opened a new office in San Diego with plans to expand into the food enzymes and oilseed processing business. DSM acquired assets last year from San Diego’s Verenium in a deal valued at $37 million.

—GlaxoSmithKline (NYSE: GSK), AstraZeneca (NYSE: AZN), Cubist Pharmaceuticals (NASDAQ: CBST), and Japan’s Astellas have reportedly expressed interest in buying San Diego’s Optimer Pharmaceuticals (NASDAQ: OPTR). Optimer Pharmaceuticals‘ headquarters moved from San Diego, where the company was founded, to New Jersey as former Pfizer CEO Henry McKinnell took over as CEO.

—San Diego’s Genalyte said it has a new diagnostic test to determine if a therapy is triggering an unwanted immune response to a drug. The company says anti-drug antibodies can reduce the efficacy of a drug and cause a variety of harmful effects. Genalyte says its assay streamlines testing for both mouse and human samples, “providing real-time detection without the use of dyes, fluorescent probes or radioactive labels.”

—San Diego’s Organovo, which currently trades over the counter, has signaled plans to apply for a listing on the New York Stock Exchange or Nasdaq exchange. In a statement, the regenerative medicinecompany says its board approved a change in the end of Organovo’s fiscal year. Organovo’s current fiscal year began on April 1st and will end on March 31st each year.