Friday, June 29, 2012

Flu treatment developer Gemmus Pharma raises Series A round

Flu treatment developer Gemmus Pharma Inc. raised about $1.5 million in a Series A funding led by a syndicate of angel investor groups.
Gemmus, housed in the Mission Bay Innovation Center in the FibroGen building in San Francisco, is targeting a receptor that plays a role in the anti-inflammatory response to viral infections. That approach, the company says, makes it so its treatment isn't susceptible to viral resistance.
The round was led by the Life Science Angels and included BlueTree Allied Angels, Tech Coast Angels, Wilmington Investor Network and The Angels Forum.

Thursday, June 28, 2012

Gilead asks FDA to approve new HIV drug booster

An important boosting agent in Gilead Sciences Inc.'s experimental four-in-one Quad pill for HIV patients was formally submitted for approval Thursday to the Food and Drug Administration.
Foster City-based Gilead (NASDAQ: GILD) said it asked the FDA to approve cobicistat, a boosting agent that increases blood levels of some protease inhibitors, including elvitegravir. The booster allows elvitegravir, which Gilead submitted Wednesday for approval, to be given once a day as part of the Quad pill.

Benvenue Medical raises $25 million

In its fourth round of venture funding, Benvenue Medical Inc. raised $25 million.
The Santa Clara company, started in 2004, makes medical devices used in spine repair.
DeNovo Ventures, Domain Associates, Technology Partners and Versant Ventures , all previous investors, gave the money in this round.

Buck Institute researchers fix Huntington's Disease mutation in mouse study

The work, using induced pluripotent stem cells in the lab of Lisa Ellerby at the Buck Institute for Research on Aging in Novato, is early stage and currently is using mice. The therapy has not been tested in humans, and the lab continues to see if mice transplanted with corrected cells have functional improvements.
But in a paper published online Thursday in the journal Cell Stem Cell, Ellerby’s lab details how it used reverse-engineered cells from a Huntington’s patient, made a genetic correction and generated fresh neural stem cells. When the disease-free cells were transplanted into mice, the animals generated normal neurons in the area of the brain affected by Huntington’s.
“The thing that’s really neat about this in any disease (is) you really are correcting the mutation,” Ellerby said. “You’re fixing the problem.”

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Gilead seeks FDA approval of HIV-fighter elvitegravir

Foster City-based Gilead (NASDAQ: GILD) filed a new drug application Wednesday with the Food and Drug Administration to market elvitegravir to people with the AIDS virus who have used other treatments.
Elvitegravir is combined with emtricitabine and tenofovir -- two compounds that together form Gilead's Truvada -- and a new Gilead-developed booster, called cobicistat, to form the Quad pill.

Xoma enrolling 2 trials, in eye disease and osteoarthritis

Both trials center on the Berkeley-based biotech company's (NASDAQ: XOMA) experimental monoclonal antibody treatment, called gevokizumab.
"Today represents an historic milestone for Xoma, as we launch the first global Phase III program for a Xoma-created product to which we retain U.S. commercial rights," CEO John Varian said in a press release.

Drug makers telling Greeks to pay upfront

(San Francisco Business Times subscription required.)
The European debt crisis is hitting close to home for Bay Area pharmaceutical companies, with unpaid bills from Greece, Spain and Portugal piling so high that some drugmakers are now insisting on payment upfront.
Genentech Inc., Gilead Sciences Inc.BioMarin Pharmaceutical Incand Bio-Rad Laboratories Inc. are among the companies waiting for millions of dollars from cash-strapped southern European countries, according to recent Securities and Exchange Commission filings.
At BioMarin, Greece’s inability to pay for its products has the company requiring that the Greek government pay for all drug purchases upfront, said Stephen Aselage, the Novato-based company’s chief business officer.
“Greece pays us in advance, more than a year in advance,” Aselage said. “It’s fairly rare that we would set that up.” Due to the centralized health care system in Greece, most BioMarin products are bought directly by the Greek government.

