San Diego Life Sciences Roundup: Shire, Illumina, Tandem, and More

Xconomy San Diego — 

Much of the week’s life sciences news concerned the end-of-year data on venture capital activity, and how much money flowed into San Diego’s biotech and device companies in 2013. And then there was Shire’s San Diego stumble. I’ve got it all wrapped up here.

—Less than three years after acquiring San Diego-based Advanced BioHealing, Ireland’s Shire said it was selling Dermagraft, the bioengineered living skin graft business, to Organogenesis of Canton, MA. With the sale, Shire also has abandoned its plans to build a division focused on regenerative medicine. Organogenesis paid nothing upfront for Dermagraft, but agreed to pay Shire as much as $300 million over the next four years if the division can meet certain sales targets under its new owner. Organgenesis plans to continue making the Dermagraft product in San Diego, and would retain an undetermined number of the plant’s 560 employees. Shire plans to take a $650 million loss on the deal.

—Venture capital firms invested almost $758 million in 97 startups in the San Diego region last year, marking the slowest pace in 15 years, according to the MoneyTree Report from PricewaterhouseCoopers, the National Venture Capital Association, and Thomson Reuters. About $566 million, or almost 75 percent, of the total was used to fund biotechnology or medical device startups in the San Diego area. Additional venture highlights of 2013 came this week from CB Insights and DJX VentureSource.

—David Gollaher, who co-founded and led the nonprofit California Healthcare Institute (CHI) in San Diego for the past 20 years, has resigned to oversee policy and public health matters for Gilead Sciences (NASDAQ: GILD), the Foster City, CA-based biopharmaceutical giant. CHI, which represents more than 275 life sciences companies and promotes public policies that foster medical innovation and scientific discovery, said it has formed a search committee to recruit a new president. Until then, Todd Gillenwater, who was senior vice president for public policy, will serve as interim president.

Illumina CEO Jay Flatley said at the JP Morgan Healthcare Conference in San Francisco that the company’s new HiSeq X Ten Sequencing System would bring the cost of sequencing the human genome below $1,000, an achievement he compared to breaking the sound barrier. Flatley said the machine is designed to process 20,000 genomes a year at a cost of $1,000 each.

—The UC San Diego Library said its oral historians have completed more than 100 hours of interviews with more than 60 people for the San Diego Technology Archive (SDTA), an online archive documenting the history, development, and growth of the companies and entrepreneurial entities that make up San Diego’s technology cluster. The oral history archive was launched in 2011, arising from a discussion between UC San Diego University Librarian Brian Schottlaender and Standish Fleming, co-founder of San Diego’s Forward Ventures (and San Diego Xconomist), who serves on Schottlaender’s advisory board.

—San Diego’s Tandem Diabetes Care (NASDAQ: TNDM) said it is expanding its Jan. 10 recall of certain insulin cartridges used with its t:slim insulin pump. The company said the recalled cartridges may be at risk of leaking, causing too much or too little insulin to be injected. The company said the recall encompasses about 13,000 boxes of insulin cartridges, with 10 cartridges per box.