Friday, September 30, 2011

Chip Scarlett's skills may pay off — again — at Geron

A lot of biotech executives may be underwater in terms of their stock options, but new Geron Corp. CEO Chip Scarlett takes underwater to an extreme.
Scarlett is well known around the Bay Area biotech world for his 25-year career, including stints at the helm of Tercica Inc. and Proteolix Inc. Both companies scored big buyout deals, and Scarlett swam on to help South San Francisco startup Vega Therapeutics.
Scarlett might be equally well known for his stunning underwater photography. His work has appeared in Outside, Scuba Diver and Nature’s Best Magazine, to name a few.

Genomic Health colon cancer test wins Medicare coverage

Medicare will cover Genomic Health Inc.’s Oncotype DX colon cancer recurrence test.
The Redwood City medical diagnostics company (NASDAQ: GHDX) said Friday that Columbia, S.C.-based Palmetto GBA, which administers Medicare health insurance for the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services, established a formal coverage policy for all Medicare patients with stage II colon cancer.
The coverage is effective for claims as of Sept. 18.

Finalists for 2nd Lawrence Berkeley Lab campus push for deal

Six development teams continue pushing to be selected for Lawrence Berkeley National Lab’s proposed 2 million-square-foot second campus — a project that has the potential to transform the site and city where it lands.
Not only would the lab’s facilities and jobs be a huge boost to any community, the potential for spinoff companies and additional real estate development has cities and developers eager for a decision.

One-on-one with former Merck strategy officer Merv Turner, on the BioExec Institute

It’s pretty clear from its name — the BioExec Institute — that the University of California, Berkeley, program is for biotech industry executives.
The program of three two-day modules — Oct. 5-6, Nov. 2-3 and Dec. 7-8 — aims to connect vice president-level biotech managers with proven life sciences and venture capital industry veterans. Among the speakers this year are Merv Turner, the recently retired Merck & Co. chief strategy officer, as well as Kristin Peck, executive vice president of worldwide business development and innovation at Pfizer Inc.; and James Topper, general partner of Frazier Healthcare Ventures.
Turner’s perspective, for one, is particularly sought after. He started at Merck Research Laboratories in 1985, eventually becoming senior vice president of worldwide licensing and external research and Merck’s first chief strategy officer.
I spoke recently with Turner about the BioExec program and his views, from the comfort and safety of Big Pharma retirement, of the drug-development industry.

Geron, StemCells trials tackle different approaches to spinal cord injuries

Two groundbreaking spinal cord trials led by Bay Area companies, both of which hit milestones in September, could make or break commercial stem cell therapies.
Although the trials are different in many ways, both are closely watched by stem cell advocates and opponents and could have implications for California’s stem cell research funding agency.

Threshold cancer-fighting drug enters critical Phase III trial

Threshold Pharmaceuticals Inc. is set to launch a second Phase III trial of its cancer-fighting drug as it waits for critical data from another study in pancreatic cancer.
Results of the initial study, expected as soon as the end of the year or early 2012, are important for the Redwood City-based drug developer. It is the first randomized, controlled trial of Threshold’s signature drug, TH-302.

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Geron hires John 'Chip' Scarlett as new CEO

Geron Corp. said Thursday its board of directors has named John Scarlett as its new chief executive officer and to its board of directors.
Scarlett was previously the CEO of biotechnology Proteolix, which was acquired by Onyx Pharmaceuticals in November 2009 for $276 million.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Onyx submits multiple myeloma drug for FDA approval

Less than two years after buying Proteolix Inc. and its lead drug candidate, carfilzomib, Onyx Pharmaceuticals Inc. is asking federal regulators to approve the experimental multiple myeloma treatment.
South San Francisco-based Onyx (NASDAQ: ONXX) said it submitted a completed new drug application to the Food and Drug Administration, seeking accelerated approval for carfilzomib. Onyx, which had already won fast-track status for carfilzomib, had been submitting the application on a rolling basis since January.
Analysts have said that carfilzomib could hit $1 billion in annual sales.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Transcept resubmits middle-of-the-night sleep drug to FDA

Transcept Pharmaceuticals Inc. resubmitted its middle-of-the-night sleep drug to federal regulators, two months after the drug was rejected, the company said Tuesday.
The Richmond company (NASDAQ: TSPT) earlier this month said that it planned to resubmit the drug, called Intermezzo, by the end of September. The Food and Drug Administration has said its review of the new application could take as little as two months.

