BioCrossroads Inc.’s newest seed fund has plowed $750,000 into two Indianapolis-area life sciences companies. Esanex Inc. received $500,000 to help it develop a therapy that inhibits the ability of cancer cells to grow and survive. The investment will be used to complete a Phase 1 study in patients with tumors and to conduct multiple Phase 2 trials. Esanex is part of the portfolio of Lilly Ventures, the venture capital firm spun out of Eli Lilly and Co. in 2009. Algaeon Inc., meanwhile, received $250,000 to develop a technology for making micro-algae-based products used in human supplements and in animal and fish-feed stocks. The company will use the investment to expand operations and produce additional products. Algaeon is located on the northwest side on West 82nd Street. BioCrossroads, the Indianapolis-based life sciences development group, launched Indiana Seed Fund II in April after raising $8.25 million to help fledgling life sciences companies grow. Its first seed fund raised $6 million that was invested in 11 companies.
WellPoint Inc.’s plan to raise rates that small employers in California pay for medical insurance was criticized as unreasonable by the state insurance commissioner, who said customers are being charged this year to cover U.S. health-law taxes that won’t begin until 2014. According to Bloomberg News, WellPoint’s Anthem Blue Cross unit in California is raising those rates an average of 10.6 percent. Indianapolis-based WellPoint sells small group policies that cover 284,000 California employees. California Insurance Commissioner Dave Jones accused WellPoint of overstating future medical use and cost trends, and improperly including next year’s taxes. The commissioner provided his findings last month to the insurer, which plans to proceed with the rate increase. Anthem Blue Cross said rates will go up an average of 6.5 percent and the increase is lower than not-for-profit competitors. Around the country, Aetna Inc., UnitedHealth Group, Centene Corp. and other health insurers have proposed large increases on small businesses and individual buyers in recent months, citing rising costs for medical care and greater requirements of the health-care law. The Obama administration has said provisions in the law have kept increases from being even higher.
Johnson & Johnson won the backing of an FDA advisory panel for a diabetes pill the company is seeking to make the first in a new family of drugs for managing blood sugar, putting it ahead of Eli Lilly and Co., Bristol-Myers Squibb Co. and AstraZeneca plc, which all are trying to develop similar drugs. According to Bloomberg News, New Jersey-based J&J received a 10-5 vote from the panel to support its drug canagliflozin, although the panel also said the drug raises concerns about heart risks. The once-a-day pill is part of a treatment group known as SGLT2 inhibitors that are intended to have fewer side effects, such as low blood sugar and weight gain, than current diabetes drugs. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration is scheduled to decide on canagliflozin by the end of March; the agency usually follows recommendations of its advisory panels, but it does not have to. Lilly’s drug, which it is developing with Germany-based Boehringer Ingelheim Gmbh, is called empagliflozin. The two companies plan to file for FDA approval later this year.
Catheter Research Inc. has acquired assets from Illinois-based Marshall Medical Systems & Equipment Inc., one of the distributors of medical equipment for a subsidiary of Catheter Research called Thomas Medical Systems. Thomas Medical makes medical devices for reproductive and OB/GYN care. Catheter Research did not disclose the purchase price.