Tuesday, November 13, 2012

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

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

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

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

Monday, November 12, 2012

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

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

Stanford self-healing skin could someday shield smartphones

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

New wave of local companies tackles Lou Gehrig's disease

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

Buck Institute, partner spawn startup

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

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

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

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

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

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

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

Monday, November 5, 2012

Pharmacyclics stock sags on disappointing clinical results

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

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

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

Pathworks Diagnostics names Lee McCracken as CEO

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

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

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

Friday, November 2, 2012

UCSF partners schizophrenia treatments

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

BNBuilders see project growth in health care, colleges

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

Patients' tales, biotech legends add weight to BayBio awards

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

Thursday, November 1, 2012

Art and Drue Gensler make $5 million gift to the Buck Institute

Art Gensler.
San Francisco architect Art Gensler and his wife Drue have donated $5 million to the Buck Institute for Research on Aging, the largest single individual gift from an individual to the Novato research center.

Pfizer, Bristol-Myers Squibb to fund study of Portola's blood-thinner antidote

Portola CEO Bill Lis.
Portola Pharmaceuticals Inc. will get an undisclosed amount of cash in a deal with Bristol-Myers Squibb Co. and Pfizer Inc. to test its experimental treatment to reverse the effect of blood-thinning Factor Xa inhibitor drugs, the company said Thursday.
The antidote, called PRT-4445, is supposed to reverse the anticoagulation work of so-called Factor Xa inhibitors, including Eliquis from Bristol-Myers Squibb (NYSE: BMY) and Pfizer (NYSE: PFE) and South San Francisco-based Portola's betrixaban.

Advanced Cell Diagnostics lines up $12M Series B round

Diagnostic test developer Advanced Cell Diagnostics Inc. completed a $12 million Series B financing, led by New Leaf Venture Partners.
The Hayward company, which developed its RNAscope technology to detect and quantify RNA biomarkers, said existing investor Morningside Ventures also participated in the round.

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

BioMarin licenses North American rights to rare disease drug, invests $5M in Catalyst Pharmaceutical Partners

Jean-Jacques Bienaime.
BioMarin Pharmaceutical Inc. has licensed North American rights to its rare disease drug Firdapse and is making a $5 million investment in a Florida company that will carry on with a Phase III trial of the drug in the United States.
The investment from Novato-based BioMarin (NASDAQ: BMRN) will help Catalyst Pharmaceutical Partners Inc. (NASDAQ: CPRX) complete an ongoing Phase III clinical trial of Firdapse, which treats patients with the potentially fatal autoimmune disorder Lambert-Eaton Myasthenic Syndrome, or LEMS.
BioMarin will retain its rights to Firdapse elsewhere in the world.

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Neuraltus moving Lou Gehrig's disease drug into Phase III

Neuraltus Pharmaceuticals Inc. will take its experimental Lou Gehrig’s disease drug into Phase III next year.
Although the drug didn’t hit its pre-defined goals in a mid-stage clinical trial, the company said Tuesday, an analysis of the results indicated that the drug stopped the disease, also known as amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, from progressing.
The news is significant for patients with the rare and fatal muscle-crippling disease because there is only one drug approved for ALS and it extends patients’ lives only by weeks.
It also is a victory for the small, privately held Palo Alto company, which is developing the drug in a disease that is poorly understood and where much-larger Biogen Idec (NASDAQ: BIIB) also has an ALS program in Phase III. It also could set up the company to be sold to a larger biotech or pharmaceutical company or strike a collaboration deal.
Yet, perhaps most of all, the decision to move forward with the drug, called NP-001, demonstrates the power of patients to fight for a drug they believe will alter the course of a disease that can kill patients within three to five years of diagnosis. A core group of ALS patients and their caregivers fought to fill Neuraltus’ Phase II trial.