Spine specialist SpineGuard nabs $6.2M in late-stage funding

SpineGuard, a San Francisco-based maker of hand-held devices designed to improve spine-fusion surgery outcomes, said Tuesday it’s won $6.2 million in late-stage funding from various investors.
They include prior investors Crédit Agricole Private Equity, Innoven Partenaires, A Plus Finance, and Delta Partners, which provided $11 million in funding in the spring of 2009.

Joint BioEnergy Institute scientists ID new type of biofuel

Researchers at the Joint BioEnergy Institute in Emeryville identified a possible new type of biofuel that could replace diesel.
The JBEI, run by Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, engineered the new fuel, called bisabolane, from two microbes -- a bacteria and a yeast.
Fuel made this way, the lab said, would be “clean, green, renewable and produced in the United States.”

NeurogesX chief medical officer resigns, heads to Jazz Pharma

Dr. Jeffrey Tobias, chief medical officer of pain drug developer NeurogesX Inc. since 2005, will resign effective Oct. 16
It is the second high-level departure this year for San Mateo-based NeurogesX (NASDAQ: NGSX). President and CEO Anthony DiTonno said in April that he would retire by the end of the year.

Medical device maker Si-Bone raises $16 million

Si-Bone Inc., which makes a medical device to treat the sacroiliac joint, raised $16 million.
Montreaux Equity Partners of Menlo Park led the round and put John Savarese, M.D., on Si-Bone’s board of directors as part of the investment.

Quark Pharma pulls IPO plans again

Quark Pharmaceuticals Inc., which develops RNA interference drugs, withdrew initial public offering plans to raise up to $20 million.
The company reportedly did not obtain favorable terms and could raise additional private funding, according to a Dow Jones VentureWire story.

Monday, September 26, 2011

Brian Ward hired as diaDexus CEO

Medical test maker diaDexus Inc. hired Brian Ward, who works on its board of directors, as chief executive officer, starting at once.
James Panek, who was the South San Francisco company’s interim CEO, will remain on its board of directors. He was once CEO of VaxGen Inc., which eventually merged with diaDexus.

Slideshow: Medtech Vision and the women of life sciences

The lineup of life sciences conferences seems to be ever growing and, inevitably, I have to make a call about which ones to attend and which ones not to cover.
One that I wish I could have attended was MedtechVision 2011 — the first conference designed by and for women in the medtech industry — in Menlo Park on Sept. 15-16. It featured some established and up-and-coming medical device and medical technology players, including Ashley Ledbetter Dombkowski of 23andMe, Beckie Robertson of Versant Ventures, Lisa Earnhardt of Intersect ENT and Ferolyn Powell of Abbott Vascular.
But the slideshow to the right isn’t just my mea culpa for missing the conference. It’s a further sign that corner offices in life sciences businesses in the Bay Area frequently are occupied by women. What’s more, there seems to be a growing number of women — at least in my limited experience — a few rungs down.

Millennium begins early-stage trial of Sunesis cancer drug

Millennium Pharmaceuticals Inc. started a Phase I safety trial of a solid tumor-fighting drug with South San Francisco’s Sunesis Pharmaceuticals Inc.
Although it has a limited number of patients, the trial is a big deal for Sunesis (NASDAQ: SNSS) because the agreement with Cambridge, Mass.-based Millennium includes milestone payments. Sunesis did not say if dosing of the first patient in the Phase I trial triggered a milestone, but CEO Daniel Swisher said the company is pleased to see that the project moved quickly into Phase I.

Startup aims to bring speech therapy into the home

One of my few memories of speech therapy — it must have been first grade — was the location: For the offense of tongue thrusting, I was sentenced to a broom closet to the side of the little-used stage in the gymnasium of Columbus Elementary.
It’s fair to say that speech therapy has come a long way in the past 40 years — literally out of the closet. But Alexey Salamini is ready for the next evolution.
Salamini and friend Gordy Rogers have developed a device, called Speech Buddies, that could cut down on the number of visits to the $100-per-hour speech therapist’s office. The focus of their company, Articulate Technologies Inc., is children with articulation disorders, but they’ve also discovered a growing market targeting foreign business people as well.

