San Diego Life Sciences Roundup: Optimer, Ambit, AnaptysBio, & More

Xconomy San Diego — 

[Clarification 5/17/13, 2:05 pm. See below.] Antibody drugs seemed to be the topic of the week for San Diego’s life sciences community. We have the latest updates from RuiYi, AnaptysBio, and Optimer Pharmaceuticals, along with other developments.

Ambit Biosciences’ (NASDAQ: AMBI) stock price fell by 61 cents, or almost 8 percent, in its first day of Nasdaq trading—after the San Diego biotech cut the price of its IPO to $8 a share from an estimated range of $13 to $15 a share. Ambit still managed to raise about $65 million in its debut by increasing the number of shares offered from 4.6 million to 8.1 million. Ambit’s venture investors include OrbiMed Advisors, Aisling Capital, Apposite Healthcare, Forward Ventures, GIMV, GrowthWorks, MedImmune Ventures, and Roche Ventures.

Senté, a San Diego skin care “cosmeceutical,” said it raised $2.1 million in a Series B round of financing that included new and existing biotechnology investors. Proceeds from the financing will help Senté expand its development capabilities and commercial operations, and extend its product line of medical grade skincare products. In a statement, Senté co-founder and board member Kleanthis Xanthopoulos said, “Our new investors share our vision of creating unique science based dermatological products that will have profound impacts on the skin.”

—San Diego-based RuiYi, a biotech founded in 2007 as Anaphore, laid out what a spokeswoman described as a  “ménage a quatre” (household of four) collaboration to advance its technology for developing antibody drugs—including a monoclonal antibody for treating rheumatoid arthritis. RuiYi CEO Paul Grayson said the company has signed partnership deals with arGEN-X, CMC Biologics, and Genor BioPharma to commercialize novel biologic drugs in China to treat autoimmune diseases and cancer.

—San Diego’s AnaptysBio landed a government contract to produce batches of antibodies to counter the deadly effects of ricin, a biological agent that is relatively easy for bioterrorists to make. AnaptysBio CEO Hamza Suria said the company would deliver its ricin antibodies to the U.S. Army’s Edgewood Chemical and Biological Center, a Maryland-based agency regarded as the U.S. bulwark for chemical and biological defense.

—An international team of scientists that included Synthetic Genomics founder and CEO J. Craig Venter said it demonstrated a new method for developing synthetic vaccine viruses for use in flu vaccine development that took just four days and four hours. The new approach could enable a much more rapid response to pandemics, according to a May 15 study in the journal Science Translational Medicine. In comparison, it took nearly seven months to develop a vaccine for the H1N1 flu outbreak of 2009.

—[Clarifies that Optimer moved headquarters to Jersey City] The share price of Optimer Pharmaceuticals (NASDAQ: OPTR), which moved its headquarters to Jersey City, NJ, late last year from San Diego, soared following a Bloomberg report that AstraZeneca (NYSE: AZN), Japan’s Astellas Pharma, and Cubist Pharmaceuticals (NASDAQ: CBST) made first-round bids to acquire Optimer. The company makes the antibiotic fidaxomicin (Dificid) for treating intestinal infections caused by C. difficile bacteria. Optimer shares soared on a similar report in early April.