Friday, May 25, 2012

Genentech ups battle on cancer

(San Francisco Business Times subscription required.)

Three years after outsiders worried that Roche’s $47 billion buyout would downgrade the company’s revered research group, the Food and Drug Administration next month could give the legendary South San Francisco biotech company its third drug approval in the past 10 months.
What’s more, Genentech expects to file later this year for FDA approval of another highly targeted and less toxic cancer-fighting drug.
But it isn’t only drugs that were already in the clinic at the time of the Roche deal that have Genentech scientists excited.

Biotech rivalry: Heritage favors Bay Area, but is Boston the future?

(San Francisco Business Times subscription required.)

With increasing amounts of seed, startup and early-stage venture cash, a $10 billion state program and a mixture of biotech startups, mature Big Pharma companies and academic interests within walking distance of each other, the Boston area is surging.

Bayer's CoLaborator seeks startups, partnerships

(San Francisco Business Times subscription required.)
Bayer HealthCare is launching a bold experiment with four companies, 6,000 square feet of space and a dream of where Big Pharma collaborations could lead.
From now-vacant ground-floor space at its research facility in San Francisco’s Mission Bay, the Berkeley-based U.S. unit of the German drug maker this summer will open its doors to four companies. The hope is that Bayer will not be a mere incubator landlord, but a partner that could use those companies’ technologies or drugs.

New growth industry: Bay Area biotech incubators

(San Francisco Business Times subscription required.)
Incubators have increasingly become an important part of nurturing fledgling life sciences companies, especially those spun out of local universities and searching for ways to reduce their early-stage costs.

Mission Bay casts wide net after Salesforce exit

(San Francisco Business Times subscription required.)
When San Francisco-based Salesforce said in 2010 it was moving into Mission Bay, many in the life sciences community were disappointed that the medical and biotech enclave would be filled by high tech workers. When Salesforce abruptly said in February it was scrapping those plans, many in the life sciences community who had come around to the tech giant’s presence were disappointed anew.

Mission Bay impressario Bruce Spaulding retiring

(San Francisco Business Times subscription required.)
Spaulding, 65, joined the Gladstone as chief of strategic planning in late 2009, after 21 years at the University of California, San Francisco. He most recently has been CEO of the Gladstone Foundation.

Thursday, May 24, 2012

CIRM awards $69 million in stem cell research grants targeting 'bubble boy' syndrome, other diseases

Bay Area stem cell researchers looking to cure a "bubble boy" syndrome, fix damaged heart muscle and take on a host of other diseases grabbed more than $25 million in funding from California's stem cell research funding agency.
The San Francisco-based California Institute for Regenerative Medicine, or CIRM, said it awarded a total of $69.4 million to California stem cell scientists. Those projects include the first CIRM-funded collaboration in China and the first project with the Australian federal government.
Seven awards went to three Bay Area institutions: Stanford University, theUniversity of California, San Francisco, and the Gladstone Institutes.

Sandler Foundation offers $20 million challenge gift for UCSF neuroscience center

A $20 million challenge gift to UCSF from the foundation of Bay Area banking veterans Herbert and Marion Sandler will land their family name on the university's new neuroscience building.
The five-story, 237,000-square-foot Sandler Neurosciences Center formally opens this month on the Mission Bay campus of theUniversity of California, San Francisco. Researchers have been moving in since April.
UCSF said it will seek donations to match the gift from the Sandler Foundation, named for the couple who built their fortune around Oakland-based Golden West Financial, the parent company of World Savings Bank.

Bay Area drug makers tackling hundreds of clinical trials

This is the heart of the life sciences industry, with hundreds of companies, scores of drugs, devices and therapeutics on the market and gobs (that's not the scientific term) of clinical trials.
As you might guess, that can be difficult to track on a daily basis. Who's Phase I trial is going into Phase II when? Which Bay Area companies have ALS drugs in the clinic? Wasn't someone working on a drug to treat oral mucositis?
So last year we built an online database, mainly from information available on company websites, that allowed readers to quickly search what Bay Area biopharma companies were working on, by body part or company name or disease indication.
We took that another step this year. Parsing the wealth of data at, we found more than 400 active, human trials by Bay Area companies. It was an eye-rubbing undertaking over a couple of weeks in April, but awe-inspiring as well when you consider the industry's trouble in getting many investors to believe in what the companies are doing.

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Codexis steers enzymes toward biofuels

Codexis Inc. interim CEO Peter Strumph has his pick of challenges: a sinking stock price, disillusioned investors and big market milestones that will take years to reach.
Strumph inherited a company that turned over its top two executives — CEO Alan Shaw and CFO Robert Lawson — in February and is hoping investors will bear with it as it pursues advanced bio-based fuels and chemicals.
In the meantime, Strumph is honing Codexis’s focus — and pulling back from some of the more ambitious plans of former CEO Shaw.

