Business, Life Sciences, and Technology News Briefs


West Coast Biotech Roundup: Lumena/Shire, Isis, Janssen Labs & More

A new wave of buyout fervor included the acquisition of San Diego’s Lumena Pharmaceuticals, Janssen Labs unveiled plans for a new incubator in South San Francisco, and Statos Genomics raised capital in Seattle. Here is the past week’s roundup of news up and down the left coast.

—San Diego’s Lumena Pharmaceuticals, founded in 2011 to develop oral drugs for treating rare liver disorders, agreed to a $260 million-plus buyout offer from Irish drug maker Shire. The deal helps Shire expand its business in gastrointestinal drugs. In addition to paying $260 million in cash upfront, Shire agreed to make an additional payment for the cash on Lumena’s balance sheet when the deal closes, as well as milestone payments as two Lumena drugs advance through clinical trials. The acquisition comes amid a wave of big pharma deal activity.

—Janssen Labs, part of the Johnson & Johnson (NYSE: JNJ) healthcare empire, announced a new 30,000 square foot life sciences incubator in South San Francisco that could house up to 50 companies and potentially double the group’s nationwide capacity. Janssen Labs’ three current sites are in San Diego, San Francisco, and Cambridge.

—Xenoport (NASDAQ: XNPT) of Santa Clara, CA has licensed its alcohol abuse deterrent arbaclofen placarbil to Reckitt Benckiser Pharmaceuticals of Richmond, VA, for $20 million upfront and $125 million in potential milestone payments, plus royalties. Reckitt receives exclusive worldwide rights to the drug and plans to move it into a Phase 2b clinical study.

—Shares of Carlsbad, CA-based Isis Pharmaceuticals (NASDAQ: ISIS) surged after the company reported encouraging results in a mid-stage trial of its antisense drug GCGRRx in patients with type 2 diabetes. Isis said patients achieved statistically significant reductions in blood sugar levels, with absolute mean reductions in hemoglobin A1c (HbA1c) greater than 2 percent at 200 milligrams and 1 percent at 100 milligrams after 13 weeks of treatment.

Stratos Genomics, a Seattle-based developer of low-cost gene sequencing technology, has raised $10 million of a planned $16 million investment round, according to a recent regulatory filing. The company previously raised over $13 million in the seven years since it was founded to advance its proprietary “sequencing-by-expansion” nanopore technology for both targeted and whole-genome sequencing.

—University of California, San Francisco researcher Alex Marson contributed work to a drug discovery program with ambitions to produce a treatment for multiple autoimmune diseases. Still a long way from human testing, the program, as Xconomy reported Monday, is the property of GlaxoSmithKline (NYSE: GSK) via its Cambridge, MA-based subsidiary Tempero Pharmaceuticals.

—Tacoma, WA-based Revalesio has raised $13.5 million of a planned $40 million investment round to advance its technology, which generates charge-stabilized molecules in medical grade saline solution. The company, founded in 2000, says it is advancing the use of its novel product, which does not contain a traditional active pharmaceutical ingredient, for intravenous use in treating inflammatory diseases.

—Human Longevity, the genomics and cell therapy-based diagnostic company founded in San Diego by human genome pioneer J. Craig Venter, named three leaders to its core scientific team. Details are here.

—San Diego-based Owaves, a digital health startup founded a year ago, introduced a calendar app for the iPad that is intended to help guide users to a healthier standard of living. The seed-stage company plans to use wireless health technology to help users adopt new measurements for health and wellness.

Bruce Bigelow and Ben Romano contributed to this roundup.


J&J Group Awards 3 Finalists $50,000 Each for Gaps in Patient Care

Janssen Healthcare Innovation says three finalists are getting $50,000 each to advance their technologies for coordinating and improving patient care in the gray area that exists between different healthcare providers.

Janssen, which is part of New Brunswick, NJ-based Johnson & Johnson, unveiled its incentive prize competition three months ago to spur entrepreneurs, inventors, and others to come forward with ideas that help maintain the continuity of care after a patient has been discharged. Janssen received more than 100 entries for its “connected care challenge,” according to Kim Park, a founding partner with Janssen Healthcare Innovation in Titusville, NJ. About 10 to 12 submissions were culled from the total, and eight judges screened those to select the three finalists.

The goal of the challenge is to create technology for coordinating patient care within and between different healthcare practices. Many patients often don’t know where to turn if new concerns or problems arise after they are discharged, and the lack of coordination is a big reason why hospital readmissions under Medicare are running roughly $15 billion a year. Janssen worked with the Little Rock, AR-based National Transitions of Care Coalition in developing the challenge.

Each of the three finalists will receive $50,000 to advance their respective ideas, as well as business coaching to help them refine their concepts before making presentations at a planned “Demo Day” in May. An additional $100,000 prize will be awarded to the winner at that time.