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Genentech antibody-chemo punch strong in breast cancer trial

A mid-stage trial of a highly selective version of Genentech Inc.’s blockbuster cancer-fighting drug Herceptin found that metastatic breast cancer patients lived a median of five months longer without their disease worsening.
South San Francisco-based Genentech and its Swiss parent Roche said a Phase II trial found that patients using the antibody-drug conjugate — called trastuzumab emtansine, or T-DM1 —saw a 41 percent reduction in the risk of death or of their disease worsening.

Friday, September 23, 2011

Intuitive Surgical eyes growth with move to Sunnyvale

Intuitive Surgical Inc. moved its manufacturing employees into a new 156,000-square-foot facility in early August, but CEO Gary Guthart jokes it feels “surprisingly full for having just been opened.”
The company recently expanded into a new $20 million manufacturing facility next door to its headquarters on Kifer Road in Sunnyvale. The new building could eventually allow Intuitive to double production of its robotic da Vinci Surgical System, Guthart said.

QB3 unwraps 'startup in a box'

QB3 is delivering a startup in a box, minus only the bow.
Working with banking and legal partners, the University of California’s link between life sciences companies and academic researchers is rolling out a new program — dubbed Startup in a Box — to move researchers-cum-entrepreneurs a step closer to their startup dreams. If all goes as planned, the program will launch 15 to 25 companies a year, said Douglas Crawford, associate director of QB3, or the California Institute for Quantitative Biosciences.
“It starts with, ‘I’ve got an idea’ to a well-functioning company,” Crawford said.

CIRM targets patients, advocates to carry its message

True believers in stem cell research — patients and patient advocacy groups — are being recruited by California’s stem cell research funding agency to spread the gospel as officials consider asking voters to support another multibillion-dollar bond issue.
Whether the campaign by the California Institute for Regenerative Medicine results in a new bond measure to supplement the $3 billion guarantee provided by Proposition 71’s passage in 2004 is an open question. Leaders of the San Francisco-based agency say they have not decided whether to ask voters to extend funding past 2017, when Prop. 71 money stops.
One thing, however, is sure: Many patients, advocacy groups and scientific researchers are eager to become both preacher and choir.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

StemCells Inc. treats 1st spinal cord patient with neural stem cells

Neural stem cells developed by Newark’s StemCells Inc. were transplanted Wednesday into a spinal cord injury patient, the first person treated in a Phase I/II trial.
The procedure, led by Dr. Raphael Guzman, a neurosurgeon and Stanford University faculty member, was performed at Balgrist University Hospital at the University of Zurich in Switzerland.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

FDA ready for onslaught Thursday at medical device 'town hall'

Let’s just say that Jeff Shuren isn’t expecting an easy Thursday.
Given that federal regulators are a consistent target of Bay Area medical device company CEOs and their venture capital backers, the director of the Food and Drug Administration’s Center for Devices and Radiological Health expects an earful at a “town hall” meeting in South San Francisco.

New Cerus boss looks to expand blood franchise in U.S., abroad

Cerus Corp. is out for blood, but it really needs money.
The Concord company (NASDAQ: CERS) has long been a player in the blood-testing field. Its Intercept system, developed with the help of Baxter International Inc. (NYSE: BAX) and approved in Europe in 2002, makes transfusions safer by inactivating a killer lineup of pathogens — viruses, bacteria and parasites — that otherwise can enter the blood supply undetected.
But after some missteps, Cerus is back, leaner and focused, again, on expanding into the more-lucrative red blood cell testing business.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

PacBio lays off 130

Pacific Biosciences of California laid off 130 employees, more than a quarter of its workforce, the company said Tuesday.
The Menlo Park developer of gene sequencing equipment (NASDAQ: PACB) said the moves will conserve cash as it tries to grow its customer base.
PacBio said it expects to end the third quarter with about $190 million.

1st Californian enrolls in Geron stem cell trial in spinal cord injuries

The Stanford University School of Medicine and the Santa Clara Valley Medical Center enrolled the first Californian — and fourth person overall — in a clinical trial using embryonic stem cells to treat recent spinal cord injuries.
The experimental treatment, developed by Menlo Park-based Geron Corp. (NASDAQ: GERN), is meant to test the safety of the cells in up to 10 people at seven trial sites in the United States. It is the first clinical study using cells from human embryonic stem cells approved by the Food and Drug Administration.

