Friday, April 29, 2011

Appeals court lifts ban on federal embryonic stem cell research funding

A federal funding ban on embryonic stem cell research was lifted by an appeals court Friday.
A three-judge panel with the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia, in a 2-1 ruling, said the National Institutes of Health can fund embryonic stem cell research. Central to the ruling is the court’s belief that the 1996 Dickey-Wicker Act that prohibits the use of taxpayer dollars for creating or destroying human embryos for research purposes does not ban research using embryonic stem cells.
Alan Trounson, president of the California Institute for Regenerative Medicine, cautiously welcomed the ruling.
“The fight is far from over,” Trounson said, “which makes stable funding from sources such as the California Institute for Regenerative Medicine so important.”

NeurogesX CEO Anthony DiTonno to retire

NeurogesX Inc. President and CEO Anthony DiTonno, who led the company through FDA approval of its Qutenza pain patch, will retire by the end of the year.
“I have been CEO of NeurogesX for more than eight years and we have accomplished the objectives I established for myself when I joined the company in March 2003” as chief operating officer, DiTonno said in a press release Friday by the San Mateo company (NASDAQ: NGSX).

Stanford creates 1st stem cell science Ph.D. program

Stanford University will create what could be the first stem cell science Ph.D. program in the world.
The Faculty Senate on Thursday approved the new doctoral program in stem cell biology and regenerative medicine that could capitalize off millions of dollars in research and infrastructure money that Stanford has received from federal agencies and California’s stem cell research funding agency.
The program will begin in fall 2012, with the first class of three to six students.

UCSC aims to keep business talent, ideas in Santa Cruz with startup lab

The University of California system is known worldwide for its innovative research. In 2009, the university system received more than $121 million in revenue for licensing university research. But of the nine UCs in the system, UC Santa Cruz has benefited little.
UCSC wants to change that by complementing a new academic program with a startup lab that will generate new companies and patents with market potential. Among its goals are generating revenue for the university and spawning startup companies for Santa Cruz.

In time of crisis, Threshold finds strength in life sciences community

With the sudden death April 20 of Dr. John Curd, the Redwood City biotech company’s president and chief medical officer, Threshold (NASDAQ: THLD) was faced with a crisis no company wants to experience. But as news of Curd’s death spread, the Redwood City company was overwhelmed with doctors and others in the biomedical community volunteering to serve as interim chief medical officer.

Gilead CFO Robin Washington embraces the new

Robin Washington still is learning.
Attribute part of that to her mid-career switch from tech to biotech, where Gilead Sciences Inc.’s chief financial officer has tackled a new science-heavy vocabulary to see beyond the on-paper numbers. But, really, it’s just the way Washington rolls.
“If you’re truly a business partner, you have to do that,” the 48-year-old Michigan native said. “When I talk to investors, they want numbers, but they also want to know what are the drivers of the future.”

Alexandria buys Shorenstein/SKS life sciences complex in Mission Bay for $290M

Six months after selling most of its land in Mission Bay to Inc., Alexandria Real Estate Equities wants to jump back into the neighborhood with the $290 million purchase of 409-499 Illinois St.
Alexandria is in contract to buy the 450,000-square-foot, two-building life science complex that Shorenstein Properties and SKS Investments completed in 2008.
The complex is anchored by FibroGen Inc., which leases 239,000 square feet. The transaction has gone non-refundable, but has not closed yet.
Both Shorenstein and Alexandria declined to comment.

$1 million Hellman gift to Gladstone hopes to cast wide net on neurodegenerative diseases

The J. David Gladstone Institutes and the Hellman Family Foundation hope to build a $1 million bridge over the valley of death.
Financier Warren Hellman’s foundation’s $1 million gift to the San Francisco biomedical research institution is aimed at Alzheimer’s disease research, identifying targets for small-molecule drugs and transferring those drugs more quickly to companies.
But Alzheimer’s research also could apply to Huntington’s disease, Parkinson’s or other neurodegenerative problems, potentially accelerating drugs moving to patients, said Dr. Steven Finkbeiner, the Gladstone senior investigator who will lead the Hellman Family Foundation Alzheimer’s Research Program at Gladstone.

Gladstone president hopes to spin science into fundraising gold

With an Alzheimer’s disease spinout company and as many as a dozen research collaborations on the horizon, the J. David Gladstone Institutes could remake how it supports its science — and how the world sees it — under President R. Sanders “Sandy” Williams.
Nearly 14 months into his tenure, Williams is not only bringing on new scientists and support staff, but also creating a network of high-profile executives, financiers and scientists who can spread the Gladstone gospel to an increasingly sophisticated philanthropic community.
How the San Francisco-based organization is viewed is especially important, Williams said, to continue cutting-edge research in areas like HIV, stem cells and neurological diseases. The more people know about Gladstone and connect their gifts to its initiatives, the less Gladstone must rely largely on its roughly $200 million endowment to plug funding gaps.

