Monday, February 28, 2011

Melanoma drug developer Plexxikon to be sold for $805M to Daiichi Sankyo

Drug company Plexxikon Inc. will be bought by Daiichi Sankyo Co. for $805 million and possible milestone payments of $130 million more.
Berkeley-based Plexxikon has a melanoma drug in late stage clinical development. It’s developing that drug, PLX4032, with partner Roche, which owns South San Francisco-based Genentech. Genentech made a deal to promote the drug with Plexxikon last year and will keep that agreement with Daiichi Sankyo if this merger goes through.

Nile Therapeutics inks deal with Medtronic for heart failure treatment

Nile Therapeutics Inc. will work with medical device giant Medtronic Inc. on a peptide to treat heart failure and renal disease.
Specific financial terms of the deal weren’t disclosed, but Minneapolis-based Medtronic (NYSE: MDT) will fund and provide drug-device expertise as San Mateo-based Nile (NASDAQ: NLTX) works on a Phase I clinical trial with the peptide, called cenderitide.

Varian to repurchase $280M in stock

Varian Medical Systems Inc. on Monday announced a $280 million accelerated share-repurchase agreement with Bank of America N.A.
Varian will pay $280 million to Bank of America for approximately 3.5 million shares, or 85 percent of the shares to be repurchased based on Varian's closing price on Feb. 23.

WaferGen puts USC researcher Timothy Triche on board

Genomic analysis business Wafer Gen Bio-systems Inc. put Timothy Triche, a professor at the University of Southern California's medical school, on its board of directors.
Triche fills a hole left by Nadine Smith, who quit the board last week.

Doctors not pushing Truvada to prevent HIV — and that may be fine with Gilead

Doctors aren't prescribing Gilead Science Inc.'s two-in-one, once-a-day HIV-fighting pill Truvada for preventive use, according to Bloomberg — and that may be just fine with the Foster City-based company (NASDAQ: GILD).
Truvada was central to a study led by the J. David Gladstone Institutes of San Francisco that showed late last year that men who took the $12,000-a-year pill lowered their risk of being infected by the AIDS virus from sex with other men.
The study's strong results led some to believe that Truvada would see a bump up in prescriptions. The Bloomberg story, however, said 6,805 to 8,107 new prescriptions of Truvada were written each week between Dec. 1 and Feb. 19, compared to 5,819 to 7,698 prescriptions during the same period a year earlier.
But Gilead hasn't even applied to the Food and Drug Administration to expand Truvada's label to include prevention of the virus in male-to-male sex

Zcube strikes deal with UCSF for microtechnology drug delivery

Zcube srl, a venture arm of Italian drug maker Zambon Co. SpA, will licensed UCSF-developed technology so it can find new ways to deliver oral medications directly to a target.
It is the first sponsored research agreement between Zcube and the University of California, San Francisco, though Zcube a year ago invested $1 million in Mission Bay Capital, a seed fund established by QB3 director Regis Kelly, venture capital guru Brook Byers and others.
Exact financial terms of the two-year exclusive, worldwide licensing deal were not disclosed. But UCSF could receive milestone payments and royalties.

UCSF receives $48M gift for lung research and treatment

UCSF received a $48 million gift — the university’s largest estate gift — to study and treat a host of pulmonary conditions, including interstitial lung disease and idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis.

Friday, February 25, 2011

Sangamo shoots up ahead of HIV data

Tiny Sangamo BioSciences Inc's potential “functional cure” for HIV is getting big attention in advance of a major AIDS scientific meeting.
The 90-employee Richmond company (NASDAQ: SGMO), best known for its zinc finger technology that mediates genes, said its cell therapy, called SB-728, targets a patient’s own CCR5 gene by removing, essentially, the doorknob that HIV turns to gain access to infection-fighting white blood cells.

Merck plans big biotech push in Palo Alto

Traditional pill maker Merck & Co. Inc. is staking a large part of its future on biotech drugs, and in Palo Alto.
Merck is throwing its cash and brand expertise behind a two-pronged approach — developing its own biotech drugs, as well as biosimilars, or copies of established biotech drugs — as it seeks to make up for lost time. In Palo Alto alone, Merck will hire 30 to 40 researchers this year as it shifts from discovering targets for drugs to discovering the drugs themselves.

Cutting-edge prostate cancer treatments could rescue Medivation, Exelixis

New weaponry is on the way to battle men’s No. 1 cancer killer, and perhaps rescue a couple Bay Area companies in the process.
Medivation Inc. and Exelixis Inc., hit hard by business or lab troubles over the past year, suddenly are handling potentially breakthrough prostate cancer treatments. Their studies are continuing, but data from early and mid-stage trials look promising.