UCSF dementia expert Bill Seeley wins $500,000 MacArthur fellowship

Dr. William Seeley, an associate professor of neurology at the University of California, San Francisco’s Memory and Aging Center, won one of 22 no-strings-attached John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation fellowships of $500,000.
Focusing on why particular dementias targets specific populations of neurons, Seeley, 39, uses magnetic resonance imaging, microscopy and clinical exams to look at the structural, functional and behavioral aspects of neurodegenerative disease.

CardioKinetix raises $44M Series E round

CardioKinetix Inc. said Tuesday it has raised $44 million in a two-tranche Series E financing.
The Menlo Park-based medical device company makes implant technology to treat heart failure. It plans to use the funds to further its clinical studies and for commercialization.

Monday, September 19, 2011

Gilead to seek approval yet this year for HIV-fighting Quad pill

Gilead Sciences Inc. will file for regulatory approval of its four-in-one, HIV-fighting Quad pill by the end of the year — rather than first-quarter 2012 — after a new study showed the drug was as effective as another combination.
In the third of four studies involving the Quad or its ingredients, Foster City-based Gilead (NASDAQ: GILD) said 90 percent of patients taking the Quad treatment saw a reduction in AIDS virus levels, or “viral load.” That compared with 87 percent of patients dosed with a combination of Gilead’s Truvada, the Bristol-Myers Squibb protease inhibitor atazanavir, or Reyataz, and the Abbott Laboratories booster Norvir, or ritonavir.

UC awards 13 grants to projects to bridge 'valley of death'

The University of California has awarded 13 “proof of concept” grants to researchers to help bridge the so-called “valley of death” and develop new technologies or treatments.
Among the winners of grants ranging from $100,000 to $250,000 were three Bay Area projects. Gao Liu of the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory is working on a conductive polymer binder and silicon composite electrode, the University of California, Berkeley’s James Evans is developing completely printable batteries for energy storage and UC Berkeley’s Dmitry Budker is working on a next generation of ultra-precise magnetic sensors.

OneWorld Health to tackle parasitic worm infections in India

Nonprofit drug developer OneWorld Health will work with the Jharkhand State Department of Health in India to reduce infections caused by a parasitic worm.
Soil-transmitted helminths, or STHs, attack the gastrointestinal track and can cause severe blood and vitamin deficiencies. An estimated 2 billion people globally have active infections at any given time, according to South San Francisco-based OneWorld, causing abdominal pain, diarrhea, weakness and, in some cases, chronic intestinal blood loss that leads to anemia.

CardioDx fills CFO, chief medical officer posts

A veteran Bay Area biotech chief financial officer and a former investment bank analyst have joined CardioDx Inc. in senior management jobs.
Andrew Guggenhime, who was CFO of Facet Biotech Corp. and PDL BioPharma Inc. in Redwood City, joined CardioDx in the same position, the company said Monday. Dr. Mark Monane, formerly managing director of equity research at Needham & Co. for 11 years, joined CardioDx as chief medical officer.

Pacific Biosciences, Cycle Computing partner for DNA analysis in the cloud

Pacific Biosciences of California Inc. said Monday it has partnered with Cycle Computing LLC on DNA analysis technology in the cloud, or Internet. Financial details of the partnership were not disclosed.
The Menlo Park-based company (NASDAQ:PACB) specializes in Single Molecule Real Time sequencing products, and said demonstrations of the software are being presented this week at two industry-related conferences. A beta version of the technology is expected to be available by the end of 2011.

Friday, September 16, 2011

Sheep help NovaBay target sinusitis

NovaBay Pharmaceuticals Inc. is counting on sheep sinuses to shepherd one of its experimental drugs into flocks of patients and investors.
NVC-422 is one of the Emeryville drug developer’s (AMEX: NBY) so-called Aganocide compounds, designed to kill bacteria quickly and effectively but without the bacteria building up resistance over time. The compound is being studied in everything from the skin infection impetigo to urinary catheter blockage to eye care, though Novartis’ Alcon eye care unit returned rights to the drug this summer.
But recent findings from an Australian study could cause NovaBay to put more attention on sinusitis.