BioSF kicks off effort to attract life sciences

Federal money, a state program and local partnerships — plus a newly hired leader — are coming together in an effort to swell the ranks San Francisco’s life sciences community and attract more jobs.
BioSF, modeled on the city’s China-focused economic development initiative, ChinaSF, looks to capitalize on the success of the city’s Mission Bay biotech enclave.
The effort is backed by $200,000 from the state’s Innovation Hub program — federal Small Business Administration money funneled through the Small Business Development Center at Humboldt State University — and a $35,000 grant from the city.

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Eye disease patients may want to see more green

As details started leaking out Wednesday from a much-anticipated head-to-head trial of two Genentech Inc. drugs in a potentially blinding eye disease, the folks at Regeneron Pharmaceuticals Inc. were wondering what it all means.That could be decided by patients with age-related macular degeneration who may want to see more of one thing: green in their wallets.

Lower-cost Avastin as effective as Lucentis in blinding eye disease, study says

Genentech Inc.’s Avastin — a cancer drug used off label and at lower cost by doctors to treat a potentially blinding eye disease — works as well after a year of treatment as the more-expensive Genentech drug approved for the disease, according to a government study.
In a highly anticipated study, the National Eye Institute said Thursday that the 1,185-patient study found that $50 monthly injections of Avastin into the eyes of patients with age-related macular degeneration, or AMD, were just as effective as $2,000-per-injection Lucentis. The study, however, also noted more serious side effects in patients using Avastin.

FDA approves trials of OncoMed cancer drug, triggering $20M milestone

OncoMed Pharmaceuticals Inc. said Thursday that the U.S. Food and Drug Administration has accepted an Investigational New Drug filing for its cancer drug.
Redwood City-based OncoMed said it can now begin Phase I clinical testing of OMP-18R5, triggering a $20 million milestone payment from Bayer to OncoMed.

InterMune leaves sale rumors unanswered

InterMune Inc. is not for sale — now stop asking.
That’s the takeaway from the Brisbane company’s (NASDAQ: ITMN) first-quarter recap conference call Thursday morning. But sources told Bloomberg and this week that the developer of the idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis drug Esbriet has been shopped around for a few weeks. Bloomberg said Goldman Sachs is managing the process.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Appeal for convicted former InterMune CEO will focus on 1st Amendment

The attorney for former InterMune Inc. CEO Scott Harkonen plans to pursue a First Amendment argument in appealing Harkonen’s conviction on a wire fraud charge.
Harkonen was sentenced last week to a $20,000 fine and six months of home confinement after a jury in September 2009 found him guilty of wire fraud. The center of the Department of Justice’s prosecution was an Aug. 28, 2002, press release that said the InterMune drug Actimmune in a Phase III trial reduced deaths by 70 percent in patients with mild to moderate idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis, a fatal lung-scarring disease.
But Mark Haddad of Sidley Austin LLP said Harkonen’s statement in the press release is protected speech because the CEO was drawing a scientific conclusion of data accurately reported in the press release. “To show conclusions of data is fundamental to the scientific process,” Haddad said.

PacBio ships first DNA sequencing system

Pacific Biosciences of California Inc., the much-talked-about Menlo Park developer of a third-generation DNA sequencing machine, said it is shipping its first commercial product.
PacBio (NASDAQ: PACB) formally enters a fast-moving field that includes Life Technologies Corp. (NASDAQ: LIFE) in Fremont. PacBio said, however, that its RS system puts results in the hands of researchers in less than a day, compared to a week with many sequencing machines on the market today.

UC Santa Cruz gets $625K gift from Hellman for fellows program

The Hellman Fellows Fund is gving $625,000 to UC Santa Cruz to establish the UCSC Hellman Fellows Program.
The program will provide support for research "by promising assistant professors who show capacity for great distinction in their research," the university said in a prepared statement. Funding will be split roughly equally between assistant professors in two groups: engineering, physical sciences and life sciences; and arts, humanities and social sciences.

One-on-one with Ventus Medical CEO Peter Wyles

Rest easy, the FDA approval process for medical devices isn’t always a nightmare. Ventus Medical Inc. has won three FDA approvals in just a few years for its therapy for obstructive sleep apnea, or OSA. Now with solid results from a 250-patient trial in hand, President and CEO Peter Wyles is aiming not to convince the FDA to approve the therapy but doctors to prescribe it. Wyles spoke with San Francisco Business Times biotech reporter Ron Leuty about his company's strategy with the therapy, branded as Provent, the sleep apnea market, durable medical equipment distributors and doctors.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

$3 traffic fee for spinal cord injury research passes key Assembly committee

A plan to funnel a $3 surcharge from every moving traffic violation — an estimated $11 million a year — to a spinal cord injury research fund cleared a key California Assembly hurdle Tuesday and could be approved by lawmakers by the end of summer.
Assembly Bill 190 — renewing the so-called Roman Reed law, named after a former Chabot College football player paralyzed during a tackle — was approved 4-3 by the Assembly’s public safety committee. It will go to the appropriations committee next month, then to the full Assembly and the Senate.

