Onyx Delays FDA Push, Vega Aims High Against Diabetes, Stanford Biologist Goes Open Source, & More Bay Area Life Sciences News

Xconomy San Francisco — 

This week the biotech beat served up its usual variety of news from the fields of cancer, diabetes, genomics, and stem cells. Catch up on any headlines you might have missed here.

—Emeryville, CA-based Onyx Pharmaceuticals (NASDAQ: ONXX), the maker of cancer drugs, said this week it is delaying its application to seek FDA approval of its next product candidate, carfilzomib, until mid-2011 at the earliest. The FDA asked for some more manufacturing data to ensure it can make the same product consistently at commercial scale as the one that was tested in clinical trials.

—Stanford University biologist Atul Butte, along with Pacific Biosciences’ Eric Schadt, are a couple of the big name scientists who have agreed to join the fledgling open-source movement for biology called Sage Bionetworks. In this Xconomy exclusive, founder Stephen Friend likened this effort to the early days of the Arpanet, which gave rise to the Internet of today.

—We broke the story earlier this week about John “Chip” Scarlett’s latest biotech venture, an old-school discovery-based biotech company called Vega Therapeutics. This company, which Scarlett founded with a couple of Proteolix veterans Craig Parker and Rah Mansoor, is seeking to make oral small molecule drugs that hit novel targets against inflammation, as a strategy for fighting diabetes.

—Mountain View, CA-based Vivus (NASDAQ: VVUS) decided to divest its marketed product for erectile dysfunction, called Muse, for $23.5 million. Lakewood, NJ-based Meda will take over that product, as Vivus concentrates its energy on getting FDA clearance to market its obesity drug, Qnexa.

—South San Francisco-based Sunesis Pharmaceuticals (NASDAQ: SNSS) raised $15.5 million to pay for a pivotal stage trial of an experimental drug for acute myeloid leukemia.

J. Leighton Read of Alloy Ventures offered up a guest editorial with shrewd advice about how entrepreneurs can do a better job of telling their stories to the media.

—Lastly, I thought I’d throw in a bonus feature from Xconomy Seattle which has implications for lots of people in California who care about stem cell research. The story is about Tracy Deisher, one of the plaintiffs who brought embryonic stem cell research to a standstill this summer. When she’s not making international headlines in a controversial legal case, she’s attempting to build what she calls the first “pro-life vaccine company” which markets vaccines that haven’t been derived from aborted human fetal cells.