'It's time to go big,' says OneWorld Health's Richard Chin

Daunting science, technology and business questions aside, as OneWorld Health and its partners move closer to launching a semisynthetic version of a key anti-malaria drug ingredient, CEO Richard Chin is thinking a lot about history.

Natus Medical buys sleep diagnostic firm Embla Systems

Natus Medical Inc. said Friday it has acquired Embla Systems LLC, which makes devices used to diagnose sleep apnea.
San Carlos-based Natus (NASDAQ:BABY) bought all the outstanding shares of Embla capital stock for $16.1 million in cash, exclusive of direct costs of the acquisition, according to a prepared statement from the company. Embla had revenue of about $30 million for the fiscal year ending December 31, 2010.

Giant biotech site put on the block

Six months after entitling an 82-acre waterfront commercial campus on Oyster Point in South San Francisco, owners Shorenstein Properties and SKS Development are quietly putting the huge property on the market.
The partnership has retained both Eastdil Secured and Cassidy Turley, pursuing a dual strategy of seeking a buyer while also reaching out to potential tenants. The property, which is likely to hit the market next week, is entitled for 2.25 million square feet and 20 acres of parkland.

Patent fight puts ALS drug at risk

A patent fight risks slowing development of an experimental treatment for Lou Gehrig’s disease from Neuraltus Pharmaceuticals Inc.
Swiss drug company Nuvo Research AG claims in a lawsuit filed last month in U.S. District Court for Northern California that a former consultant and University of California, San Francisco , professor, Dr. Michael McGrath, tapped research tied to its drug as the backbone of a treatment now in a mid-stage clinical trial led by Palo Alto’s Neuraltus.
The suit is significant because Neuraltus’ drug is one of a handful of potential treatments that have caught the attention of patients with the neurodegenerative disease, also known as amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, or ALS.
The case also underscores how biotech companies need solid intellectual property protection.

OneWorld, Sanofi a year away with semisynthetic malaria drug

Seven years, nearly $50 million in Bill Gates’ cash and a web of partnerships later, nonprofit drug developer OneWorld Health is on the verge of delivering a synthetic ingredient key to making new anti-malarial drugs cheaper.
To get there, the organization has had to ditch highrise offices in San Francisco’s financial district for a nondescript two-story building in South San Francisco and cut half of its employees to conserve cash. But OneWorld and French drug maker Sanofi, which recently started scaling up production in a 100,000-liter fermentation facility, expect to release their semisynthetic version of artemisinin in about 12 months.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Final Five go to the polls in QB3 science contest

QB3’s version of “American Idol” is down to five finalists, and unlike the TV show, all of these contestants should be cheered, not jeered.
I reported on the contest — designed to raise the profile of science developed at the University of California, Berkeley, UCSF and UC Santa Cruz — back in July. At the time, judges like former Genentech CEO Art Levinson, Chiron Corp. founder Bill Rutter and Five Prime Therapeutics founder Rusty Williams were cutting 38 entries down to 10.
Now it’s down to five. Online voting by students, staff and postdoctoral fellows at the three UC campuses covered by QB3 — the California Institute for Quantitative Biosciences — will determine the winner.

Cellerant Therapeutics nabs $16.7M from gov't for radiation poisoning treatment

Cellerant Therapeutics Inc. said Thursday it has received an additional $16.7 million in funding to help the company advance its development to treat Acute Radiation Syndrome or radiation poisoning.
The capital comes from the Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority in the Office of the Assistant Secretary for Preparedness and Response of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

Theravance superbug drug wins European OK

European regulators approved a drug developed by Theravance Inc. to treat the superbug MRSA in patients with hospital-acquired pneumonia.
The European Commission gave marketing approval Thursday to Astellas Pharma Europe Ltd., which signed a deal in 2005 with South San Francisco-based Theravance (NASDAQ: THRX). The drug, Vibativ, is a once-daily injectable to treat Gram-positive bacteria, including methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus, or MRSA.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Transcept to resubmit rejected sleep drug to FDA this month

Transcept Pharmaceuticals Inc. will resubmit its middle-of-the-night sleep drug for FDA approval this month, the company said Wednesday.
Following a meeting with the Food and Drug Administration, Richmond-based Transcept (NASDAQ: TSPT) said it will not undertake new studies of Intermezzo, its drug to help people who wake up in the middle of the night. The FDA rejected the drug in July, citing concerns that the lozenge would be used properly.