Monday, October 29, 2012

How Massachusetts' Bluebird Bio tapped California's stem cell agency for cash, clinical trial help

Bluebird Bio's David Davidson.
California’s stem cell research funding agency took another step toward putting more potential therapies into human clinical trials.
The California Institute for Regenerative Medicine awarded $9.3 million Thursday to Cambridge, Mass.-based Bluebird Bio and $10.1 million to ViaCyte Inc. of San Diego.
Bluebird is using stem cells and gene therapy to target young patients with the blood disorder beta-thalassemia. ViaCyte is working on an embryonic stem cell-based therapy for patients with insulin-dependent diabetes.
The awards are important because San Francisco-based CIRM, which is funded by California state bonds after voters in 2004 approved Proposition 71, to date has spent hundreds of millions of dollars on basic science and supporting the construction of new stem cell science buildings at places like the University of California, San FranciscoStanford University and theBuck Institute for Age Research in Novato.
I spoke recently with David Davidson, chief medical officer of Bluebird Bio, about the company’s experimental stem cell treatment, called LentiGlobin, how a Massachusetts company came to win money from a California taxpayer-funded initiative (the answer might surprise you) and Bluebird’s upcoming clinical trial.

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Gladstone, Stanford research offers new game plan for drugs targeting ALS

Faking out a key player linked to amyotrophic lateral sclerosis could provide a new game plan in drug researchers’ battle against the deadly disorder also known as Lou Gehrig’s disease, according to scientists at the Gladstone Institutes and Stanford University.
The work is no small feat. The protein implicated in ALS, which slowly destroys the nerve cells that control muscle movement even while patients’ minds remain intact, also is critical for the survival of cells, so researchers essentially found a way of luring excess toxic amounts of the protein, called TDP-43.
The findings from the Gladstone and Stanford researchers, published Sunday in the online version of the science journalNature Genetics, mean little for the survival of ALS patients today. Researchers worked with yeast cells and neurons from rats -- one of the earliest stages in scientific discovery -- and even if a drug were found tomorrow it would likely take a decade or more to run through safety and efficacy trials in humans.
Still, the discovery could provide drug researchers with a new path for blocking the toxic accumulation of TDP-43 at a time when there is only one Food and Drug Administration-approved drug to treat ALS.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Ex-Codexis CEO unveils startup around enzymes to convert natural gas

Alan Shaw of Calysta Energy.
Alan Shaw, the effusive former head of enzyme company Codexis, has reemerged as CEO of San Francisco-based startup Calysta Energy.
And, spoiler alert, he’s got some new freedom and incentive to talk about why he thinks biofuels companies are failing – and why Calysta is taking a different approach.

BioMarin cuts ribbon on new San Rafael campus

BioMarin Pharmaceutical Inc. celebrated the opening of a new campus in San Rafael on Thursday.
The event was attended by California Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom and other VIPs, as well as Jean-Jacques Bienaim√©, BioMarin's (NASDAQ: BMRN) CEO.

Auxogyn teams with Merck Serono on in vitro fertilization embryo test

Auxogyn Inc. made a deal with Merck Serono for advice and support in developing and marketing a test for embryos during in vitro fertilization.
Menlo Park-based Auxogyn and Darmstadt, Germany's Merck Serono will work together on the Early Embryo Viability Assessment, or Eeva Test. It was approved in July by European regulators -- getting the CE mark which allows it to be sold in the European Union -- and it is pending before the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.

Alzheimer's drug failure translates into more job cuts in South San Francisco

Add about 130 jobs at Johnson & Johnson -- most of them in South San Francisco -- to the cuts following the failure of the experimental Alzheimer's disease drug bapineuzumab.
The move by the New Brunswick, N.J.-based drug giant (NYSE: JNJ) and its Janssen Alzheimer Immunotherapy Research & Development LLC unit comes as no surprise after the July and August announcements that bapineuzumab failed a handful of Phase III trials. Still, the decision adds to the South San Francisco workforce woes surrounding the drug.
Elan Corp., which originally developed the drug with Wyeth Pharmaceuticals, has said in regulatory filings that it will close its roughly 400-person South San Francisco drug discovery operations.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Tria Beauty wins lawsuit against rival Oregon Aesthetics

Tria Beauty Inc. won a legal battle against Oregon Aesthetic Technologies Inc. over a device that uses light to treat acne.
Dublin-based Tria had sued Oregon Aesthetic Technologies over a "blue light acne treatment device," saying it was falsely advertised as having been clinically tested and approved by regulators. Tria sells its own blue light acne treatment which has been tested and cleared by the Food and Drug Administration.