FDA liaison in Bay Area? Why not, BayBio says

BayBio wants the FDA to base an agency employee in the Bay Area as a liaison to the region’s life sciences community.
That may be easier said than done at a time when government budgets are under intensive scrutiny, but BayBio President Gail Maderis said biotech, diagnostics and device companies and the Food and Drug Administration need to work more closely at a time when the industry-FDA relationship has soured.
Maderis, who hopes to make a case to legislators during a Biotechnology Industry Organization-sponsored meetup with Capitol Hill legislators next week, said there is precedent for federal agencies getting out of the Beltway: The Patent and Trademark Office recently opened a branch in Chicago.

FivePrime, Dyax enter antibody R&D deal

FivePrime Therapeutics Inc. will tap the libraries and technology of Dyax Corp. in a research deal aimed at developing and commercializing antibody drugs.
The value of the deal was not disclosed, but the collaboration could help privately held FivePrime, a South San Francisco-based developer of protein and antibody drugs in the areas of oncology, immunology and metabolic diseases, expand its pipeline of product candidates.

Monday, April 25, 2011

A.P. Pharma raises $4.5M, installs new executive team

A.P. Pharma Inc. has raised up to $4.5 million in convertible notes and named a new executive team, the company said Monday.
The Redwood City specialty pharmaceutical company secured the funding from investors including Tang Capital Partners LP.

Friday, April 22, 2011

Biotech veteran and Threshold Pharma president John Curd dies

Longtime Bay Area biotech executive Dr. John Curd, who helped shepherd the Genentech cancer drugs Herceptin and Rituxan through clinical trials and most recently was president and chief medical officer of Threshold Pharmaceuticals Inc., died unexpectedly Wednesday at his home.
Curd, who joined Threshold (NASDAQ: THLD) in October 2007 and oversaw the Redwood City-based company’s clinical development work, apparently died of natural causes, the company said. He was 65.

Bayer, OncoMed expand cancer stem cell deal

Bayer HealthCare and OncoMed Pharmaceuticals Inc. are expanding their collaboration focusing on developing drugs that zero in on tumor-initiating cancer stem cells.
Bayer now will manufacture in its Berkeley facility the bulk drug substance for a drug that Redwood City-based OncoMed plans to take into a Phase I clinical trial in 2012.

UC Berkeley, Lawrence Berkeley Lab start Synthetic Biology Institute, with Agilent as 1st corporate partner

A new institute formed by the University of California, Berkeley, and Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory will work to engineer cells and biological systems to tap discoveries in health, energy and new materials, among other targets.
Agilent Technologies Inc. is the first corporate partner of the Synthetic Biology Institute. UC Berkeley did not say how much Santa Clara-based Agilent (NYSE: A) will pay, but it said the company made a multiyear, multimillion-dollar commitment.

East Bay schools aim to refresh biotech labor pool

At many schools in the East Bay, businesses are stepping in where state and federal programs have failed — training children in science and technology to create a skilled workforce to one day staff biotech and cleantech companies clustering there.

Berkeley flexible zoning zeroes in on biotechs, other innovative companies

The zoning update for West Berkeley aims to change policies that protect certain uses in commercial space such as manufacturing. The problem is that those rules were set in place in the 1980s when local residents wanted to encourage blue-collar jobs to stay in Berkeley, but the definition of manufacturing has changed and many startups want to house more than one use — office, research and development and manufacturing — under one roof, which is not allowed.

University of California looks to boost, nurture more startups

Even with a deep tradition of turning out innovative companies from the research ranks of the University of California — think biotech pioneer Chiron — the East Bay must retain and nurture more of those startups, regional leaders say.
Who best to lead the charge than UC Berkeley?
The university is unleashing a torrent of programs both on campus and off campus, reaching out to the business community in and around Berkeley in unprecedented fashion in an effort to grow, spin out, house and support research.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Nektar ovarian cancer drug wins orphan status

A Nektar Therapeutics Inc. treatment aimed at ovarian cancer has been designated an orphan drug by the Food and Drug Administration.
This means the drug, aimed at a disease that fewer than 200,000 people in the country get each year, will have seven years of market protection. Nektar (NASDAQ: NKTR) will also get tax credits related to the drug.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

AngioScore raises $12 million

Medical device company AngioScore Inc. said Wednesday it raised $12 million in private equity financing.
Fremont-based AngioScore has received regulatory clearance to market both coronary and peripheral AngioSculpt catheters in the U.S., Europe and Japan.
The round was led by San Francisco-based Saints Capital.

