Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Out of stealth, Sequenta grabs $13M

Faster, cheaper and finer DNA sequencing — and a big investment from some well-known venture capital and angel investment names — is positioning an early-stage molecular diagnostics company in San Francisco’s Mission Bay to offer a test providing a much earlier peek at immune system problems.

StemCells wins OK for spinal cord trial

A Swiss researcher will lead a Phase I/II trial using neural stem cells from Palo Alto's StemCells Inc. to repair spinal cord injuries that are less than a year old.

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Cancer study boosts Genentech's Rituxan

Some blood cancer patients could use Genentech Inc.’s venerable drug Rituxan earlier to hold the cancer at bay and even shrink tumors.

Friday, December 3, 2010

Life sciences chip developer Fluidigm files for $86M IPO

Fluidigm Corp., a South San Francisco company that makes microfluidic systems for the life science and agricultural biotech markets, filed paperwork for an $86.25 million initial public offering.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Klein tabbed by Schwarzenegger to lead CIRM, again

Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger nominated Robert Klein to lead California's stem cell research funding agency for another six-year term.
The nomination is the latest chapter in an ongoing saga revolving around the lay leadership of the California Institute for Regenerative Medicine, a semi-independent agency that could award as much as $3 billion for stem cell research.
Schwarzenegger is one of four executive officers of the state — along with Lt. Gov. Abel Maldonado, Treasurer Bill Lockyer and Controller John Chiang — to nominate candidates for the chair position. A decision could be made by the board at its Dec. 15 meeting at Stanford University.

GE, UCSF technology IDs aggressive tumors

Technology developed out of a partnership between the University of California, San Francisco, and GE Healthcare is giving prostate cancer patients a real-time look into the aggressiveness of their tumors, potentially changing the course of treatment and lowering health care costs.
The technology, now in an early-stage trial at UCSF's Mission Bay campus, could reduce the time it takes to diagnose prostate cancer and prevent some of the roughly 200,000 men diagnosed each year with the disease from undergoing surgery that may not be necessary.

Report: Stem cell agency chair candidate withdraws

A handpicked candidate to head California's stem cell research funding agency has reportedly withdrawn from consideration.
Alan Bernstein, who outgoing California Institute for Regenerative Medicine chair Robert Klein was pushing to lead the agency as executive chairman, withdrew his nomination, according to the California Stem Cell Report blog.
Klein would not confirm that Bernstein had withdrawn. “That’s possible,” he said, adding that he was waiting for a call from Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger's office regarding the governor’s nomination for chair.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Hana Biosciences digs in to new Talon name

What’s in a name? For the newly dubbed Talon Therapeutics Inc., it’s all about the independent claws.

CIRM leaders push Canadian for chairman post

Backroom politics could vault a relatively unknown and unqualified nominee to the top of the list to head California’s $3 billion stem cell research funding agency, according to a longtime member of the board overseeing the California Institute for Regenerative Medicine.

Pearl Therapeutics COPD drug passes test

A mid-stage trial of Pearl Therapeutics Inc.’s combination therapy to treat chronic obstructive pulmonary disease is helping the company and COPD patients breathe easier.

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Neuraltus ALS drug results 'encouraging'

An experimental drug from Neuraltus Pharmaceuticals Inc. was effective against a biomarker of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, or Lou Gehrig’s disease, in an early-stage study.
Although the clinical study by the privately held, Palo Alto-based company was only Phase I, involved just 32 people and assessed the drug’s effect on the biomarker only 24 hours after dosing, the result is significant because Neuraltus’ drug is believed to be the first to provide a statistically significantly improvement in blood levels of the biomarker.
The finding also could garner more attention for Neuraltus — particularly from investors — as it tries to raise money to undertake a more extensive Phase II study.

Stem cell agency, BioTime strike deal

BioTime Inc. will make five clinical-grade human embryonic stem cell lines available to California researchers, according to a deal between the Alameda company and California’s stem cell research funding agency, that could smooth the translation of stem cell science into actual therapies.

Monday, November 29, 2010

A personal journey through genetic testing

I love a good genetic mystery because, well, I am one.
There's the miracle of my 100-year-old grandmother, whose heart continues pumping on, even if her memory is not. Then there's my father and his history of heart disease, my mother who died of the supposedly sporadic version of the neurodegenerative illness Creutzfeld-Jakob Disease, a blood grandfather who I met only once and another grandfather who died of a heart attack when my mother was 4.

'Great march of human progress' aims to predict, prevent, treat disease at individual level

Some day — perhaps in the next year or two — you’ll be able to spit on your microfluidic chip-embedded Blackberry, which will analyze the sample and instantly diagnose your illness, said life sciences merchant banker Steve Burrill.
So-called personalized medicine will allow people to discover — more quickly and more accurately — what’s ailing them and at a lower cost, Burrill said, and that includes everything from real-time diagnostics and prevention to individualized cancer vaccines.
Personalized medicine already has given rise to companies like cancer diagnostics firm Genomic Health Inc. of Redwood City and up-and-coming stars like diabetes diagnostics company Tethys Bioscience Inc. in Emeryville, cardiovascular diagnostics firm CardioDx Inc. of Palo Alto and Foster City genetic testing company Navigenics Inc.