Genomic Health counsel helps health tests clear roadblocks

A year after Kathy Hibbs took the wheel of the Genomic Health Inc. legal department, the company is now in the black and has expanded its diagnostic medical tests to 55 countries.
As general counsel and senior vice president, Hibbs plays a key role in clearing the path for Genomic Health to expand in new products and new markets.

DuPont brings deep pockets to Genencor

DuPont’s proposed purchase of Genencor’s parent company means more money to push the Palo Alto-based cleantech’s enzyme technology into more products.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Pearl Therapeutics taps Chuck Bramlage as CEO

Pearl Therapeutics named Chuck Bramlage, former president of pharmaceutical products for Covidien plc, as president and CEO.
Bramlage replaces Howard Rosen, who filled in after Perry Karsen's return late last summer to Celgene Corp. Rosen will return to Pearl’s board.

Bio-Rad Labs earns $68M in Q4, $185M for year

Bio-Rad Laboratories Inc. earned $67.9 million in the fourth quarter, up from a profit of $37.9 million a year earlier in the December quarter.
An “extraordinary” $10.7 million tax benefit in the fourth quarter helped push up earnings. Bio-Rad benefitted from repatriation of foreign earnings and an extension of a U.S. tax credit. Otherwise its fourth quarter tax rate would have been 25 percent.

Avastin gets FDA hearing in June

Genentech Inc. will get its day — actually two — in front of the Food and Drug Administration to plead its case for keeping Avastin as a treatment for women with metastatic breast cancer.
The hearing, scheduled for June 28-29, comes after the FDA in December said it would yank its conditional approval of Avastin for use by women with breast cancer that has spread to other parts of the body.

Could QB3, other UC institutes find seat at California's economic development table?

Sure, California has 274,000 research and biotech jobs, is first in patents (23,000 in 2009) and generally recognized as the innovation leader. But with no economic development or workforce training vision and eroding education funding, the state’s biotech lead is crumbling.
Alas, California’s saving grace may come from its own offspring — or at least that’s the vision of folks like Regis Kelly, director of the California Institute for Quantitative Biosciences, or QB3, and others.
QB3, which was started by former Gov. Gray Davis and celebrated its 10th year with a symposium Wednesday night, could pool its expertise with its sibling UC institutes to become a sort of nonpartisan think tank that could advise new Gov. Jerry Brown and Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom on possible economic development policies.

Amyris inks perfume deal with Switzerland's Givaudan

Amyris Inc. made an agreement with Swiss company Givaudan to develop an ingredient for perfumes.
Givaudan is based in Vernier, Switzerland. It will use Amyris’ product “Biofene” (farnesene) for perfume products that could be created as early as 2012.
Emeryville-based Amyris (NASDAQ: AMRS) didn’t give financial details of this deal.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Amyris fermentation process works on big scale

Amyris Biotechnologies Inc. said it has finished “multiple runs” of a fermentation process to create farnesene, a product used to make both specialty chemicals and diesel fuel.
Emeryville-based Amyris (NASDAQ: AMRS) used 100,000 liter and 200,000 liter fermentation tanks to test the process using sugarcane and yeast. The success of these runs, which were done “in North America and Europe,” Amyris said, helps the company understand how its processes will work on an industrial scale.

Anthera Q4 loss balloons to $13M on clinical trial costs

Anthera Pharmaceuticals Inc., which went public last year, lost $13 million in the December quarter and $40.4 million for the year as it spent more money on clinical trials.

Aurora Algae moving to Hayward

Aurora Algae, a maker of biofuels, is moving to Hayward. The company just leased 30,000 square feet of research and development space at 3325 Investment Blvd., a building that once housed Cholestech, a maker of medical testing devices.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Stanford lands $5 million grant for center focused on stem cells and aging

Dr. Thomas Rando
Stanford University received a $5 million grant from the Glenn Foundation for Medical Research to launch a new center on the biology of aging.
The Paul F. Glenn Laboratories for the Biology of Aging at Stanford will focus on the role of stem cells in the aging process, the university said in a press release. More specifically, researchers will study how stem cells change as an individual ages and how that contributes to the development of age-related diseases and disorders.
The center will be led by Dr. Thomas Rando, a professor of neurology and neurological sciences at Stanford.

Universal flu vaccine working well in early test — Dynavax

Dynavax Technologies Corp. said its universal flu vaccine candidate did well in Phase I testing last year, so the company is planning the next stage clinical trials.
Berkeley-based Dynavax (NASDAQ: DVAX) presented data from Phase Ia and Ib tests of the vaccine, N8295, at a vaccine conference in Geneva. The vaccine, Dynavax said, was “very safe and generally well tolerated” by the 54 test subjects.