Gilead Q1 profit dips to $651.1M

Gilead Sciences Inc. on Wednesday reported first quarter net income of $651.1 million, or 80 cents a share, down from $854.9 million, or 92 cents a share in the same period last year.
Foster City-based Gilead (NASDAQ:GILD) had an 8 percent drop in revenue to $1.93 billion from the year-ago quarter's $2.09 billion.

Dynavax gets $6M for start of human test of lupus treatment

Dynavax Technologies Corp. will be paid $6 million for starting human testing of a potential lupus treatment.
Berkeley-based Dynavax (NASDAQ: DVAX) will get the payment from GlaxoSmithKline (NYSE: GSK), its partner on this project.
This is a Phase I trial, mainly to test the safety of the treatment, DV1179, which inhibits two Toll-like receptors, or TLRs, which affect the body’s inflammatory response.

Gilead license early-stage respiratory virus drug from MicroDose

Gilead Sciences Inc. will license an early-stage inhalable drug from MicroDose Therapeutx Inc. that is aimed at respiratory syncytial virus.
Foster City-based Gilead (NASDAQ: GILD) and MicroDose of Monmouth Junction, N.J., did not disclose specific financial terms of the deal. MicroDose will receive an upfront payment and Gilead will provide research funding supporting the drug, MDT-637, through Phase IIa clinical trials.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

SciClone buys U.S.-backed Chinese drug company

SciClone Pharmaceuticals Inc. bought NovaMed Pharmaceuticals Inc., a Chinese specialty pharmaceutical company backed by American venture capital firm Atlas Ventures, in a cash and stock deal worth up to nearly $105 million.
SciClone (NASDAQ: SCLN), basedin Foster City, said the combined revenue of the company in 2011 would be $140 million to $145 million.
SciClone CEO Freidhelm Blobel told the San Francisco Business Times last year that his company would seek out deals in China, where it already sells its hepatitis B and hepatitis C treatment, Zadaxin.

Monday, April 18, 2011

Spine repair device maker Benvenue Medical raises $35.5M

Benvenue Medical Inc. said Monday it closed a third round of funding with $35.5 million.
The Santa Clara company, which develops minimally invasive solutions for spine repair, said it is entering a $9 billion global spinal device market with three breakthrough minimally invasive products to treat vertebral compression fractures and degenerative disc disease.
The round was co-led by new investors, San Diego-based Domain Associates and Palo Alto-based Technology Partners.
Also participating were Versant Ventures and DeNovo Ventures, which both have offices in Menlo Park.

To move along $344M Quest deal, Celera plans to settle 4 shareholder suits

Celera Corp. will settle four shareholder lawsuits filed after Quest Diagnostics Inc. said it would buy the Alameda medical test developer for $344 million.
Meanwhile, Celera and Quest (NYSE: DGX) agreed to lower the deal’s termination fee to $15.6 million from $23.45 million, and Quest said it will extend its $8 per share offer until 5 p.m. (Eastern time) on May 2.

StemCells Inc. to pursue Alzheimer's with UC Irvine professor Frank LaFerla

StemCells Inc. is looking to tackle Alzheimer’s disease.
The Palo Alto company (NASDAQ: STEM) said Monday that it will work with Frank LaFerla of the University of California, Irvine, to study the use of its human neural stem cells in Alzheimer’s. LaFerla is director of UC, Irvine’s Institute for Memory Impairments and Neurological Disorders.

Gilead's Truvada fails HIV prevention trial in African women

A study testing Gilead Sciences Inc.’s Truvada as a way to prevent the AIDS virus in African women failed, according to a nonprofit group sponsoring the trial.
The 1,951-woman study, undertaken by FHI and enrolling patients in Kenya, South Africa and Tanzania, was designed to study whether HIV-negative women at a higher risk of being exposed to the virus could safely use a daily dose of Truvada to prevent infection. But half of the 56 new HIV infections occurred in women using Truvada, according to FHI.

Stanford, Sanofi-Aventis sign multi-year research deal

Stanford University and Sanofi-Aventis will work together on up to five research programs a year, according to a multi-year deal.
It is the second research collaboration between Paris-based Sanofi-Aventis (NYSE: SNY) and a Bay Area university this year. The University of California, San Francisco, and Sanofi inked a deal earlier this year.

Cytokinetics to raise $20.1 million in Deerfield stock deal

Cytokinetics Inc., which unveiled new data from a mid-stage study of a drug focused on Lou Gehrig’s disease, said it will raise $20.1 million by selling 5.3 million shares of common stock at $1.50 per share and 8,070 shares of convertible preferred stock at $1,500 per share.
The buyers are entities affiliated with Deerfield Management Co., a health care investment manager, according to South San Francisco-based Cytokinetics (NASDAQ: CYTK).
The preferred stock is non-voting but converts into more than 8 million shares of common stock as long as Deerfield doesn’t own more than 9.98 percent of Cytokinetics common shares.