Monday, June 25, 2012

Texas' biotech revenge, or how I missed my MacBook Pro

A lot of them made sense – and they were doing almost anything to show their biotech love. Beer. Trinkets. Chocolate. Popcorn. Bags. More beer. Wine.
Texas gave away a new MacBook Pro. What the heck, I thought, as I let a woman behind a counter scan my convention badge the previous day to enter my name in the raffle.

Friday, June 22, 2012

Genentech: New breast cancer drug Perjeta improves patient survival

Patients who took combination including Perjeta, also known as pertuzumab, had a 38 percent reduced risk of HER2-positive metastatic breast cancer worsening or of them dying, compared to patients who were given only Herceptin and docetaxel.
Median progression-free survival -- or the length of time during and after treatment when a cancer does not worsen -- was 18.5 months for those taxing Perjeta, compared to 12.4 months for the group without Perjeta.

Genentech sets new target: Alzheimer's

(Full story requires San Francisco Business Times subscription.)
The South San Francisco-based biotech powerhouse has inked its second deal focused on Alzheimer’s disease, giving it a potential one-two punch against the main suspects in the debilitating brain disease. But the collaboration with Swiss biotech AC Immune SA, announced June 18, also signals how aggressively Genentech is pursuing neuroscience.
After nearly three decades of developing and selling blockbuster cancer-fighting drugs like Avastin, Herceptin and the recently approved Perjeta, Genentech expects to use its expertise in antibodies to treat neurodegenerative diseases.
“Our ambitions are to be equally known in neuroscience” as in cancer, said James Sabry, Genentech's vice president of partnering.

Depomed buys rights to pain drug Zipsor for $26 million

Menlo Park-based Depomed (NASDAQ: DEPO) also agreed to possible milestone payments based on how well the drug (diclofenac potassium) sells. It typically brings in $19 million a year.

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

FDA panel recommends approval of Onyx myeloma drug

The oncologic drugs advisory committee voted 11-0, with one panel member abstaining, to recommend that the FDA approve Kyprolis. The drug, also known as carfilzomib, is aimed at treating patients with relapsed or refractory multiple myeloma who have received at least two other therapies.
The FDA isn’t required to follow the recommendation of the committee of experts but often does. The agency has until July 27 to make its decision.

Protesters push FDA on Genentech breast cancer drug

The drug, known as T-DM1, is a combination of the approved drug Herceptin, made by Swiss drug maker Roche’s Genentech unit in California, combined with a cell-killing agent made by Waltham, Mass.-based Immunogen Inc. (Nasdaq: IMGN). The drug candidate is indicated for patients with HER2+ breast cancer, which is one of the deadliest forms.

Burrill Report: Innovating in the new austerity

Steve Burrill, CEO of life sciences venture capital and private equity firm Burrill and Co., made a large number of declarations, mostly negative, about the state of the industry at a BIO panel designed to drum up interest in buying his influential Burrill Report, which costs $519 for access to both the print and digital editions.
Burrill, considered to be something of an oracle in biotech circles, said that despite the pressures on the industry, biotech raised $63 billion overall in the past year. But he pointed to tender points for biotech including the increasingly murky landscapes for both patent protection and regulatory approval, and downward pressure on prices as part of a “new austerity.”

California's nation-leading biotech industry gets no help from state

To celebrate, some of the leaders of the state’s biotech industry at the Biotechnology Industry Organization convention in Boston on Tuesday raised Champagne-filled flutes.
There were a few company representatives, some economic development officials and folks from BayBio in northern California and BIOCOM in southern California who were largely responsible for the modest California pavilion on the BIO convention exhibition floor.
But, as in years past, no state officials were seen.

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Bay Area's BioGENEius winners hit Boston - Natalie Ng

If the Bay Area – or for that matter, the country -- wants to keep its lead in life sciences innovation, there’s hope in the forms of students like Natalie Ng and Nikhil Buduma.

They were the Bay Area’s entrants in the BioGENEius Challenge, a national biotechnology competition for high school students. Natalie and Nihil didn’t win national award – the top honor went to Nathan Kondamuri of Dyer, Ind. – but they did the region proud at the Biotechnology Industry OrganizationInternational Convention in Boston this week.

