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Amylin Pharmaceuticals Teams Up With Bay Area Biotech Firm

Amylin Pharmaceuticals Inc. is investing $10 million in a Burlingame biotech firm, and the two will seek new treatments for diseases such as asthma, psoriasis and arthritis.

Amylin’s vice president of discovery research, Michael Hanley, said this doesn’t signal “any sort of re-prioritization” at one of San Diego’s most prized biotechs. Amylin, which already has two diabetes drugs approved by the Food and Drug Administration, focuses on metabolic disorders and is testing one of its approved drugs for its ability to treat obesity.

“We have been telegraphing at conferences and elsewhere that we are giving ourselves permission to work in other areas with unmet needs,” Hanley said, adding that Amylin “believes strongly in the power of (BioSeek Inc.’s) technology” and wanted to “stabilize and secure” the firm.

BioSeek Chief Executive Officer Peter Staple said investors made the introduction between Amylin and BioSeek. In the partnership, BioSeek will screen potential peptide therapeutics discovered at Amylin using BioSeek’s BioMAP Systems technology.

BioSeek screens compounds that could treat inflammatory conditions, Staple said, and has collaborations with 25-30 companies, including GlaxoSmithKline and Boston Scientific. The firm has 15 employees and had its first venture backing in 2002. Staple said he didn’t know when the collaboration would end.

Hanley said the BioSeek collaboration is the second investment Amylin has made this year in a promising startup. In January, Amylin and New York-based PsychoGenics formed Psylin Neurosciences Inc., a company that will develop peptide therapeutics for neuropsychiatric disorders. Hanley called potential therapies from peptides “underutilized.”

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Biotech Pioneer Runs Satellite:

San Diego biotech pioneer David Kabakoff will lead the San Diego office for Sofinnova Ventures, the San Francisco-based firm announced recently.

Sofinnova appointed Kabakoff executive-in-residence and manager of the year-old office May 30.

Former chief Jeff Stein moved to Trius Therapeutics Inc. in February to serve as chief executive officer.

Kabakoff, who held senior executive positions at the first San Diego life sciences firm, Hybritech, will be responsible for identifying promising early stage life sciences companies in which to invest.

Before establishing a consulting practice, Kabakoff co-founded Salmedix Inc., where he served as CEO and chairman.

He has also been president of the former San Diego-based Dura Pharmaceuticals, acquired by Ireland’s Elan, and CEO at both Elan offshoot Spiros Development Corp., and Corvas International, acquired by Seattle’s Dendreon Corp.

Sofinnova has invested in San Diego companies, including Trius, Ascenta Therapeutics, Ocera Therapeutics Inc., Orexigen Therapeutics Inc., Phenomix Corp. and Tensys Medical Inc.

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Canada, California Partner On Stem Cells:

Canada has announced a Cancer Stem Cell Consortium to help fund Canadian and Californian researchers, universities and private industry.

Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger was at Canada’s MaRS Discovery District, where many of Canada’s biotechs are located, on May 30 when Premier Dalton McGuinty made the announcement. The Ontario Institute of Cancer Research will donate the first $30 million to fund the consortium.

The same day, Schwarzenegger unveiled a research partnership between UC Berkeley’s Stem Cell Center and Canada’s International Regulome Consortium.

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Grant Looks Into Eye Disease:

Scientists at Scripps Research Institute received a $17 million grant from the National Eye Institute, part of the National Institutes of Health.

The grant starts June 1. Scientists will use the money to study the use of stem cells to treat the most common types of vision loss, including macular degeneration, diabetic retinopathy and glaucoma.

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Inovio Raises Money:

Inovio Biomedical Corp. has raised $16.2 million by selling 5 million shares of common stock to investors in North America and Singapore, the company announced May 25.

The firm’s technology is centered on its patented electroporation machine. Inovio focuses on applying the technology to two areas , DNA vaccinations and cancer therapy.

The price per share in the recent sale was $3.52, a 7 percent discount to the closing price May 14. The stock, traded on the American Stock Exchange as INO, closed at $3.62, down 23 cents, or 6 percent, the day of the announcement.


Contact Katie Weeks with biotechnology news at

kweeks@sdbj.com

, or call her at (858) 277-6359.

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