San Diego Life Sciences Roundup: Thesan, Zogenix, Illumina, and More

Xconomy San Diego — 

The battle continues over an extended-release formulation of a potent opioid painkiller developed by San Diego’s Zogenix. I have the details, along with the rest of the region’s life sciences news over the past week.

—San Diego’s Thesan Pharmaceuticals said it has raised $49 million in a Series B round of equity funding to advance new drug compounds for treating acne, atopic dermatitis, and other skin disorders. Existing investor Novo Ventures led the round, and was joined by SV Life Sciences, Lundbeckfond Ventures, and Novartis Venture Fund. Gordon Foulkes, Thesan’s executive chairman and CEO, says the company is trying to develop new chemical entities with novel mechanisms of action that can substantially improve treatment outcomes for a variety of skin diseases.

Illumina (NASDAQ: ILMN), the San Diego-based developer of gene sequencing and molecular diagnostic tools, said its technology for analyzing fetal DNA in a maternal blood sample is more accurate than traditional techniques used to diagnose Down syndrome. In a statement, Illumina said the results of a study published in The New England Journal of Medicine show the false-positive rate of its cell-free DNA testing technology was 0.3 percent for Down syndrome, versus 3.6 percent for standard screening. San Diego-based Sequenom (NASDAQ: SQNM), Ariosa Diagnostics, and Nateral all market similar tests for cell-free DNA testing.

—A coalition of more than 40 consumer, healthcare, and addiction-treatment advocates urged the FDA to withdraw its authorization of the opioid painkiller hydrocodone bitartrate (Zohydro ER), developed by San Diego-based Zogenix (NASDAQ: ZGNX). Zogenix, which plans to start selling the drug next month, has scheduled a media webinar Monday, March 3, to provide background information about the drug. Zohydro is an acetaminophen-free formulation of the opioid painkiller that was developed after the FDA raised concerns about liver toxicity in hydrocodone painkillers with acetaminophen. Zogenix also developed Zohydro as a long-acting version of hydrocodone, using proprietary extended-release technology developed by the Irish drugmaker Alkermes (NASDAQ: ALKS), its pharmaceutical partner.

—San Diego-based Abide Therapeutics said has entered into a strategic collaboration with Celgene (NASDAQ: CELG) to discover and develop new drugs targeting inflammation and immune disorders. Celgene made an undisclosed payment to Abide, and received a small ownership stake the company along with an exclusive option to acquire it down the road. Abide can earn additional payments if Celgene exercises its option to license the non-U.S. rights to the first two products that reach clinical trials. Abide is developing compounds that selectively target serine hydrolases, one of the largest enzyme families involved in regulating human physiology.