Bay Area's BioGENEius winners hit Boston - Nikhil Buduma

They were the Bay Area’s entrants in the BioGENEius Challenge, a national biotechnology competition for high school students. Natalie and Nikhil didn’t win national award – the top honor went to Nathan Kondamuri of Dyer, Ind. – but they did the region proud at the Biotechnology Industry Organization International Convention in Boston this week.

Rigel, AstraZeneca strike potential $100M asthma drug deal

Initially, Rigel (NASDAQ: RIGL) will receive only $1 million upfront in the worldwide licensing deal for the inhaled drug, called R-256. But Rigel could receive an additional $8.25 million in early milestone payments by the end of 2013, the company said.
Preclinical studies of R-256 indicate that it could improve lung function for patients with moderate to severe chronic asthma.

Monday, June 18, 2012

No place like home: Moscone expansion helps Bay Area biotech prospects

How local is this week’s Biotechnology Industry Organization convention in Boston?
While riding the hotel elevator this morning,Reg Kelly, the director of QB3 at theUniversity of California, San Francisco, stepped on the elevator. Among the sponsors are South San Francisco-basedGenentech; San Francisco-based life sciences financial services firm Burrill & Co.; and Novato’s BioMarin Pharmaceutical Inc.
In all, there are at least a half-dozen other sponsors here with some sort of San Francisco Bay Area connection and scores of attendees from the Bay Area.
Imagine if, instead of Boston, BIO and its 15,000 attendees landed again in San Francisco.

Genentech, AC Immune ink 2nd Alzheimer's drug deal

The deal, the second between South San Francisco-based Genentech and AC Immune, potentially could be worth about $418 million, the companies said Monday.
The worldwide license agreement and research collaboration centers on AC Immune’s anti-Tau antibodies as treatments for Alzheimer’s and other neurodegenerative diseases.

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Third Rock pumps $40.7 million into sickle cell startup Global Blood Therapeutics

Drug developers talk a lot about “large patient populations,” “unmet medical needs” and a “clear path to approval.” Yet sickle cell disease, one of the knottiest diseases meeting all those criteria, has gone years without a breakthrough commercial treatment.
That might prove an advantage for Global Blood Therapeutics Inc., the first company birthed by Third Rock Ventures LLC’s West Coast office.

Third Rock and Global Blood announced Thursday morning that it is backing the South San Francisco startup with $40.7 million in Series A financing to discover and develop oral, small molecule drugs to treat sickle cell disease and other conditions involving funky-shaped blood proteins. Essentially, its drugs will aim at pushing those proteins into healthier shapes that change the course of the diseases.

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Antibody drug maker Igenica, with Dave Goeddel at the helm, raises $33 million

The Burlingame business, run by former Genentech Inc. scientist David Goeddel, seeks to develop antibody-based cancer medicines. It has raised $55 million total since it started in early 2009.
Third Rock Ventures, a new investor, led this round, while the Column Group, Orbimed Advisors and 5AM Ventures also gave money. Carl Gordon of Orbimed and John Diekman of 5AM Ventures work on Igenica's board of directors.

Monday, June 11, 2012

Medical device maker AliveCor raises $10.5 million

Existing investor Burrill & Co. and new investor Khosla Ventures led the round, with participation from Series A investor Qualcomm Inc. and the Oklahoma Life Sciences Fund, the company said. Total financing to date is now $13.5 million.

Back from vacation, ready for Biotech Forum and BIO

Two weeks of vacation through northern California, Oregon and into southern Washington. Great country and lots to see -- but Thursday is the San Francisco Business Times' Biotech Forum and next week is BIO in Boston.
First, the Biotech Forum:
• A one-on-one interview with Tony Coles, president and CEO of Onyx Pharmaceuticals;
• A panel discussion with Craig Muir of Third Rock Ventures, Glenn Oclassen of Transcept Pharmaceuticals, Lissa Goldenstein of Auxogyn and Gideon Bollag of Plexxikon;
• Three companies -- Avalanche Biotechnologies, Neuraltus Pharmaceuticals and Organ-i -- will talk about the knotty scientific problems they're trying to solve.
The event is 7:30-10 a.m. Thursday, June 14, at the Hilton San Francisco Union Square at 333 O'Farrell St.