Gilead to buy Calistoga Pharmaceuticals for $375M

Glead Sciences Inc. has agreed to acquire Calistoga Pharmaceuticals Inc. for $375 million, the companies said Tuesday.
Calistoga could earn up to an additional $225 million if certain milestones are achieved.
Seattle-based Calistoga is a privately held biotech company focused on the development of medicines to treat cancer and inflammatory diseases.

Monday, February 21, 2011

UC biochemist Michael Marletta to head Scripps Research Institute

Renowned University of California biochemist Michael Marletta will succeed Dr. Richard Lerner as president of The Scripps Research Institute in La Jolla.
Marletta’s appointment is effective Jan. 1, 2012.

MIT snags UCSF synthetic biology expert Chris Voigt - 3rd high-profile loss for UCSF

One of UCSF’s brightest young scientists and a key member of the Bay Area’s emerging synthetic biology community is heading east.
Chris Voigt, an assistant professor at the University of California, San Francisco, described by The Scientist as "biology's toy maker," will join the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in July. He will be an associate professor of biological engineering and co-director of a center for synthetic biology.

Friday, February 18, 2011

UC-business accelerator QB3 turns 10, hopes to spread idea statewide, nationwide

Regis Kelly doesn’t give up.
Ten years after then-Gov. Gray Davis launched an initiative to better translate the work of California’s research universities into marketable products, Kelly wants to take the idea statewide — or even national.

Grad students signal startup sea change

Even in the Bay Area — that hotbed of entrepreneurs — there’s still room for a transformation.
Regis Kelly, director of the California Institute for Quantitative Biosciences, or QB3, told me the shift in entrepreneurial culture is even being seen in graduate students applying to the University of California, San Francisco. A colleague interviewing students for fall 2011 positions said every one asked about the ability to translate research out of the lab into new companies.

CPAC adds jobs, shrinks proton therapy technology

Shrinking the size and cost of a giant cancer-fighting machine could help a young Livermore company supplant X-rays as it adds 25 new East Bay jobs by year end.
Compact Particle Acceleration Corp., a spinoff of publicly traded Tomo Therapy Inc. of Madison, Wis., used a partnership with Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory to build a device that delivers electrically charged protons directly into a cancer tumor to damage the cells’ DNA.

Second time around is charm for Aragen Bioscience

The fact that CEO Rick Srigley has built his biotech research firm Aragen Bioscience Inc. into a successful $6.7 million business is really no surprise. It’s actually the second time he’s done it.
Srigley was head of another contract research company called Sierra Biosource Inc., an Aragen predecessor which was sold in 2004 to Serologicals Corp. for $13 million. Fourteen months later, he bought back the assets for essentially nothing when Serologicals decided the business wasn’t a good fit after all.

Map Pharmaceuticals names Scott Ward as chairman

Map Pharmaceuticals Inc. has named Scott Ward chairman of its board of directors.
Ward replaces Steven Elms, an original venture capital investor in the company, who is stepping after six years in the post.

Impax generic antibiotic wins FDA approval

Impax Laboratories Inc's generic version of the antibiotic drug Adoxa won approval from the Food and Drug Administration.
Hayward-based Impax (NASDAQ: IPXL) said it is preparing to launch its 150-milligram version of the drug, used to pneumonia, urinary tract infections and other bacterial infections, but didn’t offer further details.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Impax Labs inks $50M credit facility with Wells Fargo

Impax Laboratories Inc. could borrow up to $50 million from Wells Fargo Bank under a new revolving credit facility.
The line of credit can be used for working capital, general corporate and other purposes, the Hayward-based maker of generic drugs (NASDAQ: IPXL) said Thursday in a Securities and Exchange Commission filing. Up to $10 million of the facility can be used for letters of credit, the company said.

Stanford OKs $21 million center for translating cancer research

Stanford University School of Medicine’s efforts to deliver cancer discoveries in the lab to the bedsides of patients will find a home in a $21 million, three-story building named after former Board of Trustees president and retired venture capitalist John Freidenrich and his wife, Jill.
The 30,690-square-foot Jill and John Freidenrich Center for Translational Research, which is expected to open in August 2012 at the corner of Welch Road near Durand Way, will house 250 researchers focused on cancer clinical trials.