Callidus sells sales software to Pfizer

Pleasanton’s Callidus Software Inc. said it sold a software-as-a-service package to pharmaceutical giant Pfizer Inc.
Callidus (NASDAQ: CALD) didn’t give any financial details of this sale.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

InterMune prices stock, note offerings, seeks $222 million

InterMune Inc. will sell 4 million shares at $24 each and offer $135 million in convertible senior notes at 2.5 percent, the company said in a Securities and Exchange Commission filing late Tuesday.
The offerings, expected to close around Sept. 19, would net InterMune about $222 million, according to the Brisbane company (NASDAQ: ITMN).

Solta to buy ultrasound fat treatment company from Medicis

Solta Medical Inc. will buy all of the outstanding shares of Medicis Technologies Corp. for $15 million at closing and up to $20 million after hitting regulatory and sales milestones with Medicis’ products, including one using ultrasound technology to reduce fat.
It is the latest pickup by Hayward-based Solta (NASDAQ: SLTM), which has built a portfolio of aesthetics products through acquisition. Last year, it bought CLRS Technology, which uses heat and light to treat acne, and Aesthera Corp., which makes skin treatments that use light and air pressure.
Now it could have Medicis Technologies’ fat-burning LipoSonix technologies by the end of the year.

One-on-one with Intersect ENT's Lisa Earnhardt

Lisa Earnhardt has a message for those who suffer from chronic rhinosinusitis: There is a better way.
By definition, “chronic” rhinosinusitis is inflammation of the sinuses that lasts 12 weeks or more. It can be accompanied by a swelled feeling in the face, fatigue, headache and loss of taste, to name a few. (Just thinking about it makes my head hurt.) Of the 30 million people in the United States who suffer from CRS, about a half-million elect to correct it through surgery.
Often, however, even with surgery, the symptoms return.
But Earnhardt thinks her company, Palo Alto’s Intersect ENT Inc., has a better answer. Its Propel stent is placed in the sinus cavities right after sinus surgery, keeping the sinuses open and releasing a corticosteroid over a period of time.
Then Propel disappears — it is absorbed into the body.

Monday, September 12, 2011

GSK sues Impax over generic enlarged prostate drug

GlaxoSmithKline — the drug giant working with Impax Laboratories Inc. on a late-stage Parkinson’s disease drug — has filed a patent infringement suit against Impax around a generic version of its male health drug Jalyn.
It is at least the fourth such suit filed against Hayward-based Impax (NASDAQ: IPXL) in little more than five months because Impax regularly challenges the validity of patents while it seeks to be the first on the market with generic versions of those drugs.

InterMune could raise $200M in stock, notes deal

InterMune Inc. plans to raise $100 million through convertible notes and sell 4 million shares of common stock that could add another $100 million, the company said Monday.
The timing demonstrates some confidence by the Brisbane-based biotech drug developer (NASDAQ: ITMN) that its lung disease drug, Esbriet, can hit blockbuster status.

InterMune set to launch lung drug in Germany

InterMune Inc. on Thursday will launch the first drug approved in Europe for use against a fatal lung-scarring disease.
The Brisbane company (NASDAQ: ITMN), which has struggled to win approval in the United States for Esbriet for patients with idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis, or IPF, will make the drug commercially available initially in Germany.

Gene Security Network in race for prenatal test

Gene Security Network’s race to develop safer, more accurate prenatal test is all business for Matt Rabinowitz — and it’s personal.
A relative of Rabinowitz, Gene Security Network’s CEO, took a blood test for the likelihood of Down’s syndrome in her unborn baby and was deemed low risk, but she gave birth to a child with the disease. The child died six days later.
The probability of such inaccurate results could shrink if Gene Security Network and a handful of other prenatal diagnostics developers continue their pace toward new tests. But GSN, like San Carlos-based Verinata Health and well-known Sequenom Inc., face an uncertain future of regulation that could restrain investors.