XDx links with LabCorp in lupus licensing deal

XDx Incwill work with Laboratory Corporation of America Holdings to develop a test used on lupus patients.
The test will attempt to predict when the active phase of the autoimmune disease is likely to "flare up," thus making treatment more precise and less harmful to patients.

Onyx crosses fingers as Bayer submits cancer drug to FDA

Onyx Pharmaceuticals Inc. will be paid royalties on sales of a Bayer drug aimed at colorectal cancer if it's approved by the Food and Drug Administration.
Bayer HealthCaresubmitted the drug, regorafenib, to the FDA seeking approval to use it to treat metastatic colorectal cancer. 

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Merck, Codexis extend collaboration three more years

Codexis Inc. said Tuesday it has signed a three-year extension on a collaboration agreement with Merck & Co. Inc.
The deal is related to Codexis' catalyst and process development of enzymes used in pharmaceutical manufacturing. The collaboration is in its sixth year.

Alvine targets Phase IIb celiac disease trial this year

The privately held San Carlos companyreported data Tuesday from a Phase IIa trial of its drug, called ALV-003, that it believes makes it the first mid-stage celiac disease study to meet predetermined goals. It plans to start a Phase IIb trial later this year.

Onyx and Bayer's Nexavar fails late-stage lung cancer trial

Blockbuster cancer drug Nexavar failed a late-stage trial in patients with a type of lung cancer.
South San Francisco-based Onyx Pharmaceuticals Inc. (NASDAQ: ONXX) and partner Bayer HealthCare Pharmaceuticals said the Phase III trial of Nexavar tablets in patients with advanced relapsed or refractory non-squamous, non-small cell lung cancer did not show that patients given Nexavar would live longer.
The trial did show that those patients experienced an improvement in progression-free survival, or the time patients live without the disease worsening.

Medivation, Astellas submit prostate cancer drug for FDA OK

Medivation Inc. and partner Astellas Pharma Inc. could win approval of their experimental prostate cancer drug within six months, after the companies on Monday filed a new drug application with the Food and Drug Administration.
The filing isn't unexpected, but it's a big step forward for San Francisco-based Medivation (NASDAQ: MDVN). Only two years ago, the company's experimental Alzheimer's disease drug Dimebon fizzled in a Phase III trial. But a nearly 1,200-patient, late-stage study of the prostate cancer drug -- called enzalutamide, or MDV-3100 -- showed strong results.

InterMune to divest Actimmune, focus deal cash on lung drug

The Brisbane company (NASDAQ: ITMN) said Monday that it has reached a definitive agreement with Vidara Therapeutics International Ltd. to sell the rights to Actimmune for $55 million and a two-year royalty stream. The cash will be funneled into registration and commercialization of Esbriet, InterMune’s treatment for the fatal lung-scarring disease idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis, and research and development.

Monday, May 21, 2012

Takeda closing South San Francisco antibody research site

Drug maker Takeda will close the South San Francisco site it once tagged as a key to developing early-stage antibody drugs.
The Japanese company said it is consolidating its South San Francisco and San Diego operations, now called Takeda California, in San Diego.
The move comes as Asia's largest drug maker deals with a falling stock price and declining sales of its best-selling drug, the diabetes treatment Actos, even as net income climbed,according to the news agency Bloomberg. It had announced the consolidation in December but held off until Friday on disclosing the fate of the Bay Area site.

IPierian turns its stem cell technology on Alzheimer's, antibody drugs

After fits and starts, iPierian Inc. will focus on developing monoclonal antibodies targeting Alzheimer’s disease and other neurodegenerative conditions, the company said Monday.
The South San Francisco stem cell technology and drug development company -- whose top-drawer investors include Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers , Google Ventures and venture groups tied to GlaxoSmithKline and Biogen Idec -- said its antibody drugs will zero in on tau protein and the Complement pathway.
IPierian’s goal over the next six months is to identify a suite of antibodies for the tau and Complement programs, said CEO Nancy Stagliano, and to raise another round of financing by the end of the year.
Ultimately, iPierian is aiming to begin a human trial with one of those potential drugs in 2014, Stagliano said.

Saturday, May 19, 2012

ApniCure wins FDA clearance for sleep apnea device

ApniCure Inc. can go ahead with marketing a sleep device in the United States after the Food and Drug Administration cleared the product.
The privately held Redwood City company said Friday that its Winx Sleep Therapy System -- using a light, oral vacuum and a slim tube connected to a soft, flexible mouthpiece -- will launch in select markets this year. It is designed for people with obstructive sleep apnea.

