Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Stanford team wins $20K for algorithm aimed at Lou Gehrig's disease drug trials

Lester Mackey.
A team from Stanford University won $20,000 for its work with algorithms that could reduce the number of Lou Gehrig’s Disease patients needed in clinical trials.Lester Mackey, a postdoctoral candidate in mathematics and statistics at Stanford, and Lilly Fang, a recent juris doctor and master’s degree recipient, won the award from Prize4Life, a Cambridge, Mass.-based nonprofit organization set up to accelerate the discovery of treatments and a cure for Lou Gehrig’s disease, or amyotrophic lateral sclerosis.

Pearl Therapeutics grabs $65M in VC funding, moves COPD drug toward Phase III trials

Its main competition is seeking approval of a treatment for the lung disease COPD, but the leaders of Pearl Therapeutics Inc., and investors who just ponied up $65 million to push the company’s own COPD drug into Phase III trials, are unbowed.
Redwood City-based Pearl said Tuesday that current investors 5AM Ventures, Clarus Ventures and New Leaf Venture Partners participated in the Series D round led by Vatera Healthcare Partners.
Pearl will use the cash to start a Phase III program for its lead drug candidate, PT-003, for patients with chronic obstructive pulmonary disorder. That treatment is a combination of glycopyrrolate, which is a long-acting muscarinic antagonist, or LAMA, and formoterol fumarate, a long-acting beta-2 agonist, or LABA.

Monday, November 12, 2012

Nation's HIV research general Tony Fauci: Cure in 'discovery phase'

Dr. Tony Fauci.
As director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases for the past 28 years, Tony Fauci has seen the fight against the AIDS virus travel from only a hope for treatment to serious talk of a cure.
But, Fauci warned, an AIDS cure still is only in the discovery phase.
Speaking last week, as he keynoted the Centers for AIDS Research's national scientific symposium at the University of California, San Francisco's Mission Bay campus, Fauci said there are several avenues for fighting HIV but patients must follow treatments for those treatments to be effective. That includes Truvada, from Foster City-based Gilead Sciences Inc (NASDAQ: GILD)., that was recently approved for pre-exposure prophylaxis, or PrEP.
After his address, Fauci spoke with me about HIV treatments, HIV and aging and the road to a cure.

Stanford self-healing skin could someday shield smartphones

If all goes according to plan for researchers at Stanford University, a new synthetic skin technology could have big implications for both the medical world and your smartphone.
The plastic skin developed at Stanford is the first synthetic material that is both touch-sensitive and able to heal itself when torn or cut, according to an article out this week in the journal Nature Nanotechnology.

New wave of local companies tackles Lou Gehrig's disease

Patrizia Fanara and David Fineman of KineMed.
Hoping to find clues for unlocking potentially lucrative cures to diseases such as Alzheimer’s, drug development companies are starting with a more obscure but equally devastating condition: Lou Gehrig’s disease.
Five Bay Area companies and at least four local research institutions are working on programs in Lou Gehrig’s, or amyotrophic lateral sclerosis., which over three to five years gradually immobilizes patients’ bodies while their minds remain sharp.
What’s more, they’re finding success.
Each of the companies is pursuing different ALS bets, indicating how little is really known about the disease. But their goals are the same: In the short term, expand the options for the 30,000 ALS patients in the United states beyond the single drug that exists today. Longer term, they hope to use what they learn to target more prevalent diseases such as Alzheimer’s.

Buck Institute, partner spawn startup

Stelios Tzannis and Brian Kennedy.
The Buck Institute for Research on Aging and a for-profit partner are spinning out their research into a new company.
Delos Pharmaceuticals Inc., which is seeking about $6 million in a Series A fundraising round, is focusing on developing drugs that could target neurodegnerative diseases, cancer, cardiovascular disease and metabolic diseases such as lupus. The company, with CEO Stelios Tzannis as its sole employee, is housed at the Novato-based Buck Institute.
It is the first company spun off by the 13-year-old institute, said Buck President and CEO Brian Kennedy, but there will be more.

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Cerus to pursue U.S. approval of plasma safety system

The Food and Drug Administration will allow Cerus Corp. to submit a premarket application toward approval of its blood safety system, the company said Wednesday.
More than 80 blood centers in 17 European and Middle Eastern countries use the Concord-based company's (NASDAQ: CERS) Intercept system to neutralize pathogens in platelets and/or plasma, the clear yellowish liquids essential for clotting. But because two studies failed and a collaboration with Baxter fell apart, Cerus hasn't been able to win U.S. approval for its system for screening platelets, plasma or red blood cells.

