San Diego Life Sciences Roundup: Zogenix, Ignyta, AnaptysBio, & More

Xconomy San Diego — 

[Updated 3/18/14 10:05 am. See below.] Here is a quick rundown of the strategic partnerships, funding deals, clinical trials, and other developments that kept San Diego’s life sciences sector hopping last week.

—San Diego-based AnaptysBio and Waltham, MA-based Tesaro (NASDAQ: TSRO) agreed to collaborate in the development of certain antibody drug candidates that could be used to enhance the body’s immune system to fight solid tumor cancers. Tesaro agreed to pay AnaptysBio $17 million upfront, and as much as $324 million in milestone fees and other payments if work under their strategic partnership advances antibody drugs against three specific targets. The deal gives Tesaro a new opening in the hot field of cancer immunotherapy.

Ignyta, a San Diego startup developing companion diagnostics and cancer drugs, began trading on the Nasdaq market Friday under the ticker symbol RXDX after the company said it had raised gross proceeds of $48 million through an underwritten public offering. Ignyta shares rose above $10 a share in trading Friday, after the company priced more than 5.2 million shares at $9.15 a share. Ignyta shares traded over the counter before moving to Nasdaq. The company said it expects to generate about $44.5 million in net proceeds from the offering.

—San Diego’s Lumena Pharmaceuticals, a biopharmaceutical developing new treatments for rare cholestatic liver diseases and metabolic disorders, said it raised $45 million in a Series B round of financing led by New Enterprise Associates. New investors Adage Capital Management and RA Capital Management joined existing investors Pappas Ventures, RiverVest Venture Partners, and Alta Partners. Proceeds will be used to advance clinical development of two experimental drugs that inhibit a protein responsible for recycling bile acids from the intestine to the liver. The company says blocking bile acid transport could reduce the liver’s absorption of bile acid and could potentially slow disease progression and improve liver function.

—San Diego’s PatientSafe Solutions said it raised $3 million in additional funding as part of a strategic deal with Telus Ventures, the investment arm of Canada’s second-biggest telecom. The digital health technology company said it also signed a related deal that makes Telus Health the exclusive reseller of the company’s proprietary PatientTouch system in Canada. The deal represents PatientSafe’s first move beyond the U.S. market.

—After taking over as the new CEO of Connect on March 3, Greg McKee said the nonprofit group still plays an important role in bringing together San Diego’s talented people, innovative technology, and capital. In an interview with Mike Freeman of U-T San Diego, McKee said, “It is clear that finding capital has been a challenge, and it is clear that finding great teams has been a challenge. So I believe there is still a lot of relevance for an organization like Connect that is highly focused on the two big constituents, the entrepreneurs and our members.”

—[Updated to show trial is evaluating IV delivery] San Diego-based Tocagen said the first patient has been dosed in a clinical trial evaluating intravenous delivery of its experimental gene therapy for patients with the most common and aggressive form of primary brain cancer, known as high-grade glioma (including glioblastoma multiforme). The multi-center study is evaluating the safety, tolerability, and pharmacokinetics of a promising new type of treatment for patients who now have few treatment options, and who typically survive less than eight months. The study is intended to test ascending doses of a new gene therapy that would be administered before, during, and after surgery to remove a brain tumor.

Qualcomm Life, the digital health subsidiary of San Diego-based Qualcomm (NASDAQ: QCOM), said its 2net wireless health IT platform has been adopted by Tunstall Healthcare, a UK-based company that provides technology-based healthcare services. Rick Valencia, the general manager of Qualcomm Life, told IDG News that Tunstall is the first company to pick Qualcomm’s Life 2net system over a set of similar products from competitors.  Tunstall provides an electronic lifeline for the elderly and other people suffering from health risks, as well as for remote medical care.

—Shares of San Diego-based La Jolla Pharmaceutical (NASDAQ: LJPC), which had been trading below $11 a share, soared by 65 percent to about $18 after the company reported positive results in a mid-stage trial of its experimental drug candidate for treating severe chronic kidney disease. By the end of last week, trading in the company’s stock had settled below $15 a share . The company said its drug, GCS-100, met its main goal of improving kidney function.

—Debate over the safety of Zohydro ER—the pure hydrocodone painkiller developed by San Diego-based Zogenix (NASDAQ: ZGNX)—intensified last week as pharmacies began dispensing Zohydro over the protests of addiction-treatment advocates and others who fear it will add to the nation’s growing problem of prescription drug abuse. FDA Commissioner Dr. Margaret Hamburg told Senate lawmakers at a hearing Thursday that the opioid painkiller fills an “important and unique niche” for treating patients with debilitating, chronic pain. Later that day, the AP reported that Democratic Senator Joe Manchin of West Virginia introduced a bill that would force the FDA to withdraw the drug and prohibit the agency from approving any similar medications unless the drug has been designed to thwart drug abuse. Meanwhile, Stamford, CT-based Purdue Pharma said it would soon seek regulatory approval to sell a tamper-resistant formulation of hydrocodone.