San Diego Life Sciences Roundup: Conatus, ViaCyte, Organovo, and More

Xconomy San Diego — 

Much of the activity among San Diego’s life sciences companies seemed to focus on raising capital and striking partnership deals. We’ve got it all wrapped up here.

—San Diego-based Conatus Pharmaceuticals, a biotech developing novel compounds to treat liver disease, was one of 10 companies that set terms for their IPO this week. The eight-year-old startup, founded by executives from Idun Pharmaceuticals, plans to raise $55 million by offering at least 5 million shares at a price range of $10 to $12. The company’s market value would be about $160 million at the midpoint of the proposed range.

—After securing a $10.1 million grant last fall from the California Institute for Regenerative Medicine, San Diego-based ViaCyte raised another $10.6 million in preparation for clinical trials of its technology for treating diabetes. ViaCyte has been developing a medical device that contains pancreatic precursor cells derived from a proprietary line of human embryonic stem cells and is implanted under the skin. The device would act as an artificial pancreas by releasing insulin into the bloodstream.

—A San Diego startup, Pediatric Bioscience, is developing a diagnostic test for a certain combination of maternal biomarkers that have been linked to autism spectrum disorders. A study led by Judy Van de Water, an immunologist at the UC Davis School of Medicine, found that 23 percent of children with autism spectrum disorders have mothers with a specific combination of auto antibodies. Mothers with this combination are 99 percent likely to have autistic children, according to the study published this month in the journal Translational Psychiatry.

—The share price of San Diego-based Organovo (NYSE: ONVO) increased by more than a third as the company said it was shifting its listing to the New York Stock Exchange from the over-the-counter market. The San Diego company is developing 3-D bioprinting technology that can create human tissues for medical research and therapeutic applications. Organovo shares were trading above $5.20 today, up from about $3.80 a share on July 9.

—San Diego’s BioNano Genomics said the New York Genome Center will purchase an Iris System, used to sequence long strands of DNA, under a strategic collaboration. Financial terms of the deal were not disclosed. With their Irys System, the center will now provide their research community with advanced long-read commercial technology to accelerate translational research and ultimately improve human health, consistent with the mission of this new center, said Todd Dickinson, a BioNano vice president, in a statement from the company.

Bio, Tech & Beyond, a biotechnology laboratory intended to serve as a community resource for open science, inventors, entrepreneurs, and others who believe that innovation should be accessible and affordable to anyone, is opening its doors in Carlsbad, CA, about 34 miles north of San Diego. Founder Joseph Jackson also helped to start the BioCurious lab in Sunnyvale, CA.

—The J. Craig Venter Institute (JCVI), the nonprofit genomic research organization, said the foundation established by Star Trek creator Gene Roddenbery has awarded Orianna Bretschger, a JCVI scientist in San Diego, a $5 million grant to support her work in developing new wastewater treatment technologies. Bretschger’s BioElectrochemical Sanitation Technology uses microbial fuel cells (MFCs) to clean wastewater and improve sanitation. About 2.5 billion people, or about one-third of the world’s population, do not have access to proper sanitation.

After forging a partnership with Bristol-Myers Squibb (NYSE: BMY) in April, the Danish biopharmaceutical Santaris Pharma said it signed an agreement with Cambridge, MA-based RaNA Therapeutics. Santaris, which has R&D operations in San Diego, agreed to provide its Locked Nucleic Acid (LNA) technology to help RaNa develop RNA-targeted medicines. Santaris will get an undisclosed payment upfront, and would be eligible for other payments and royalties.

—San Diego’s Cardium Therapeutics (NYSE CXM) said its shareholders have approved a proposed reverse stock split. Of the shares represented and voted at the meeting, the company said more than 67 percent supported the reverse split proposal.

Sente, a San Diego “cosmeceutical” developing glycoprotein-based skincare products, named Michael York as CEO and board member. York worked previously in management and leadership positions at Amylin Pharmaceuticals, Santarus, Amgen, and AstraZeneca.