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Latest Genentech breast cancer drug, T-DM1, faces FDA decision by Feb. 26

Genentech Inc.'s experimental cancer drug T-DM1 is heading for a Feb. 26 decision date with the Food and Drug Administration.
The South San Francisco-based U.S. subsidiary of Switzerland's Roche Group said Tuesday that the FDA accepted the company's application for T-DM1, or trastuzumab emtansine, for use by women with HER2-positive metastatic breast cancer. By giving the drug "priority review," the FDA will cut four months off its review time, bringing its decision date on approval to Feb. 26.

Monday, November 5, 2012

Pharmacyclics stock sags on disappointing clinical results

Cancer drug maker Pharmacyclics Inc.’s stock dropped almost 20 percent at one point Monday, after it released disappointing trial data.
Pharmacyclics CEO Robert Duggan and CEO Maky Zanganeh.
Pharmacyclics announced that a group of multiple myeloma patients it was testing its drug on did not experience tumor shrinkage. According to the Associated Press, the company will now try testing it in higher doses and in combination with other drugs.

Nile Therapeutics CEO takes 99.6% cut in pay -- but maybe not for long

Nile CEO Dr. Darlene Horton.
Dr. Darlene Horton is taking one in the pocket book for the Nile Therapeutics Inc. team -- at least for the next few weeks.
Horton, who in August was given a monthly salary of $28,314 as she was named CEO of the tiny San Mateo heart drug developer, will take a pay cut to $100 a month until Nile completes an interim financing deal.
But there's a greater incentive than just pay for performance here -- more like pay for survival. Nile (OTC: NLTX) said in a Securities and Exchange Commission filing Monday that it has enough cash to last through only the end of this month.
In other words, the clock is ticking for Horton and Nile.

Pathworks Diagnostics names Lee McCracken as CEO

Lee McCracken has been named chief executive officer of Pathworks Diagnostics Inc.
The Redwood City-based cancer diagnostics company said in a release that McCracken was most recently corporate head of business development at Prometheus Laboratories.

BioMarin shares rise on data from late-stage rare disease trial

BioMarin CEO Jean-Jacques Bienaime.
BioMarin Pharmaceutical Inc. will seek regulatory approval early next year of a drug to treat a crippling, inherited disease, after a late-stage clinical trial showed that its hit its goal of helping patients walk farther, the company said Monday.
On the news, shares of the Novato-based drug developer (NASDAQ: BMRN) jumped 29 percent, or $10.84 per share, through mid-afternoon trading to $48.25.
Although the disease -- called Mucopolysaccharidosis Type IVA, or MPS IVA -- affects just 3,000 patients, so-called orphan disease drug developers can charge six figures for the treatments. What's more, insurers generally will cover the cost of drugs that significantly improve or save patients' lives.

Friday, November 2, 2012

UCSF partners schizophrenia treatments

Bob Bennett and Rachel Loewy.
Innovative treatment for schizophrenia by the Family Service Agency and researchers at UC San Francisco shows great promise in improving patients’ mental health and cutting costs.
The disease, which usually strikes in adolescence and can last a lifetime, affects an estimated 6,000 San Franciscans and 70,000 in the Bay Area.
About 170 local patients have gone through the Prevention and Recovery in Early Psychosis or PREP program, which emphasizes early intervention, counseling, cognitive training and use of fewer pharmaceuticals in lower doses to treat the mental illness. Specialized software from San Francisco-based Posit Science trains schizophrenic patients to distinguish hallucinations from rational thinking — which may help alter how their brains process information.

BNBuilders see project growth in health care, colleges

BNBuilders' David Becker (left) and Sean Truesdale.
David Becker and Sean Truesdale, principals at BNBuilders Inc.'s Redwood City office, are expecting a wave of projects to wash over the South Bay’s construction industry in the next year.
But 2011 ended on a strong note for BNBuilders, which posted $100 million in revenue from Silicon Valley projects. Those projects ranged from health care to data centers to universities.

Patients' tales, biotech legends add weight to BayBio awards

Genentech co-founder Herb Boyer.
When two or more biotechs are gathered, you hear the usual phrases, including the old standby, “We're serving patients with unmet medical needs.”
Box checked, move on to other things and the phrase quietly floats away.
BayBio, Northern California’s life sciences industry trade group, has been beating the “for the patients” drum for the past couple of years especially -- and it didn’t stop at the organization’s annual Pantheon event Thursday night. Problem is, when you hear rote phrases so often, they start to bounce off of you.
That is, until something like this year’s Pantheon ceremony. Many of the companies winning BayBio's DiNA awards brought patients with them to accept their plaques; some actually let patients tell their stories.
Putting patients in front of corporate slide decks is needed by the biotech industry, which has been wringing its collective hands over cuts in research funding and the drought of venture capital cash. Telling those stories, or actually helping patients tell their own stories outside of industry settings, could win over leery legislators and a weary public that feels bombarded with stories of unsafe drugs and failed clinical trials.