Genentech seeks FDA OK for skin cancer drug

Once ignored by drug-development companies, a treatment for a disfiguring skin cancer could hit the market as soon as next year.
Genentech Inc., which has been working with Curis Inc. (NASDAQ: CRIS) of Cambridge, Mass., has submitted a new drug application to the Food and Drug Administration for its drug, vismodegib. It is aimed at patients with advanced basal cell carcinoma for whom surgery is considered inappropriate.

IPierian returning to stem cell roots under new CEO

IPierian Inc. is heading back to the future.
Staked financially by some of the best-known firms in life sciences, like GlaxoSmithKline and Kleiner Perkins Caufield and Byers, and intellectually by top-notch research from Harvard University, South San Francisco-based iPierian looked to ride a wave of drugs built around induced pluripotent stem cell technology.

Friday, September 9, 2011

Juvaris goes virtual after drug, technology licensing deal

If it walks like an acquisition and quacks like an acquisition, it may be structured as a licensing deal.
Privately held Juvaris BioTherapeutics Inc. will go virtual, its CEO will focus on being an executive-in-residence at one of its venture capital backers and its vice president of research will shift to the same role at Colby Pharmaceutical Co. as Colby licenses Juvaris’ technology and a potential drug.

Lessons learned by Complete Genomics' Cliff Reid while building an industry leader

The revolution in the speed, reliability and cost of human genome sequencing will spread into doctors’ offices next year, predicts Cliff Reid, chairman, president and CEO of Complete Genomics. But just a few years ago, that dream was shrouded by the day-to-day realities of trying to keep the Mountain View company afloat.

Executive Profile: Cliff Reid of Complete Genomics

Cliff Reid graduated from MIT at 20 with a degree in physics, but he knew he didn’t want to be a physicist. He went to Harvard Business School but was unsatisfied. Then he enrolled in what is now Stanford University’s management science and engineering program, and he “caught the Silicon Valley bug.” Reid sees his professional career in three overlapping areas — physics, where he tried to understand the universe; computer science, where he tried to understand the nature of how the brain makes decisions; and now computational biology, where his 250-employee Complete Genomics is trying to help researchers understand the origins of life.

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Maxygen board approves $10 million boost in stock repurchase program

Maxygen Inc. said Thursday its board of directors approved upping the company’s stock repurchase program from $10 million to $20 million.

Cardica inks distribution deal in Japan, gets $4M loan

Medical device maker Cardica Inc. signed a deal to distribute one of its products in Japan and got a $4 million loan from the distributor.
Redwood City-based Cardica (NASDAQ: CRDC) made the five-year deal Sept. 2 with Century Medical Inc., which already distributes one of its devices in Japan.

BioSF manager leaves after 3 months

The leader of a nascent public-private effort to build San Francisco’s life sciences industry has left after about three months on the job.
SallyAnn Reiss resigned last month as program manager of BioSF.

Crescendo Bioscience raises $56M, gives buyout option to Myriad

Myriad Genetics Inc. will invest $25 million in Crescendo Bioscience — with an option to buy the South San Francisco molecular diagnostics company — as Crescendo raises an additional $31 million in a Series C round.
The investment by Salt Lake City-based Myriad is structured as long-term debt and is nondilutive to current stockholders, Crescendo said in a press release Thursday. Myriad, best known for its monopoly on a genetic test for breast cancer risk, has a three-year option to buy Crescendo for cash at a predetermined multiple of revenue. That price is based on the growth rate of Crescendo when the option is exercised.

Research Track: Gladstone scientist finds new target for treating symptoms of Parkinson's

A scientist at the Gladstone Institutes has identified how the lack of a brain chemical known as dopamine can rewire the interaction between two groups of brain cells and lead to symptoms of Parkinson’s disease.
In a paper being published online Sept. 8 in Neuron, Gladstone investigator Anatol Kreitzer identifies how the loss of dopamine alters the wiring of a small group of brain cells, kicking off a chain of events that eventually leads to difficulties controlling movement — a hallmark of Parkinson’s disease. More than a half-million people suffer from Parkinson’s in the United States, including the boxer Muhammad Ali and the actor Michael J. Fox.