The finalists are:

Cara Health. Chicago-based Cara Health has developed a system to help guide non-clinical staffers through calls with patients providing health status updates. The system uses machine learning technology to predict trends and generate alerts to help caregivers intervene when necessary.

Care Rocket. Bethesda, MD-based Care Rocket team has developed a risk-assessment tool for designing a patient-centric, post-discharge care plan within 24 hours after the patient has been admitted. An interactive voice response system developed for use by discharged patients helps them adhere to prescribed treatments for optimal recovery.

Discharge Decision Support System (D2S2). A Hillsborough, NJ-based team has developed a proprietary system that assembles and scores key when patients are admitted to identify those who are at risk for 30-day readmissions.

The finalists are scheduled to make their presentations to the eight-judge panel at Demo Day, which will be hosted by Park at the Johnson & Johnson Global Strategic Design Office in New York City on May 10.


Redstone-Founded Advancit Gets $3.2M

Norwood, MA-based Advancit Capital, an early stage investment firm founded by Shari Redstone (daughter of CBS and Viacom director and National Amusements president Sumner Redstone), has inked a $3.2 million investment, an SEC filing shows. The firm, co-founded by Jason Ostheimer, will invest in media, entertainment, and tech startups, according to an e-mail sent to the Wall Street Journal‘s All Things Digital blog.


Complete to Sequence 1,000 Kids’ Genomes

Complete Genomics (NASDAQ: GNOM), the Mountain View, CA-based company that sequences entire human genomes as a service for researchers, said today it will determine the sequences of 1,000 genomes as part of the second phase of an ongoing pediatric cancer study sponsored by the National Cancer Institute. Scientists at SAIC-Frederick will compare samples of tumors, and normal tissues, from 500 kids with cancer, Complete Genomics said in a statement. This phase of the contract is worth $8 million to Complete Genomics, and is being paid for out of money from the American Reinvestment and Recovery Act of 2009, also known as the federal “stimulus” law.

CityPockets Acquires DealBurner

Consolidation comes to the daily deals arena. New York startup CityPockets said in a blog post Wednesday it acquired instant deals service DealBurner. No financial terms were disclosed. One-year-old CityPockets is a secondary marketplace for reselling daily deals. DealBurner, founded in July, is a text message–based service that aggregates instant deals from such sources as Groupon Now and LivingSocial Instant. Jason Fertel, DealBurner’s founder, joins CityPockets as its chief product officer. CityPockets’s investors include Great Oaks Venture Capital, MI Ventures, and LaunchBox Digital.

Brightcove Seeks $50M IPO

Brightcove, a Cambridge, MA-based digital media and video hosting firm that’s planning a move to Boston, revealed in an SEC filing today that it’s aiming to bring in about $50 million in an initial public offering. The company said that Morgan Stanley and Stifel, Nicolaus & Company will serve as joint book-running managers for the deal. Brightcove raised $12 million in Series D funding in April 2010. It reported a net loss of $9.7 million on revenue of $28.4 million for the first six months of 2011.

GlobalOne Lands $25M, Gets New CEO

Software-as-a-service provider GlobalOne in New York said in a press release Wednesday it secured an initial funding commitment of more than $25 million from Columbia Capital. Four-year-old GlobalOne plans to use the funds to expand its services and market coverage. GlobalOne also appointed David Northington as its CEO. He previously served as chief operating officer of IT consulting services company Capgemini in North America.

MakerBot Pulls in $10M

MakerBot Industries, a New York-based 3D printing company, raised $10 million, according to the company’s blog. The funding round was led by Foundry Group, with participation from Bezos Expeditions, True Ventures, RRE and a group of angel investors. MakerBot sells a 3D printer called the Thing-O-Matic, along with kits and other accessories designed to make 3D printing accessible to the masses.


Foundation Medicine Grabs $10M

Foundation Medicine, a Cambridge, MA-based cancer diagnostics startup, has raised $10 million of a targeted $20.5 million round of equity funding, from one investor, and SEC filing reveals. Last year Foundation announced it had raised the first part of a $25 million Series A financing led by Third Rock Ventures. Earlier this year the startup added former Clarient president Michael Pellini as its new CEO and announced deals with Celgene and Novartis.

EcoSynthetix Raises $100M in TSX IPO

On August 4, Lansing, MI- and Burlington, ON-based renewable chemical company EcoSynthetix announced it had closed its initial public offering priced at $9 per share in Canadian dollars, for proceeds totaling $100.35 million. The common shares trade on the Toronto Stock Exchange under the symbol “ECO.”

EcoSynthetix is the inaugural portfolio company of the InvestMichigan! Growth Capital Fund, part of the 2008 economic initiative created by then-Gov. Jennifer Granholm. Growth capital investments are made across a broad range of sectors in companies that have enterprise values of less than $200 million and are located in Michigan, have their corporate headquarters in Michigan, have a significant number of employees based in Michigan, or are in the process of planning an expansion and/or relocation to Michigan. The fund is managed by Beringea and Credit Suisse’s Customized Fund Investment Group.

