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Merck & Co. Picks Up NovaCardia for $350 Million in Stock

Pharmaceutical giant Merck & Co. Inc. acquired San Diego heart disease company NovaCardia Inc. on July 25 for $350 million before the local company completed its announced initial public offering.

NovaCardia’s lead drug candidate KW-3902, which the company has been testing to treat congestive heart failure, will be the property of Merck. NovaCardia is receiving the $350 million in Merck stock and gets to keep its cash on hand, which was not disclosed.

“We believe Merck can expedite the development of this novel agent,” said NovaCardia Chief Executive Officer Randall Woods.

KW-3902, in the third and last stage of testing, is believed to help the kidneys’ ability to eliminate waste in heart failure patients. NovaCardia said no other such congestive heart failure therapy has been able to demonstrate this attribute. Kidney function, the companies said, is a strong predictor of outcomes in congestive heart failure patients.

There are 5 million people in the United States with congestive heart failure, according to the American Heart Association.

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Cyntellect Gets $15M:

Cyntellect Inc., a life sciences company that focuses on manipulation of living cells and cancer analysis, has raised $15 million in a series D financing.

Radford, Va.-based Third Security LLC led the round, and announced it acquired the right to elect a majority of Cyntellect’s board of directors.

Cyntellect will use the money to hire personnel, expand operations and accelerate research and development as well as commercialization.

“This provides us with an exciting opportunity to bring our products and technology to the broader life sciences research marketplace,” said Cyntellect Chief Executive Officer Fred Koller. “We are very proud to have such high quality investors see our potential.”

Cyntellect combines laser-based medicine and semiconductor manufacturing in its core technology, which can be applied to drug discovery. The technology could be used to improve the manufacturing process of drugs and for manipulating cells as direct therapeutic agents, the company said.

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Venter Progresses:

Construction of the J. Craig Venter Institute, a research institute focused on the genome, is under way on the Scripps upper mesa site in La Jolla.

The Rockville, Md.-based institute’s La Jolla location will feature 45,000 square feet and include laboratories and office space for 125 scientists and related staff.

The building, under construction by general contractor Turner Construction Co., will meet or exceed LEED’s Platinum environment-friendly status, which includes low energy use, renewable power generation, sustainable landscape and water conservation. LEED stands for Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design.

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Pfizer Supports Fabrus:

Pfizer Inc. said Fabrus LLC will be the first startup firm in its incubator at Pfizer’s research-and-development site in La Jolla.

Pfizer will invest $10 million annually to support startups in the incubator. Fabrus can stay for two years, with the possibility of being acquired by Pfizer. Fabrus plans to eventually employ six to eight scientists.

Fabrus will test its technologies on targets within Pfizer’s 11 therapeutic areas, which include allergy and respiratory diseases and conditions, infectious diseases, and oncology.

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Cardium On Fast Track:

The Food and Drug Administration has granted fast-track designation to Cardium Therapeutics Inc.’s Generx.

The company also said it will begin trading on the American Stock Exchange on Aug. 1 under the symbol CXM. It has been trading as CDTP on the Over the Counter Bulletin Board.

The company is testing Generx for insufficient blood flow in the heart muscle, which can cause heart disease.

The FDA’s fast-track designation can boost the development and review of drugs that serve unmet medical needs.

Cardium said it recently completed four studies on the drug involving 650 patients with heart disease. Generx is now in the last stage of testing before the company submits it to the FDA for review.


Contact Katie Weeks with biotechnology news at

kweeks@sdbj.com

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

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