Debt conversion pushes BioMarin to $12.2M in Q4 loss

BioMarin Pharmaceutical Inc. lost $12.2 million in the December quarter, compared with a $4.7 million profit a year earlier.
The company’s revenue rose to $101.6 million in the quarter, up from $87.1 million a year earlier.
BioMarin (NASDAQ: BMRN), based in Novato, blamed the fourth quarter loss on $13.7 million in debt conversion expenses.

Research Track: Salmonella to new anti-viral treatments: Eat me

Research Track — our weekly online feature of great science coming out of Bay Area research institutions — returns this week with a number of reports about asthma, a knee injury biomarker and experiments that could lead to anti-viral treatments that swallow the Salmonella bacteria.
So read on. After all, turning great science ideas into great companies requires knowing about the ideas in the first place.

Ex-CEO Thomas Okarma departing Geron with $1.3 million, consulting deal, stock

Former Geron Corp. President and CEO Thomas Okarma could receive up to $1.3 million, including $802,500 in severance pay, according to an agreement with the Menlo Park-based developer of stem cell treatments.

UCSF Down Syndrome researcher Charles Epstein, director of human genetics program, dies at 77

Renowned Down Syndrome researcher Dr. Charles Epstein died Tuesday at his home in Tiburon after a long battle with pancreatic cancer.
He was 77.
Epstein tracked early embryonic development, the pathogenesis of Down syndrome and genetic approaches to the study of free radical defense mechanisms, according to the University of California, San Francisco, where he was a faculty member and director of its human genetics program since 1997.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

As Genzyme and Sanofi marry, BioMarin looks at big dowry

The long courtship between Sanofi-Aventis SA and Genzyme Corp. may result in a nice dowry for BioMarin Pharmaceutical Inc.
Novato-based BioMarin (NASDAQ: BMRN) is involved because it makes Aldurazyme, a drug designed to treat a rare, inherited metabolic condition called MPS I. Genzyme sells the drug, with BioMarin receiving royalties of 39.5 percent to 50 percent.

Drug rights sales pushes InterMune to $206M Q4 profit

The sale of rights to the drug danoprevir in October helped push Brisbane’s InterMune Inc. to a $206.1 million profit in the December quarter.
InterMune (NASDAQ: ITMN) brought in $175 million in that sale, and that, combined with about $57.3 million leftover from payments for a terminated agreement by giant F. Hoffman-La Roche Ltd., added up to the unusual profit. A year ago in the December quarter, InterMune lost $28.6 million.

2 companies cut deal, take in cash from Index Ventures, Amunix

Versartis Inc. has completed a $21 million second round of funding, the company said Wednesday.
The round was led by New Leaf Venture Partners, which has an office in Menlo Park.
London-based Advent Venture Partners, Geneva-based Index Ventures and Mountain View-based Amunix Inc. also joined in the round.
Versartis raises $21 million in second round

Diartis Pharmaceuticals Inc., a new company in Mountain View, got money from Index Ventures and Amunix Inc. to develop a diabetes drug it bought from Versartis Inc.
Startup Diartis Pharmaceuticals gets money for diabetes drug development

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Ivivi Health raises $4M, converts $5.5M loan to equity

Ivivi Health Sciences LLC landed a $4 million new investment in the initial close of a Series A round of financing and converted a $5.5 million bridge loan to equity.
A second tranche of $4 million is expected by the end of May, according to the San Francisco company, which has developed FDA-cleared electrotherapy devices to reduce post-surgical pain and edema in orthopedic specialties.

Obama budget plan puts biotech drug protection on the table

President Barack Obama's proposed $3.7 trillion budget could do what legislators, the courts and the Federal Trade Commission have been unable to do on their own: bring lower-cost generic drugs to market faster.
But don’t bet on it. Those items in the Obama budget are likely to be bargaining chips in the upcoming (can you say “contentious”?) budget debate. Consumers really don’t have a seat at that table; the biopharmaceutical industry does.

Monday, February 14, 2011

Cytokinetics loses $11.6M in Q4

Drug maker Cytokinetics Inc. lost $11.6 million in the fourth quarter and $49.3 million for 2010.
The South San Francisco company (NASDAQ: CYTK) lost $12.5 million a year earlier in the fourth quarter. Revenue rose slightly to $1.1 million from $1 million in the same quarter of 2009.
Cytokinetics lost $49.3 million in 2010, compared with a profit of $24.5 million in 2009, when $74.4 million in license revenue swelled its coffers.

Sunesis Pharmaceuticals plans 1-for-6 reverse stock split

Sunesis Pharmaceuticals Inc. plans a 1-for-6 reverse stock split after the market closes on Monday.
The South San Francisco company (NASDAQ: SNSS) hopes this move will make it easier to comply with NASDAQ listing regulations about stock price. Sunesis has struggled to meet the $1 minimum bid price rule. The company also hopes the reverse split will, by raising share prices, “attract additional shareholder interest.”