Impax sued by Alza over ADHD drug

Generic drugmaker Impax Laboratories Inc. has been sued by Alza Corp. over a drug aimed at Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder.
Hayward-based Impax (NASDAQ: IPXL) wants to make a generic copy of the drug Concerta, or methylphenidate hydrochloride, in extended release 54 mg tablets. It’s working on the drug with Teva Pharmaceuticals and has applied with the Food and Drug Administration for the product.

GSK to buy $129M in Theravance stock

GlaxoSmithKline PLC will buy about $129.4 million worth of stock in Theravance Inc. in a private placement, the companies said Monday.
London-based Glaxo (NYSE: GSK) agreed to buy 5.75 million shares for $22.50 each.
The purchase increases Glaxo's stake in South San Francisco-based Theravance (NASDAQ: THRX) to 19 percent.

Excuse the absence

A family emergency caused me to take off for a couple of weeks.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Corcept Therapeutics loses $7.1M in Q3

Corcept Therapeutics Inc. lost $7.1 million in the September quarter, where a year ago it lost $4.7 million.
The Menlo Park company (NASDAQ: CORT) had no revenue in either quarter.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Poniard faces loan default if it can't raise cash

Poniard Pharmaceuticals Inc. lost $6.5 million in the September quarter.
Poniard is obligated by a debt agreement to keep cash equal to $17.9 million or the amount of its loan plus $4 million (on Sept. 30 that sum was $15.8 million).
Considering the cash it has to keep on hand per that agreement, Poniard thinks it has enough money to keep operating “at least through the end of 2010.” If it can’t raise more money by then, it will default on that loan agreement.

3 Genenexers land at Pharmacyclics

Two Genentech Inc. executives who left the biotech powerhouse last year — Dr. Gwen Fyfe and Roy Hardiman — joined the board of Pharmacyclics Inc., and a third Genenexer joined the Sunnyvale drug developer as a vice president.
Fyfe, Hardiman and Dr. Eric Hedrick are among a growing list of people who have landed elsewhere since Swiss drugmaker Roche bought out Genentech in a $47 billion deal in March 2009.

Vivus wraps up $22M sales of Muse unit

Mountain View-based Vivus Inc. finished selling Muse, its erectile dysfunction drug, for $22 million in cash.
Vivus (NASDAQ: VVUS) could get $1.5 million more from the buyer, Sweden’s Meda A.B., depending on how well Muse does on the market.

Neuraltus pinning hopes on Lou Gehrig's drug

A Thai drug’s boost could help an early-stage Palo Alto drug developer change the lives of patients with deadly ALS.
Neuraltus Pharmaceuticals Inc. hopes results from a Phase I trial announced in mid-November will kick its drug into a mid-stage trial early next year of 90 patients or more with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, better known as Lou Gehrig’s disease.

Drugmakers catch Ablexis mouse in $50M+ deal

Five of the world’s 15 largest pharmaceutical companies, including Pfizer Inc., promised seven-figure upfront payments each to venture-funded Ablexis LLC in a unique deal for a finely tuned transgenic mouse that could make it easier to discover and develop antibody drugs.
The companies each also will make eight-figure payments to Ablexis once the company, started in December and housed in the FibroGen building in San Francisco’s Mission Bay, delivers its AlivaMab mouse strains.

Former BioMarin exec targets orphan drugs, funding

Emil Kakkis loves orphans.
The former chief medical officer at BioMarin Pharmaceutical Inc. — the Novato-based poster child for developing treatments for so-called orphan drugs — is lining up cash and personnel for a new venture again aimed at rare diseases.
Whether Kakkis’ new company, Ultragenyx Pharmaceutical, can add to his string of successes depends largely on lining up financing. He hopes to have Series A funding of “substantially more” than $10 million secured by April and 20 to 25 employees by June.

FibroGen emerging from its cocoon

The quiet biotech company in the big Mission Bay building is ready to make some noise.
FibroGen Inc., the largest biotech employer in San Francisco’s life sciences neighborhood, could get some answers early next year from clinical trials in anemia and pancreatic cancer while it starts Phase II trials in China for a chronic kidney disease-related anemia treatment.
Positive studies would vault FibroGen’s profile after years of the company quietly plugging away at its scientific business. What’s more, strong data could push the 250-employee company to go on a hiring binge and exercise an April 2011 option on an adjacent 211,000-square-foot building.

Suzy Jones at home with new venture

Suzy Jones' new biotech business development venture is about more than the deal; it’s about home.
Jones, who recently launched DNA Ink LLC to help guide small biotech companies in their deals with Big Pharma and Big Biotech, has set up her office in a Western Addition building that she owns. It’s an unlikely location — in a residential neighborhood, far from biotech havens Mission Bay or South San Francisco — but it is a structure that Jones helped renovate in the neighborhood where she grew up with her mother and two older sisters.

Genentech biz development vet Suzy Jones setting out on her own

Suzy Jones is ready to make a deal.
The 20-year Genentech Inc. veteran — one of a handful of top executives to leave the South San Francisco-based biotech powerhouse since its acquisition by Roche Group — is launching her own business development firm aimed at helping small biotechs negotiate deals with Big Pharma and Big Biotech.
DNA Ink LLC already has two active clients ­— an oncology diagnostic company and a small molecule developer — and a couple more in the queue, Jones said. It charges on contingency, taking a cut as a percentage upfront or on the back end of a completed deal.