Vivus Adds $45.8M

Vivus (NASDAQ: VVUS), the Mountain View, CA-based developer of drugs for obesity and erectile dysfunction, said today it has raised $45.8 million in a stock offering. The company agreed to sell about 6.9 million shares of stock at $6.65 apiece. Funds managed by QVT Financial were the lead investors in the deal, while two other existing investors participated, Vivus said. The stock offering was priced at about a 6.5 percent discount to yesterday’s closing stock price of $7.10.

Quanterix Finds $6M

Cambridge, MA-based diagnostics startup Quanterix has inked a $6 million equity investment from nine investors, an SEC filing shows. Members of Bain Capital Ventures, Arch Venture Partners, and Flagship Ventures are listed as Quanterix directors on the filing. Earlier this year Novartis struck a deal to use Quanterix’s technology for diagnosing a neurological disorder.


Motricity CEO Wuerch Out

Ryan Wuerch is out as CEO of Motricity (NASDAQ: MOTR) and is no longer on the board, the company announced today. Motricity said Wuerch’s termination was “mutually agreed,” but it gave no reason for the change. President and chief operating officer Jim Smith was named interim CEO, and is being considered for the permanent position while the company conducts a broader search. Motricity, a mobile software service company, moved to the Seattle area in late 2007 when it acquired the mobile division of Infospace for $135 million. The company completed a disappointing IPO in 2009. Shares were down more than 7 percent on news of the CEO change.

Sentilla Collects $15M

Redwood City, CA-based Sentilla, which makes data center analysis and planning software, said today that it has collected $15 million in Series C funding. New investor SingTel Innov8 Ventures led the round, which was joined by existing backers ONSET Ventures and Claremont Creek Ventures. The company said it will use the funds to expand sales and marketing efforts.

$3M for iScience Interventional

iScience Interventional, a Menlo Park, CA-based maker of microcatheter technology that helps surgeons reduce intraocular pressure in glaucoma patients, reported last week in a regulatory filing that it has raised $3 million in new equity-based financing. The company was founded in 1999 and has a long list of backers including Affinity Capital Management, Asset Management Company, Clarian Health Ventures, De Novo Ventures, Johnson & Johnson Development, L Capital Partners, Pacific Horizon Ventures, Prism VentureWorks, and Three Arch Partners.

Skype Snaps Up GroupMe

Communications service Skype in Luxembourg said in press release Sunday it entered into an agreement to acquire New York’s GroupMe. Terms of the deal were not disclosed by the companies but a post at AllThingsD pegs the price at about $85 million. One-year-old GroupMe‘s app lets users send messages and start conference calls with groups formed from their smartphone contacts. GroupMe’s investors include Betaworks, First Round Capital, Founder Collective, General Catalyst Partners, Khosla Ventures, Lerer Ventures, and SV Angel. According to Venture Deal, GroupMe raised $10.6 million in January and $850,000 last August. Skype is in the midst of being acquired for $8.5 billion by Microsoft according to a press statement issued in May.

TwinStrata Snags $5.7M

TwinStrata, a Natick, MA-based provider of cloud data storage for businesses, has pinned down $5.7 million of an equity offering that could hit $8.7 million, an SEC filing shows. The funding came from 27 investors, according to the document, which lists Braden Bohrmann and Rich Levandov of Avalon Ventures as TwinStrata directors. Levandov will be participating in an Xconomy chat this September on cloud and consumer trends in Internet startups and innovation.

Dendreon Adds Ex-ImClone CEO to Board

Seattle-based Dendreon (NASDAQ: DNDN) said today it has named John H. Johnson, the CEO of East Brunswick, NJ-based Savient Pharmaceuticals (NASDAQ: SVNT). Johnson was previously the head of Eli Lilly’s oncology business unit, and the CEO of ImClone Systems, the cancer drug developer, when it was acquired by Lilly for more than $6.5 billion in 2008.


Digital Chocolate Eats Up Sandlot Games

San Mateo-based social game maker Digital Chocolate said this week that it has acquired Bothell, WA-based Sandlot Games, a casual game studio known for Web and mobile titles such as Cake Mania, Super Granny, Tradewinds, and Westward. Financial details of the acquisition were not disclosed. “Sandlot has built a great reputation in casual games,” Digital Chocolate founder and CEO Trip Hawkins (an Xconomist), who also founded Electronic Arts, said in a statement. “We love their development teams and we can now expand further in Seattle.” Collects $19M in Fourth Round

Palo Alto, CA-based cloud document sharing company has upped the size of its ongoing Series D funding round to $35 million and has collected $19 million of that amount so far, according to a regulatory filing disclosed this week. Existing investors Andreessen Horowitz and Draper Fisher Jurvetson are participating in the D round, along with some new investors who will be identified soon, CEO Aaron Levie told VentureBeat this week. Box has been sucking up cash fast this year: in February it closed a $48 million funding round.

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