UCSF ranked 3rd in NIH funding in 2010; tops for dentistry, nursing and pharmacy schools

UCSF received the third-most National Institutes of Health funds last year among institutions nationwide — and its dentistry, nursing and pharmacy schools took in the most money in their categories — according to new figures released by the NIH.
The University of California, San Francisco's $475.4 million in research and training grants, fellowships and other awards ranked first among public institutions. That figure does not include $30.4 million in NIH funding last year through the federal stimulus program, the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act.

Sonoma Orthopedic Products raises $22 million

Sonoma Orthopedic Products Inc. raised $22 million in its fourth round of venture funding.
The Santa Rosa business makes implants used to hold bones in place after they’re broken. Its devices are used to stabilize the collarbone or bones in the wrist -- they’re inserted into the bone via small incisions and are later removed through a simple operation when the bones have knitted.

Friday, February 11, 2011

Abaxis invests $2.8M into veterinary company

Genentech's Lucentis does well in study of diabetic eye condition

Natus Medical names president/COO

Cytokinetics makes board changes

Wareham preps site for lab building in Emeryville

AcelRx IPO raises $40 million

Plenty of work ahead, but HIV becomes a model for research

Paul Volberding is an optimist who has every reason to be a pessimist.
On his first day as chief of oncology at San Francisco General Hospital in July 1981, Volberding was directed to a patient who had been admitted a few days earlier with purple lesions diagnosed as Kaposi’s sarcoma.
“There’s the next great disease waiting for you,” a cancer specialist told Volberding, according to the book “And the Band Played On.”

The other stories in our package of how the Bay Area continues to tackle HIV:

The deadly, crafty virus at the core of the worldwide AIDS epidemic could meet its match in the Bay Area.
Thirty years after AIDS was first described — and 24 years since the first potent drug therapy tackled human immunodeficiency virus and extended the lives of HIV patients by decades — scientists are using drugs to prevent AIDS and honing in on ways to eradicate the disease from the body altogether.
Research led by the J. David Gladstone Institutes in San Francisco, for example — using an established HIV-fighting drug developed by Gilead Sciences Inc. of Foster City — could translate this year into a preventative treatment for male sexual partners of men infected with HIV.

Don Francis has tracked HIV since the early 1980s, after helping eradicate smallpox in Sudan, India and Bangladesh, doing early work on the hepatitis B vaccine and studying the Ebola virus.
While working at the federal Centers for Disease Control, Francis suggested early in the AIDS epidemic that the disease is caused by an infectious agent.
Today, Francis remains outspoken in his belief that an HIV vaccine — the holy grail of AIDS treatment — is within reach, if only the National Institutes of Health would support his effort with cash.

People are living longer with HIV, thanks to antiretroviral drugs that largely tame the deadly virus, but they appear to be dying a decade or more earlier from neurodegenerative, cardiovascular and other health problems than those who are not infected.

Gilead Sciences Inc. isn’t slowing down.
While other companies have exited HIV, where 26 powerful antiretroviral drugs now crowd the market, the Foster City-based company continues to push on with new drugs, boosters and easier-to-use combinations and formulations. That eventually could lead to once-a-month pills.
Sales from Gilead’s antiretroviral franchise, led by the three-in-one pill Atripla, have grown 177 percent in the past five years to more than $6.5 billion. Those drugs account for 82 percent of Gilead’s total revenue.
Yet Gilead also is pushing its drug into the developing world, sacrificing revenue in the process. Researchers have used one of its drugs, Viread or tenofovir, in a landmark South African study of a vaginal gel. Gilead donated 65 pounds of the drug.

Mike McCune and Warner Greene are hunting a hibernating virus.
Whether in the gut, the brain, the testes or elsewhere, finding the reservoirs where latent HIV hides could hold the key to effectively eradicating it, say researchers like McCune, chief of the division of experimental medicine at the University of California, San Francisco. If those silent, HIV-infected white blood cells can be found, a drug might block the ability of the cell to survive and, as a result, dry up the reservoir.
Or, as Greene and Eric Verdin at the UCSF-affiliated J. David Gladstone Institutes theorize, the sleeping virus could be awakened, drawn out of its host cells, which normally initiate the body’s response to invading viruses, and essentially neutralized with a drug.

Eradicating the AIDS virus is no longer the stuff of dreams, researchers say. All scientists must do is hunt down the latent virus and find a way of killing HIV before it spreads or is transmitted — the next-best thing to an AIDS vaccine.
That, however, is no simple task.