NeurogesX seeks to expand pain patch use

NeurogesX Inc. wants to expand the market of its Qutenza pain patch to include people with HIV-associated nerve pain.
The San Mateo company (NASDAQ: NGSX) said Thursday that it filed a supplemental new drug application with the Food and Drug Administration. The application includes a request for priority review, which would cut the agency’s review time from 10 months to six months.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Exelixis to report important cancer trial data in Q4

Exelixis Inc. will report initial data from an important cancer trial in the fourth quarter, the company said Wednesday.
The South San Francisco drug developer said it hit a pre-set number of “events” in its Phase III trial of its drug, cabozantinib, in patients with medullary thyroid cancer.

Changing the course of disease, one tweet or 'like' at a time

"New media” or “social media” is helping recruit to clinical trials and maybe — potentially — even reshaping the way trials are done. But take a look at the companies making this happen: Apple Inc. of Cupertino, Twitter Inc. of San Francisco, WordPress developer Automattic Inc. of San Francisco, YouTube of San Bruno.
These Bay Area technologies are connecting people — whether they are fomenting revolution in the Middle East or trying to revolutionize treatment of a deadly disease — are largely due to Bay Area innovators and entrepreneurs.

Dynavax lands $600K SBIR grant for autoimmune inflammation study

Dynavax Technologies Corp. got a two-year grant of $600,000 for the study of autoimmune inflammation.
Berkeley-based Dynavax (NASDAQ: DVAX) got the money as a Small Business Innovation Research, or SBIR, grant. The National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases gave the money.

Nancy Stagliano named CEO of iPierian

Stem cell therapeutics business iPierian Inc. hired Nancy Stagliano as chief executive officer.
She takes over from Peter Van Vlasselaer, who was interim CEO and who will become executive chairman of the South San Francisco company’s board of directors.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

GSK returns rights to 3 Anacor drug targets, expands deal on another

GlaxoSmithKline plc will return the rights to three drug targets to Anacor Pharmaceuticals Inc. but pay $5 million up front as it expands the deal around drugs zeroing in on a bacterial enzyme, malaria and tuberculosis.
Palo Alto-based Anacor (NASDAQ: ANAC) said the new deal could land another $11.3 million in milestone and research funding by the end of 2012.

Friday, September 2, 2011

Bayer workers reject 4-year contract offer

Bayer HealthCare Pharmaceuticals workers in Berkeley rejected a proposed contract that would have boosted pay nearly $8,000 over four years but increased employees’ contributions for health care.

FDA to decide on Vivus erectile dysfunction drug by end of April

Federal regulators accepted Vivus Inc.’s potential treatment for erectile dysfunction, the Mountain View company said Thursday, moving the drug one step closer to approval by the end of April.

Patients tap the Net to enlist in fight against ALS

Ben Harris is taking on Lou Gehrig’s disease, one Internet message board at a time.
Harris and a band of fellow patients with the fatal muscle-wasting disease are actively recruiting others into a mid-stage trial of a new drug for amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, or ALS, by Neuraltus Pharmaceuticals Inc.
The movement shows the growing role that the Internet, particularly social media, is playing in filling key clinical trials, especially those focused on rare diseases like ALS. That has implications for cash-hungry companies as well: The faster Neuraltus can enroll patients in its Phase II study, for example, the faster it can discover whether the drug actually does what leaders of the Palo Alto company believe it will do — slow or stop ALS from gradually tightening its suffocating grip.

In the market for science: Science Exchange links researchers online with needed resources

A trio of entrepreneurs wants to do for scientific research what Ebay did for consumers.
Science Exchange, a Palo Alto startup launched Aug. 13, is creating an online marketplace where researchers who need to outsource experiments can hook up with other researchers, institutions or companies that have time or equipment to spare. Like with Ebay, they set the parameters of the deal, including price, and create a network of trusted connections.

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Implant company NeuroPace raises $49M

NeuroPace Inc. has secured $49 million in venture capital funding that could end up being as much as $61.9 million, according to a regulatory filing on Tuesday.
The Mountain View-based company specializes in implantable devices for treating neurological disorders by responsive brain stimulation.

Oxigene dumps chief scientific officer, CFO, clinical trials

Oxigene Inc. will cut 11 jobs, reduce its footprint, kill plans for a Phase III thyroid cancer study and end a Phase II lung cancer study as it focuses on sponsored early-stage clinical programs.
The moves, which will leave the South San Francisco biotech company (NASDAQ: OXGN) with five full-time employees, will slash about $2 million in annual expenses.