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San Diego Life Sciences Roundup: Regulus, Ocera, Lithera, and More

Xconomy San Diego — 

A number of San Diego life sciences companies appeared to be taking advantage of the strengthening biotech market on Wall Street by raising capital or repositioning themselves—or both. Here’s my rundown on the deals and other news.

—San Diego-based Lithera, which is developing an injectable fat-reduction drug, said it has raised an additional $6.7 million from investors, extending its Series C financing round to $27.3 million. An existing investor, Rusnano subsidiary RusnanoMedInvest, led the financing, and was joined by new investors Mirae Asset Venture Investment, the venture arm of Korea’s Mirae Asset Financial Group, and Andrea Holdings. In a statement, Lithera said it plans to use the proceeds mostly to support efforts to advance its lead compound, salmeterol xinafoate, for reducing abdominal fat.

—San Diego-based Regulus Therapeutics (NASDAQ: RGLS) priced a secondary stock offering at $9.50 a share, less than a year after going public. The company, which is developing microRNA drugs for cancer, fibrosis, and metabolic diseases, is offering 4.5 million shares and expects to raise $42.8 million in gross proceeds. Regulus said the secondary offering is expected to close next week.

—San Diego’s Ocera Therapeutics said it received $20 million through a private placement financing after completing a merger with Durham, NC-based Tranzyme Pharma. Ocera is now a public company and trades under the ticker symbol (NASDAQ: OCRX). Domain Associates, Thomas McNerney & Partners, Sofinnova Ventures, InterWest Partners, Greenspring Associates, Agechem, CDIB, and Wasatch Advisors, invested approximately $20 million in the company through a private placement financing

MediStem, a San Diego regenerative medicine company previously known as MediStem Laboratories, said it has filed paperwork with federal securities regulators to regain its legal status as a public company. MediStem stopped issuing regular financial reports in 2009, saying it was focusing its resources on ERC-124, a universal donor stem cell product. In a statement, MediStem says endometrial regenerative cells possess specialized abilities to stimulate new blood vessel growth and can differentiate into lung, liver, heart, brain, bone, and other types of tissue.

—Following recent agreements with Janssen Pharmaceuticals and Bristol-Myers Squibb, The Scripps Research Institute announced a partnership with Sigma-Aldrich (NASDAQ: SIAL) that gives the St. Louis, MO-based life sciences conglomerate faster access to discoveries for the synthesis and analysis of potential drugs. Under the agreement, the institute gets funding to expand its basic research and development of novel reagents from laboratories led by professors Phil Baran, Jin-Quan Yu, Benjamin Cravatt, Carlos Barbas, Phillip Dawson, and Nobel Laureate K. Barry Sharpless. Sigma-Aldrich is a leading supplier of laboratory reagents, diagnostics, and other supplies for the scientific community.

Sapphire Energy, the San Diego industrial biotech developing technology to produce crude oil from algae, said it is expanding its partnership with The Linde Group of Munich, Germany, to commercialize its production of “green crude.” In addition to expanding the hydrothermal treatment process Sapphire developed, they will jointly license and market the technology into an expanded list of industries, including algae, municipal solid waste, and farm waste. Their five-year agreement extends development of Sapphire Energy’s first commercial scale, algae-to-energy production facility.

—San Diego’s Abide Therapeutics said it has identified an enzyme in the serine hydrolase family as a therapeutic target to slow and potentially reverse the effects of Alzheimer’s disease. Abide has created a proprietary platform that specifically targets serine hydrolases with selective small molecules. The Cure Alzheimer’s Fund has provided a grant to Abide and the UC San Diego School of Medicine to validate the new target, monoacylglycerol lipase (MAGL) for both Down syndrome and Alzheimer’s disease. Down syndrome is caused by chromosome 21 trisomy, which contains genes involved in Alzheimer’s disease.

—San Diego’s La Jolla Pharmaceutical said the FDA has granted orphan drug status for its drug, galectin-3, for treating a genetic neurological disorder called Niemann-Pick type C disease. It is the second orphan designation for drugs under development at the company. “We remain dedicated to developing novel treatments to help those suffering with unmet debilitating and fatal diseases,” CEO George Tidmarsh” said in a statement.