Friday, April 15, 2011

Cal State East Bay lands $1.15M grant for STEM education

California State University, East Bay, landed a $1.15 million grant from the S.D. Bechtel Jr. Foundation to support the school’s Gateways Partnership, which is aimed at improving science, technology, engineering and mathematics skills of Bay Area students.
The university last month received a commitment of $540,000 from the philanthropic arm of Bayer Corp. and another $150,000 over three years from Wareham Development to create a center for so-called STEM education.

FDA approves Genentech's Actemra against rare Still's disease in children

Genentech Inc.’s rheumatoid arthritis drug Actemra was approved Friday by the Food and Drug Administration as a treatment for Still’s disease in children ages 2 or older.
Still’s disease, also known as active systemic juvenile idiopathic arthritis, is a rare, potentially life-threatening disorder that causes severe inflammation throughout the body. It is different from other forms of juvenile idiopathic arthritis by spiking fevers, rash, swelling of lymph nodes, liver and spleen and high white blood cell counts.

In reversal, European committee says combo of Genentech's Avastin and Roche chemo agent should be approved

Roche’s best-selling cancer drug Avastin should be approved in combination with the chemotherapy agent Xeloda as a first-line treatment for women with metastatic breast cancer, a committee that advises European regulators said in a reversal.
The “positive opinion” from the Committee for Medicinal Products for Human Use, or CHMP, is an important step toward expanding Avastin’s use in Europe, where the drug already is approved in combination with paclitaxel as a first-line treatment for women who can’t take chemotherapy options such as taxanes and anthracyclines.

InterMune ex-CEO Harkonen sentenced in Actimmune scandal

Former InterMune Inc. CEO Scott Harkonen was fined $20,000 and sentenced to six months of home confinement in connection to a misleading 2002 company press release about the drug Actimmune.
Harkonen was convicted of wire fraud in September 2009 after Brisbane-based InterMune distributed an Aug. 28, 2002, press release that claimed that Actimmune in a Phase III trial reduced deaths by 70 percent in patients with mild to moderate idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis.

QB3, Wareham team up to woo 'mavericks' to new West Berkeley incubator

'It will be a collaboration of micro-companies working together,' says Wareham's Chris Barlow.
An incubator aimed at capturing a new wave of East Bay “mavericks” is coming to life with the help of some old hands.
The QB3 East Bay Innovation Center — the product of an alliance linking the University of California’s QB3 institute and veteran developer Wareham Development — already has two signed tenants and three leases in negotiation for the 9,300-square-foot wet lab space at Seventh and Potter streets in West Berkeley, said Wareham President Rich Robbins.
The first phase of the center is set to open May 15 while construction continues on a second phase that will be unveiled by June 15, Robbins said.
In all, the center could house 10-15 life sciences, physical sciences and cleantech companies.

Acquisition-minded Cell Biosciences relocates manufacturing to San Jose

A private life sciences company on an acquisition binge plans to broaden its Silicon Valley footprint.
Cell Biosciences signed a five-year lease for more than 20,000 square feet of space in North San Jose, and will relocate some of its manufacturing from San Leandro in the East Bay. The relocation follows the acquisition of Alpha Innotech Corp., which was located in San Leandro.

Shortlist for Lawrence Berkeley National Lab second campus coming soon

Lawrence Berkeley National Lab expects to come out with a short list of finalists for a potential second campus within in the next few weeks.
The lab issued a request for proposals that was due March 4 that drew 21 proposals from sites in cities including Berkeley, Emeryville, Oakland, Alameda, Richmond, Albany, Walnut Creek and Dublin.
The lab had stated previously that it would release a shortlist by mid-April, said spokesman Jon Weiner.

Eye treatments company Santen takes 50,000 square feet in Emeryville

Santen Pharmaceutical Co., a company that makes eye medications and treatments, plans to move its U.S. headquarters to Emeryville in July.
The company, a subsidiary of Osaka, Japan-based Santen Inc., leased 50,000 square feet on the top two floors of 2100 Powell, a Class A Hines-owned building known as Watergate Tower IV.
Santen previously had an office in Napa, but executives want to be closer to the East Bay’s biotech cluster and international transportation.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Insulin patch developer Calibra raises $8.1M, including $1M in canceled debt

Calibra Medical Inc., a developer of a needle-free insulin patch-pen, raised $8.1 million in financing.
The investors were not disclosed in a Securities and Exchange Commission filing Thursday, but the company said the total included more than $1 million of canceled debt.
The Redwood City company, which had been known as Seattle Medical Technologies and moved to the Bay Area in 2007, said in the SEC filing that it is seeking $21.9 million more.

Roche revenue dips as Avastin sales fall

Declining sales of cancer drug Avastin, health care reform and a strong Swiss franc pushed down first-quarter revenue for Genentech Inc. parent Roche Holding AG by 9 percent, the company said.
Avastin sales, measured in francs, dropped 15 percent, Roche said. Overall, Roche sales fell 9 percent to 11.1 billion francs, or $12.4 billion.

