West Coast Biotech Roundup: IPOs, Gilead, Sofinnova, & Denouements

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first quarter of 2006, when VCs put $1.58 billion into 117 startups nationwide.VCs invested another $649 million in 73 medical devices and equipment companies during the same quarter.

— Foster City, CA-based Gilead Sciences (NASDAQ: GILD) has made a series of business development moves over the past few years to try to get into the cancer field—among them, a $600 million deal to buy Seattle’s Calistoga Pharmaceuticals. This week, it finally got the chance to make its entrance, as the FDA approved idelalisib (Zydelig)—the crown jewel of the Calistoga buyout—as a treatment for three different types of blood cancer. Idelalisib is entering an increasingly crowded field, and expectations for the drug have been tempered a bit by a black box warning telling doctors to watch out for liver toxicities and other potentially severe side effects. But given many believe it’ll eclipse $1 billion in annual sales one day, the Calistoga deal looks like a solid investment by Gilead nonetheless.

—In other Seattle biotech news, Summit, NJ-based Celgene (NASDAQ: CELG) revealed in an earnings announcement that it’s decided to form what it’s calling an Immuno-Oncology Center of Excellence. The center, which will be based in Seattle, is part of Celgene’s plan to expand its presence in the hot field of immuno-oncology, or methods of harnessing the immune system to fight cancer. Robert Hershberg, the founder and CEO of Seattle’s VentiRx Pharmaceuticals, has joined Celgene to lead the company’s immuno-oncology project and new center. It’s unclear what this means for VentiRx at this point—Celgene nabbed an option to acquire VentiRx in 2012.

Cypher Genomics, a three-year-old San Diego startup with 10 employees, said it has joined forces with Illumina (NASDAQ: ILMN), the San Diego-based provider of gene-sequencing equipment, in a deal that will promote Cypher Genomic’s technology and services for discovering genetic markers. The deal helps to validate the analytic technologies Cyper Genomic has developed to identify individual genes in an ocean of DNA material.

—Another biotech venture firm reloaded this week, as Menlo Park, CA-based Sofinnova Ventures closed a new $500 million fund, Sofinova Venture Partners IX LP, blowing past its initial $425 million target. Sofinnova’s ninth fund will primarily invest in biopharmaceutical companies with late-stage programs—with an eye towards orphan disease drugs and specialty pharmaceutical products. Sofinnova said it’ll make certain “select” investments in earlier-stage biotechs. Sofinnova was a backer of Labrys Biologics (bought by Teva Pharmaceutical) and SARcode (acquired by Shire), and companies like ZS Pharma (NASDAQ: ZSPH) and Aerie Pharmaceuticals (NASDAQ: AERI), which have both gone public over the past year.

—The FDA bestowed a “breakthrough” designation for Berkeley, CA-based Aduro BioTech’s combination regimen of pancreatic cancer vaccines, GVAX and CRS-207, according to … Next Page »

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