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Onyx Pharmaceuticals CEO Tony Coles headlines SF Business Times Biotech Forum — June 14

Onyx Pharmaceuticals CEO Tony Coles will headline the San Francisco Business Times' annual Biotech Forum.
The event begins with registration at 7:30 a.m. Thursday, June 14, at the Hilton San Francisco Union Square, 333 O'Farrell St.
Coles will be interviewed on stage by San Francisco Business Times biotech reporter Ron Leuty before joining a panel of Bay Area biotech industry experts. In addition to Coles, the panel will feature:
Gideon Bollag, senior vice president for research, Plexxikon;
Lissa Goldenstein, president and CEO, Auxogyn;
Craig Muir, partner, Third Rock Ventures; and
Glenn Oclassen, president and CEO, Transcept Pharmaceuticals.
Additionally, the event will feature presentations from three up-and-coming Bay Area life sciences companies -- Avalanche Biotechnologies, Organ-i and Neuraltus Pharmaceuticals -- about their businesses and the big scientific problems they are trying to solve.
Christie Smith, principal and West region life sciences leader at Deloitte Consulting LLP, will give opening remarks.

To order tickets for the event, call or email Jacquie Bischoff at 415-288-4972 or Tickets cost $70 per person or $750 for a table of 10.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

DNAnexus names IT veteran as president, COO

DNAnexus Inc., a young Mountain View company that has created a way for medical researchers to manage and analyze a wealth of DNA data, has hired information technology veteran Marc Olesen as president and chief operating officer. The hiring of Olesen, most recently senior vice president and general manager of network and cloud security for McAfee Inc., represents another step in the blending of life sciences research and information technology worlds.

Avalanche Bio inks manufacturing technology deal with Lonza

Startup Avalanche Biotechnologies Inc. and biologics manufacturer Lonza Group Ltd. inked a deal that will help Avalanche -- and possibly other companies -- produce drugs for clinical trials and more. Financial terms of the manufacturing deal weren't disclosed. San Francisco-based Avalanche said the collaboration will focus on process development and scale-up efforts for making adeno-associated viral vectors for gene therapy.

Rigel moving asthma drug into mid-stage trial

Rigel Pharmaceuticals Inc. will move an asthma drug into a Phase II trial. At the American Thoracic Society Conference in San Francisco, Rigel (NASDAQ: RIGL) said enrollment in the 276-patient trial will begin later this summer in patients with mild to moderate asthma. The trial would collect its final data in September 2013, according to

Monday, May 14, 2012

Berkeley Lab makes electricity from viruses

Researchers at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory figured out a way to generate power using viruses. The viruses, which aren't harmful, convert mechanical energy into electricity. They use the principle of piezoelectricity, where a charge is stored in something solid when it is put under mechanical stress.

Friday, May 11, 2012

FDA panel backs Gilead's four drugs-in-one HIV tablet

An HIV therapy from Gilead Sciences Inc. that combines four drugs, including a new booster, into one once-a-day pill won the backing of an FDA advisory panel Friday. The committee voted 13-1 to recommend that the Quad pill from Foster City-based Gilead (NASDAQ: GILD) be approved by the Food and Drug Administration. The FDA will decide by Aug. 27 whether to approve the Quad pill, but it is not bound to follow the panel's vote. The panel included a recommendation that patients undergo extra kidney tests, after FDA staff found a number of kidney-related side effects, including kidney failure, in HIV patients who took Quad in clinical trials.

Fogarty Institute picks round of startups for incubator

Five medical startups were selected to join the Fogarty Institute for Innovation’s incubator program. Three new medical device companies and two others dealing with medical conditions including the prevention of congestive heart failure will receive funding from the nonprofit.

OncoMed files for $115 million IPO

OncoMed Pharmaceuticals Inc. is seeking $115 million in an initial public stock offering, the company said Friday. The Redwood City-based cancer drug developer, one of the most successful Bay Area biotech companies at raising venture capital over the past five years, said it will use proceeds of the IPO to advance its lead drug -- demcizumab, or OMP-21M18 -- and two other drugs into Phase II clinical trials and for programs with partners GlaxoSmithKline and Bayer AG.

Thursday, May 10, 2012

FDA panel recommends Gilead's Truvada as 1st HIV prevention drug

Gilead Sciences Inc.'s HIV treatment Truvada is safe and effective as a way to prevent the AIDS virus, an FDA advisory panel said Thursday. If approved — the Food and Drug Administration is not required to follow an advisory committee's recommendation — Truvada would be the first drug ever approved as a way to prevent HIV. The decision is a victory for Foster City-based Gilead (NASDAQ: GILD) and a defeat for some AIDS activists who worry that the drug could lead to unprotected sex by men having sex with other men.

