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Friday, Dec 8, 2023

How to Beat the High Cost of DNA Service? Go See Illumina

A year after introducing its individual genome sequencing service, San Diego-based genetic analysis company Illumina Inc. has cut the cost by more than half.

Illumina said this month that it will offer its personalized DNA decoding service for $19,500, down from its original price of $48,000. The company said it will also offer a discounted price of $9,500 for people living with serious medical conditions who might benefit from learning more about their genome. For groups of five or more, the price drops to $14,500.

Consumers need a physician to order the service, and the results are also delivered back to the physician to discuss with the patient.

Chief Executive Officer Jay Flatley said Illumina is also building a Web-based database around the sequencing for users to record their sequencing date, type of equipment used, and coverage. The registry would eventually be turned over to the public domain.

“If we can stimulate the generation of more individual whole-genome sequences and the comparison of those sequences to the public databases being populated by academia, the content of the databases can be enriched and the entire field accelerated,” he said.

Illumina stock is listed on Nasdaq under the symbol ILMN.

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Arena Raises Cash: Arena Pharmaceuticals Inc., the San Diego-based developer of an experimental weight loss drug, said this month that it secured $35.5 million in equity financing from Deerfield Management Co. L.P., a New York-based health care investment firm. Arena agreed to sell 11 million shares to Deerfield at $3.23 apiece, an amount equal to the previous day’s closing price.

“Our intention remains to establish an agreement with a pharmaceutical company to commercialize lorcaserin,” said Arena CEO Jack Lief. “This funding puts us in a stronger financial position as we continue to pursue this goal.”

Arena is competing with Vivus Inc. of Mountain View and locally based Orexigen Therapeutics Inc. to bring the first weight loss pill to market in more than a decade. A U.S. Food and Drug Administration advisory panel is scheduled to meet Sept. 16 to discuss Arena’s drug, known as lorcaserin. First, the panel is set to convene July 15 to review the Vivus drug, Qnexa. A full answer is expected by Oct. 28. Orexigen recently made corrections to its weight loss data, putting its FDA action date behind the others.

The FDA typically, but not always, heeds the panel’s recommendations.

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Huya Makes Gains in China: Huya Bioscience International, a Carmel Valley-based company with a team of “drug hunters” in Shanghai, says it has struck a new partnership with a Chinese academic institute.

The agreement, announced June 10, gives Huya first review rights to novel therapeutic candidates owned or controlled by the school. In return, The School of Chinese Materia Medica of the Beijing University of Chinese Medicine gains access to Huya’s expertise in preclinical and clinical development and its global network of pharmaceutical partners. Huya has partnered with big-name pharmaceutical companies such as Merck & Co. Inc. and Abbott Laboratories to co-develop its drug candidates.

Since it began six years ago, Huya has been leveraging its ties with Chinese academic institutes and research hubs interested in learning more about commercial drug development. In turn, it has gained a firsthand look at drug candidates based on traditional Chinese medicine, or TCM.

HBI-3000, Huya’s anti-arrhythmic drug candidate in development in China and the U.S., was originally derived from a TCM.

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Otonomy Gets Financial Boost: Otonomy Inc., an early-stage biotech testing an anti-inflammatory for inner ear ailments such as Ménière’s disease, has secured $10.6 million in venture funding, the locally based company said June 11.

The funding comes from founding investor Avalon Ventures, where Otonomy CEO Jay Lichter serves as managing partner. Lichter says Avalon has provided roughly $10.5 million in bridge loans to the company since it started almost two years ago, so the latest move will convert its debt to stock in preparation for subsequent financing, which could total $26 million.

“The company has plenty of capital and there’s a variety of investors interested,” Lichter said.

Otonomy’s experimental treatment, dubbed OTO-104, is a long-lasting gel version of the steroid dexamethasone that can be directly injected into the ear, where it is supposed to suppress inflammation. It is in early-stage Phase 1 trials involving a dozen patients. A second drug candidate, for treating the common childhood ear ailment otitis media, is expected to enter clinical trials next year and could complete studies ahead of OTO-104, according to Lichter.

The company’s roots trace back to Lichter’s own Ménière’s disease diagnosis in 2008.


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