Monday, October 22, 2012

Science, people first for biotech investor Bill Bowes

Bill Bowes.
Bill Bowes is old school. Although he is one of the best-known and most well-respected investors in the biotech industry, he generally shuns the spotlight. When it comes to biotech startups, science and people — not hype — rule the day. Bowes, the first money into Amgen Inc. and the founder of venture capital firm U.S. Venture Partners, remains a shrewd judge of personal character and innovation that can shift the life sciences landscape as he starts to unwind from some of his business and philanthropic endeavors. “It’s always tempting to say, ‘Yes,’” he said about his nonprofit board work.

Friday, October 12, 2012

Genentech to 'gross up' to cover taxed benefits for same-sex partners of employees

What’s good for Google and a growing number of employers is good for Genentech — and for gay and lesbian employees and their partners. Starting Jan. 1, the South San Francisco-based biotech giant will “gross up” the pay of employees with same-sex partners to cover the taxes that the Internal Revenue Service grabs for company-provided medical benefits to families and the like. The IRS does not tax company benefits received by opposite-sex spouses. But federal tax law does not extend equivalent treatment to same-sex spouses.

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Friday, October 5, 2012

Maker of sterile bags for drug companies cutting 91 jobs, moving Concord work to Puerto Rico

Sartorius Stedim SUS Inc., which makes sturdy, IV-like, single-use bags used by drug manufacturers, is closing its Concord plant beginning this month and moving operations to an expanded facility in Puerto Rico. Ninety-one people will lose their jobs in the move, with the first wave expected this month, according to an August letter from the company to Stephen Bailer, executive director of the Workforce Development Board of Contra Costa County. The plant closing process will be completed by the end of April 2013. "We have a great workforce there and we're lucky to have such a committed, long-tenured team," said Sartorius President Mary Lavin in New York. "But we needed to expand."

GSK returns drug to Anacor

GlaxoSmithKline has stopped work on a compound from Anacor Pharmaceuticals Inc. after finding resistance among a "small number" of patients in a mid-stage trial in complicated urinary tract infections, Palo Alto-based Anacor said Friday.

Antibody drug maker KaloBios seeks $60M IPO

David Pritchard.
KaloBios Pharmaceuticals Inc. seeks to raise $60 million in an initial public offering, the company said Friday. It is the second IPO by a Bay Area life sciences company in the past week. Heart disease test maker Singulex Inc. filed Sept. 28 for an $86 million IPO. The IPO from South San Francisco's KaloBios, which makes disease-fighting antibodies, comes as no surprise. As the company brought on Jeff Cooper this summer as its first chief financial officer, President and CEO David Pritchard told the San Francisco Business Times that he expected to file IPO paperwork sometime over the next 12 months.

Genentech fires new shot at breast cancer

A “smart bomb” that targets breast cancer cells while minimizing collateral damage to healthy cells is pushing Genentech Inc. toward its fourth cancer drug approval in 18 months. Trastuzumab emtansine, or T-DM1, which the South San Francisco-based U.S. subsidiary of drug giant Roche AG submitted to the Food and Drug Administration in August, could be approved by the end of February. That timeline is good news for patients, some of whom have pushed the FDA to speed approval of the drug, which piggybacks a chemotherapy agent by ImmunoGen Inc. onto Genentech’s long-running cancer drug Herceptin.