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Talon shares slide after FDA delays cancer drug decision

Talon Therapeutics Inc. stock fell more than 31 percent Monday as the Food and Drug Administration said it would delay a decision on the San Mateo company’s experimental cancer drug. Talon (OTCBB: TLON) said Monday that the FDA extended the decision date for Marqibo, Talon’s treatment for acute lymphoblastic leukemia, to Aug. 12. The agency requested information unrelated to Marqibo clinical trials, the company said, but needs more time to review Talon’s responses. The FDA had been expected to make a decision Friday regarding Marqibo.

Tria Beauty prices IPO at $13-$15

Tria Beauty Inc. is getting an IPO haircut. The Dublin-based aesthetic device company priced its initial public offering at $13 to $15 per share, raising $59.8 million to $69 million from the sale of 4.6 million shares. In January, when it filed for its IPO, it said it would raise up to $86 million. Tria makes in-home cosmetic devices that use light to remove hair, fight acne and treat other skin conditions. It will seek approval later this year for a skin-rejuvenating laser to treat "crow's feet," wrinkles around the mouth, uneven pigmentation and rough skin.

Sutro Biopharma lines up funding, targets cancer

Sutro Biopharma Inc. is ready for war. The South San Francisco biotech company closed the second tranche of a $36 million Series C venture round, it said Tuesday, and is readying the infrastructure it needs to produce highly targeted, cancer-fighting antibody-drug conjugates.

Friday, May 4, 2012

BioMed plans 2 biotech buildings in South San Francisco

BioMed Realty Trust is placing a new biotech bet in South San Francisco, planning two buildings that would extend a potential 1.2 million-square-foot campus. The San Diego REIT has submitted plans to South San Francisco officials to construct two four-story office and lab buildings totaling 260,000 square feet along Eccles Avenue, said South San Francisco economic development coordinator Mike Lappen.

Codexis pharma enzymes boost revenue

Federal approval to manufacture an ingredient used in a popular drug for diabetics means Codexis Inc. has another revenue source. The company develops industrial enzymes for the production of pharmaceuticals, biofuels and biobased chemicals, and pharmaceuticals have become a major portion of the company’s revenue.

Xoma zeroes in on diabetes - and a partnership? - again

Research was on the chopping block as Xoma Corp. looked to cut costs over the past year. But now, even as takeover talk touches the Berkeley antibody drug developer, Xoma may be showing it was wise to cut elsewhere. In a paper published in the May issue of the journal Diabetes, Xoma unveiled a preclinical antibody drug, called XMetA, that targets diabetes. Initial reaction: Diabetes? Really?

Thursday, May 3, 2012

BioMed, Genentech swap Peninsula properties

BioMed Realty Trust Inc. is extending its reach down the Peninsula as it expands in South San Francisco. The San Diego-based REIT (NYSE: BMR) has plans in front of South City to tear down the former Ocular Sciences building on Eccles Avenue to build two four-story lab and office buildings totaling 260,000 square feet. (See the story in this week’s San Francisco Business Times.) But BioMed also revealed in its first-quarter financial results that it has traded a South San Francisco building for a Redwood City structure that was owned by biotech powerhouse Genentech Inc.

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

UC Santa Cruz research team creates big cancer database

David Haussler, a distinguished professor of biomolecular engineering at the University of California, Santa Cruz, is leading an effort to compile a massive database as part of cancer research being conducted by the National Cancer Institute. The university will receive more than $10 million for the work being done by Haussler through a subcontract with SAIC-Frederick Inc., the prime contractor for the Frederick National Laboratory for Cancer Research, which works with the National Cancer Institute.

Quark, Pfizer to start new mid-stage glaucoma drug trial

Quark Pharmaceuticals Inc. and Pfizer Inc. expanded a nearly 6-year-old drug-development deal to include a mid-stage trial of their RNA interference treatment in a type of glaucoma. Fremont-based Quark said Tuesday that the deal could earn it up to $165 million more in payments from Pfizer around the experimental drug, called PF-655.

Castlight Health raises $100M more

Castlight Health, a software as a service company that gives employers information about health care treatment options and costs, raised $100 million in a Series D round of funding from two "major" unnamed mutual funds, as well as T. Rowe Price, Redmile Group and previous investors.

Gilead strikes deal with antibody drug technology company AnaptysBio

Gilead Sciences Inc. will use technology from AnaptysBio Inc. to develop new antibody drug leads. Gilead (NASDAQ: GILD) made an upfront payment, according to AnaptysBio, a privately held company in San Diego, and will provide research funding to AnaptysBio. Specific figures were not disclosed by AnaptysBio, and the company didn’t say which disease areas Foster City-based Gilead would target with the technology.