Health care consumers start to use websites to make decisions

It’s not online nirvana yet, but websites that help consumers compare hospitals and other health care providers on cost, quality and customer satisfaction — which have been around for years — may finally be starting to gain some traction.
Paul Markovich, executive vice president and chief operations officer at Blue Shield of California, had been a skeptic — not so much about the quality of information being offered, but about how frequently consumers were using the data to make important decisions.
But now he appears to be seeing some light at the end of the transparency tunnel. By transparency, Markovich and others mean giving consumers, the public, and health care entities themselves access to specific quality and cost data that can help drive decisions and improve care.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Amunix, Biogen Idec in research deal

Amunix Inc. on Wednesday announced an agreement with Biogen Idec to research and develop novel, fully-recombinant blood factors with improved therapeutic properties.
The partnership will combine Mountain View-based Amunix's protein half-life engineering expertise and Biogen Idec's research, manufacturing and clinical development of recombinant blood factors for hemophilia.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Report: Exelixis hires Goldman Sachs to prepare for takeover offers

Rumors of Exelixis Inc. hiring Goldman Sachs to prepare for possible sale offers sent shares of the South San Francisco cancer drug company higher, according to Bloomberg.
A spokesman for Exelixis (NASDAQ: EXEL) told Bloomberg that the company does not comment on such reports, noting that sale rumors have “been around the company for a long time.”
Exelixis, which had been known for its prodigious pipeline of drugs, has garnered lots of attention over the past five months because of a single drug. The company has opted to focus on XL-184, or cabozantinib, which appears to stop cancerous growth not only in soft tissue but also on bone.

Sanofi CEO Viehbacher details R&D strategy

This is from our sibling paper, the Boston Business Journal:
Sanofi-Aventis CEO Chris Viehbacher outlined the research and development strategy that led to the purchase of Cambridge, Mass-based Genzyme Corp. for $20.1 billion, and will lead the company to further expand its partnerships and acquisitions.
“My goal as CEO is never to inaugurate a new research and development center,” Viehbacher said during an MIT Enterprise Forum event, at the start of his first full week as CEO of Genzyme, now a Sanofi subsidiary.

Monday, April 11, 2011

Impax, Purdue Pharma in patent fight over painkiller OxyContin

Generic drug maker Impax Laboratories Inc. is challenging patents underpinning the blockbuster Purdue Pharma LP painkiller OxyContin.
Hayward-based Impax (NASDAQ: IPXL) said Monday that it filed an abbreviated new drug application, or ANDA, for a generic version of OxyContin in various controlled-release tablet doses. It sought so-called “Paragraph IV” certification, which claims that its drug does not infringe on patents or that those patents are unenforceable.
Stamford, Conn.-based Purdue, as well as Rhodes Technologies the University of Texas system’s board of regents and Grunenthal GbmH, filed suit Friday in the U.S. District Court for Southern New York, claiming that Impax’s generic oxycodone hydrochloride infringes on patents.

Medivation drug fails late-stage Huntington disease trial

An experimental treatment for Huntington disease failed a late-stage trial, Medivation Inc. said Monday.
The San Francisco biotech company (NASDAQ: MDVN) and partner Pfizer Inc. (NYSE: PFE) said the drug, Dimebon, failed to hit its two main goals in the 403-patient Phase III study. It is the second strike against Dimebon, a drug that two years ago failed a late-stage trial in Alzheimer’s disease.
Medivation CEO David Hung said the company will stop its Dimebon trial in Huntington disease. It is continuing its Phase III trial of Dimebon in Alzheimer's patients.

Friday, April 8, 2011

Industry-academic linkups key to bringing medical innovation to patients, UCSF trio argues

Partnerships with industry are essential for moving academic discoveries to patient bedsides, a high-profile trio of experts with the University of California, San Francisco, argue in the latest issue of Nature Medicine.
Chancellor Susan Desmond-Hellmann — along with professor Clay Johnston, the director of UCSF’s translational science institute, and neurology department chair Stephen Hauser — should know. UCSF has been particularly busy over the past year in constructing deals with Pfizer Inc., Bayer HealthCare and Sanofi-Aventis.

Impax Labs inks deal with Banner Pharmacaps

Generic drug company Impax Laboratories Inc. signed a deal with gelatin capsule maker Banner Pharmacaps Inc.
Hayward-based Impax didn’t say what products it plans to put into gelatin capsules, nor did it give any other details of the agreement. All it said was that it will work with Banner on supply and sale of two drugs.