Thursday, October 4, 2012

BioSeek nabs $46.7M, five-year EPA contract

BioSeek LLC, a South San Francisco biotechnology company, has won a new $46.7 million,contract from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to study the potential impacts of environmental chemicals, pesticides, "failed pharmaceuticals, and nanomaterials" on human health. The private company and the EPA separately announced the five-year contract, worth up to $46.7 million, depending on the volume of testing required.

'Startup in a Box' program loses leader to consulting firm

Ken Harrison.
A public-private partnership aimed at growing San Francisco’s biotech ecosystem has lost the leader of a core group of programs for the second time in its 1-1/2 years. Ken Harrison, who was entrepreneurship program manager at the QB3 institute housed at the University of California, San Francisco, took a job last month with L.E.K. Consulting. He had joined BioSF, the organization assembled last year by QB3, the mayor’s Office of Economic and Workforce Development and the San Francisco Center for Economic Development, in January. In his role at QB3, or the California Institute for Quantitative Biosciences, Harrison oversaw the exploding Startup in a Box and Accelerator programs.

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

California seeks three more iHubs, expands San Francisco program

GO-Biz executive director Rish Kajan.
San Francisco’s iHub is growing. The unfunded state Innovation Hub program, which began with a San Francisco focus on the biotech industry in Mission Bay, will open to the entire city, state officials said Wednesday. It also will expand to other sectors, including high tech, cleantech nd the city’s fashion and art communities. Kish Rajan, the newly appointed director of the Governor’s Office of Business and Economic Development, or GO-Biz, also said the state is opening the application process from communities throughout the state to expand the number of iHubs by three.

Report: Health care in S.F. a 'sleeping giant,' but biotechs constrained

San Francisco’s surging biotech industry feeds off a network of research institutions, but lease rates and city red tape remain obstacles to growth, according to a report unveiled Wednesday at the San Francisco Chamber of Commerce's “ForecastSF” event. The report, prepared by San Francisco State University associate professor of economics Philip King for the Hospital Council of Northern and Central California, found that hospital and biomedical spending in San Francisco totals $16.7 billion and is responsible for more than 104,000 jobs, or almost one in five jobs in the city. Mayor Ed Lee called the industry a “sleeping giant.” But the giant is restless, according to the report.

NuMedii lands 1st deal to spin drug data into product gold

Atul Butte.
NuMedii Inc. is looking to make a big difference in drug development with Big Data. The Mountain View company co-founded by Stanford University’s Atul Butte and his wife, former Affymetrix executive Gini Deshpande, said Wednesday that it inked a deal to help drug developer Aptalis Pharma Inc. find new treatments for gastrointestinal disorders and cystic fibrosis.

Friday, September 28, 2012

Heart disease test maker Singulex files for $86M IPO

Alameda diagnostic test developer Singulex Inc. filed for an $86.25 million initial public offering Friday, promising a test to measure signs of heart disease at previously undetectable levels. Using the Jumpstart Our Business Startups, or JOBS, Act to qualify as an "emerging growth company," 15-year-old Singulex said in a filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission that its technology helps to earlier detect and monitor biomarkers of heart attacks, heart failure, stroke and other heart diseases.

Fran Heller to lead Bristol-Myers Squibb business development

Former Exelixis Inc. business development chief Fran Heller will join Bristol-Myers Squibb Co. as senior vice president of business development, the company said Friday.

Elan will shutter South S.F. center as it shifts R&D to new company

Elan Corp. will shutter its South San Francisco drug discovery operations as it shifts the work into a new publicly held company. The Irish biotech company (NASDAQ: ELN), which this summer saw a high-profile experimental Alzheimer's drug crash in late-stage clinical trials, will have no drug discovery or preclinical drug development programs by Dec. 31, it said in a Securities and Exchange Commission filing this week. Closing the South San Francisco facilities, where most of Elan's roughly 400 employees are housed, will translate into $160 million to $180 million in employee severance costs, facilities costs and other restructuring charges, according to the Tuesday filing.