StemCells shelves Batten disease program — not enough patients for trial

StemCells Inc. will discontinue an early-stage clinical trial in Batten disease because it couldn’t find enough eligible patients with the rare disease.
Batten disease, also known as neuronal ceroid lipfuscinosis or NCL, is a fatal neurodegenerative disorder in children.
Palo Alto-based StemCells in 2009 completed a Phase I safety trial in six patients with advances stages of Batten and in October 2010 started a Phase Ib trial at Oregon Health & Science University to evaluate the cells in six additional patients in earlier stages of the disease. But no eligible patients were identified or enrolled, the company said, despite “diligent efforts” by investigators.

Big Celera shareholders line up against Quest deal

Two Celera Corp. shareholders do not support the company’s planned $344 million acquisition by Quest Diagnostics Inc. and say the companies need to renegotiate the deal.
Starboard Value & Opportunity Fund and Biotechnology Value Fund LP said in separate letters to Alameda-based genetic test developer Celera (NASDAQ: CRA) and Quest (NYSE: DGX) that the $8 per share deal does not reflect Celera’s value.

Sangamo to raise $51M in stock offering

Sangamo BioSciences Inc. priced a public offering of stock that it announced on Thursday.
At $7.70 a share, the Richmond company will raise about $51.59 million in the sale.

XenoPort shares soar on FDA approval

Shares of XenoPort Inc. jumped 56 percent Thursday and remained heading north in Friday morning trading.
The Santa Clara-based biopharm (NASDAQ:XNPO) was at $10.10 in mid-morning trading after closing the day Thursday at $9.96. The stock's 52-week range is $5.66 to $11.82.

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Sangamo to sell 6.7 million shares

Sangamo BioSciences Inc. will sell 6.7 million shares of stock in a public offering underwritten by Barclays Capital Inc.
Richmond-based Sangamo (NASDAQ: SGMO) will give Barclays a 30 day option to buy up to 1.005 million more shares.

Gilead boosts HIV drug prices

Dominant HIV drug maker Gilead Sciences Inc. increased the prices of many of its best-selling products this month, according to Dow Jones.
The Foster City-based company (NASDAQ: GILD) boosted the price of Atripla, its best selling HIV antiretroviral drug, by 5.1 percent, the news agency reported. Atripla registered 2010 sales of $1.9 billion, or nearly a quarter of Gilead’s total product sales of $7.39 billion last year.

Bay Area lessons in $100M round for U.S.-China life sciences startup

Beyond the eye-popping $100 million Series A round raised by Ascletis Inc. to develop drugs for the China market, there are lessons to be learned for entrepreneurs hoping that Bay Area connections open doors to China.
Consider that none of the $100 million raised by the Chapel Hill, N.C., company, formed by GlaxoSmithKline veteran Jinzi Wu, is from venture capital. Most of the investors are Chinese, including Hangzhou Binjiang Real Estate Group, as well as some American investors.
It all comes back to the same thing that we’ve heard time and time again about doing business in China: Trust is key.

XenoPort nabs its first FDA approval, for restless legs syndrome

Biopharmaceutical company XenoPort Inc. CEO and co-founder Ron Barrett got the phone call he had been waiting for Wednesday: The U.S. Food and Drug Administration approved the company’s treatment of Restless Legs Syndrome.
Santa Clara-based XenoPort (NASDAQ:XNPT) and its partner in commercialization, health care group GlaxoSmithKline plc (NYSE:GSK), said the lead drug is under the trade name Horizant. Xenoport’s technology modifies an existing generic drug to help patients’ bodies better absorb it.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Cancer drug companies SuperGen, Astex to merge in cash, stock deal

Cancer drug developers SuperGen Inc. and Astex Therapeutics Ltd. will merge in a deal that will pay Astex shareholders $25 million upfront and SuperGen stock as well as deferred compensation of $30 million in stock or cash over 30 months, the companies said late Wednesday.
Dublin-based SuperGen (NASDAQ: SUPG) and Astex, based in Cambridge, United Kingdom, expect the deal to close in July, subject to regulatory and shareholder approvals.

Fluidigm to get more milestone cash in Novartis diagnostics deal

Novartis Vaccines and Diagnostics will pay $320,000 more to Fluidigm Corp. if the South San Francisco company hits a milestone in its development of a non-invasive prenatal diagnostic test.
Novartis Vaccines and Diagnostics, whose diagnostics arm is based in Emeryville, now could make $3.32 million in milestone payments, according to amended deal outlined in a Securities and Exchange Commission filing Monday by Fluidigm.

UC Berkeley biology dean named provost at Brown University

Mark Schlissel, dean of biological sciences at the University of California, Berkeley, has been hired as provost of Brown University starting July 1.
Schlissel will be Brown’s chief academic officer, second in rank to its president, Ruth Simmons.

Complete Genomics releases 29 new human genome sequences

Complete Genomics Inc. added 29 complete human genome sequences to its public library, the Mountain View company (NASDAQ: GNOM) said Wednesday.
With 40 other genome datasets in early February, the company’s public data repository now has 69 complete human genome datasets available to researchers.

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Sunesis Pharma lands $4M in Millennium Pharma deal

Sunesis Pharmaceuticals Inc. has been paid $4 million by Millennium Pharmaceuticals Inc. as part of a program to develop cancer drugs together.

Monday, April 4, 2011

BioMarin won't seek control of Aldurazyme as Sanofi-Genzyme deal closes

BioMarin Pharmaceutical Inc. will not seek full rights to Aldurazyme, a drug marketed by partner Genzyme Corp. to treat a rare metabolic disease, following Monday’s $20 billion acquisition of Genzyme by Sanofi-Aventis Group.
Novato-based BioMarin (NASDAQ: BMRN) could have exercised a change-of-control provision, allowing it to set its own price for full rights to Aldurazyme, a $250,000-per-year drug to treat the rare, inherited disease MPS I.

Nile wins fast-track status for heart drug

Nile Therapeutics Inc. won fast-track designation from the Food and Drug Administration for its drug to treat acute decompensated heart failure patients after they leave the hospital.
The San Mateo company (NASDAQ: NLTX) plans to develop the drug, called cenderitide, for use up to 90 days after patients are discharged from a hospital. There is no drug approved for that so-called post-acute indication, with most patients now typically sent home with water pills or nitroglycerin tablets and nearly a third of patients returning to the hospital after a cardiac event within 90 days.

Plexxikon, Daiichi Sankyo complete potential $935 million deal

Daiichi Sankyo Co. Ltd. completed its acquisition of Plexxikon Inc., giving shareholders $805 million upfront with the possibility of near-term milestone payments of another $130 million on Plexxikon’s potential melanoma drug.
Plexxikon will retain its name, employees and Berkeley facilities, and it will continue research and development operations as an independent unit of Tokyo-based Daiichi Sankyo.

Impax challenges heartburn drug patents

Generic drug maker Impax Laboratories Inc. is challenging patents around the heartburn drug Dexilant.
Those patents on the delayed-release 30-milligram and 60-milligram version of Dexilant are held by Takeda Pharmaceutical Co., which filed a patent infringement suit Friday against Hayward-based Impax (NASDAQ: IPXL) in U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California.

Early-stage Genentech cancer drug combo shows promise

A combination of two cancer-fighting drugs that block two common cancer pathways is showing promise in an early-stage study, according to Genentech Inc.
The South San Francisco-based U.S. arm of Swiss drug maker Roche said at the American Association for Cancer Research conference in Orlando, Fla., this weekend that a combination of the experimental drugs GDC-0973 and GDC-0941 is being tested in a 27-patient study. Several patients saw decreased tumor size, Genentech said, and three others found that their disease stabilized over six months.

Vivus shares climb on obesity drug data

Vivus Inc., seeking to reverse the Food and Drug Administration’s October rejection of its obesity-fighting drug Qnexa, said a long-term study shows that patients who took the drug used blood pressure pills 18.9 percent less.
After two years, patients in the study also saw a 26 percent drop in their levels of triglycerides, high levels of which are associated with obesity and heart disease, the Mountain View-based company (NASDAQ: VVUS) said.
The study is important for Vivus because the company must show that weight loss is tied to improvement of other obesity-related health markers.

Ventus rests easy with solid sleep apnea trial results

A device designed to treat obstructive sleep apnea helped patients breathe with fewer interruptions in a 250-patient clinical trial, according to developer Ventus Medical Inc.
The Provent Sleep Apnea Therapy from Belmont-based Ventus, which has been backed by De Novo Ventures, Mohr Davidow Ventures and Johnson & Johnson Development Corp., already has been cleared by the Food and Drug Administration and last month received its CE Mark certification from European regulators. The study, however, could provide further evidence to convince insurers to cover the device.

Saturday, April 2, 2011

Biotech in California needs one voice - Guest Opinion from Matt Gardner

In the summer of 2009, as CEO of the trade group BayBio, I invited a former biotech CEO and member of the National Academy of Sciences to meet over the topic of succession planning. I invited this friend to consider becoming the next CEO of BayBio, as the industry needed a leader capable of delivering BayBio to new heights. My friend said no.
“There are too many biotech organizations in California,” was the reply. I heartily agreed. In fact, since 2005 I had been expounding the virtue of a single voice.

Friday, April 1, 2011

Bionovo ready to shift hot-flash drug manufacturing to Bay Area

Bionovo is under a tight deadline to get its new production facility in Hayward up and running by mid-April.
The Emeryville-based biotechnology company signed a 51,500-square-foot lease early this year and has fast-tracked the build-out to make sure it can start making enough Menerba, a drug for menopause hot-flash symptoms, in time for Phase 3 clinical trials.
Previous attempts to outsource production to facilities in Asia and Colorado left executives concerned about quality, so they decided to set up their own manufacturing site closer to home.