Rheumatoid arthritis drug kick-starts Rigel, AstraZeneca

Rigel's Don Payan (left) and Raul Rodriguez.
Rigel Pharmaceuticals Inc. is in strange territory. After spending nearly $700 million over 16 years developing drugs, the low-key South San Francisco biotech company has an experimental rheumatoid arthritis drug swiftly heading toward a date with the FDA. The drug, however, may be just as important to Rigel’s Big Pharma partner.

AvidBiotics nails DuPont deal to obliterate E. coli

AvidBiotics Corp.’s got a beef with its freshly minted multimillion-dollar deal with DuPont — and if things go as the small South San Francisco biotech company plans, it will have chicken and vegetables as well. AvidBiotics inked the deal Sept. 17 with DuPont’s health and nutrition business to develop a targeted protein to kill a strain of Escherichia coli, or E. coli, in meat processing plants. DuPont gave AvidBiotics upfront cash, took a minority stake in the eight-employee company and will pay all research and development costs.

Mission Bay roars to life: Biotechs, UCSF, residential developers jostle for space in S.F.'s newest neighborhood

QB3's Reg Kelly.
On a typical lunch hour in Mission Bay, drug researchers rub elbows with venture capitalists and postdoctoral fellows at Peasant Pies’ big communal table. When store co-founder Ali Keshavarzarrived with his French meat pies four years ago, his store was a vacant shell on an empty plaza. Now Peasant Pies serves lunch to some 400 people a day at its Mission Bay space. “We get more people every day, from housing units, pharma companies, students finishing Ph.D.s,” Keshavarz said. “It’s like a phoenix rising.” With more than 50 life sciences companies and venture capital firms, about 1.7 million square feet of commercial office and lab space, and pilings in place for another 423,900 square feet of office space, Mission Bay is emerging from the recession with plans for a new wave of growth that will crest in 2014-15. “All of this is opportunistic. You try to be flexible and nimble,” said Reg Kelly, director of the QB3 institute at theUniversity of California, San Francisco. “I would like Mission Bay to be a magnet for innovators of all kinds.”

Allopartis subsists on seed cash, Mission Bay incubator space

Allopartis CEO Robert Blazej.
Allopartis Biotechnologies is not unlike the other 25 or so companies that have set up shop in the Mission Bay Innovation Center: It is a startup with eager leadership, intriguing science and a penchant for saving a few dollars here, a few dollars there. What it does not have — again like many others in the life sciences incubator space overseen by biotech company FibroGen Inc. — is a solid path carrying its find-a-better-enzyme technology to the market. Not that the five-person team led by Robert Blazej, Allopartis’s co-founder and president, isn’t trying. In fact, on its way toward discovering better enzymes to more efficiently turn cellulose into energy, the four-year-old company decided to focus on higher-margin biochemicals. The company is waiting for partnerships to come through after “several” pilot-type collaborations with large companies, Blazej said.

Executive Profile: Plexxikon's Kathleen Glaub

Kathleen Glaub.
Coming from a family of immigrant entrepreneurs, Kathy Glaub carried on the family tradition by joining drug development company Plexxikon in 2001 as its 10th employee. She has helped guide the company, now with 45 employees, through one of the most celebrated drug approvals of the past 10 years, the metastatic melanoma drug Zelboraf in August 2011. Along with a commercialization deal with Genentech Inc. and a companion diagnostic by Roche Molecular Diagnostics, Zelboraf set up Plexxikon for its April 2011 sale to Daiichi Sankyo for a potential $935 million.

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Abaxis to get $17M in settlement with Cepheid

Medical products maker Abaxis Inc. will get $17.25 million in a settlement with Cepheid Inc. Sunnyvale-based Cepheid (NASDAQ: CPHD) will pay the money to Union City-based Abaxis (NASDAQ: ABAX) without admitting wrongdoing, but to "terminate all pending and future claims connected with the litigation." The dispute, in which both companies made claims and counterclaims, concerned several patents held by Abaxis over reagent and chemical compositions and processes.