West Coast Biotech Roundup: MappBio, Juno, Zosano, and More

Xconomy San Diego — 

The IPO window is still open, sort of, but life sciences companies are not getting through unscathed. San Francisco-based Tobira Therapeutics and New York’s Microlin Bio postponed their offerings after Lexington, MA-based T2 Biosystems and Switzerland’s Auris Medical slashed the terms of their Nasdaq IPOs this week. Now all eyes are on San Diego-based Otonomy, which like Auris specializes in treatments for ear diseases and disorders, and was expected to go public in the next week or so. According to the IPO investment firm Renaissance Capital, 185 companies have gone public so far this year in the U.S., about 55 percent more than the number at this time last year.

—Cancer immunotherapeutics developer Juno Therapeutics of Seattle said Monday it has raised a $134 million Series B round to bring its total cash raised to $310 million. The round includes ten public mutual funds and healthcare-focused funds, all new to Juno, according to the company, which did not disclose the investors’ names. All “major” prior investors also joined the round. Juno’s top investors in its $176 million Series A included ARCH Venture Partners, the state of Alaska’s Permanent Fund, Venrock’s public-investment fund, and Amazon.com founder Jeff Bezos’s personal investment vehicle, known as Bezos Expeditions.

—An experimental drug given in Liberia to two Americans healthcare workers infected with the deadly Ebola virus was produced by Mapp Biopharmaceutical, a small San Diego biotech founded in 2003. With funding provided by U.S. and Canadian bio-defense grants, MappBio worked with LeafBio, a San Diego commercialization partner, and Defyrus, a private bio-defense company in Toronto, Canada, to make ZMapp, a drug cocktail composed of three “humanized” monoclonal antibodies. According to David Kroll in Forbes, ZMapp helps to stimulate an immune response to the Ebola virus. MappBio says the drug was only identified eight months ago and has not been evaluated for safety in humans.

ProteinSimple, a Santa Clara, CA, startup developing technology and software to analyze proteins, withdrew its IPO filing after Minneapolis, MN-based Bio-Techne (NASDAQ: TECH) said it had finalized its $300 million acquisition of the California startup. ProteinSimple, founded in 2000, has about 200 employees and booked $54 million in sales for the 12 months ended March 31.

—Ernest and Eveyln Rady, who rank among San Diego’s most-prominent philanthropists, are donating $120 million to the children’s hospital that already bears their name to sequence and analyze the genome of every pediatric patient admitted there. Rady Children’s Hospital-San Diego said their gift, the largest ever made to the Rady Children’s Hospital Foundation, will help to establish the Rady Pediatric Genomics and Systems Medicine Institute. The Radys previously donated $60 million to the same hospital.

—San Diego-based Otonomy, a late-stage biotech developing new drug treatments for ear diseases, set the price range of its IPO on Friday at $14 to $16 a share. The company plans to trade on the NASDAQ under the symbol OTIC. At the midpoint of the proposed range, Otonomy would raise almost $80 million in gross proceeds and have a market valuation of $315 million. Otonomy is hoping to fare better than Zug, Switzerland-based rival Auris Medical (NASDAQ: EARS), which had to boost its share count and cut its price to complete its IPO this week. Auris raised $56 million by pricing 9.4 million shares at $6 apiece, well below the 6.9 million shares it had hoped to sell at between $10 and $12 apiece. Those revised numbers left Auris, which is also developing treatments for tinnitus and other inner ear disorders, with 26 percent less in gross proceeds than it had anticipated.

TesoRx Pharma, based in Menlo Park, CA, said it raised a $10 million Series B round to move an oral synthesized testosterone treatment into Phase 3 clinical trials and build its commercial manufacturing. The company did not disclose the identity of the investors. The company also announced the hiring of Michael Oefelein as chief medical officer. He previously held positions at Digirad and Allergan Medical.

Tobira Therapeutics, a San Francisco biotech developing an immunotherapy treatment for a liver disease known as nonalcoholic steatohepatitis and HIV, postponed its IPO today, citing market conditions. Tobira plans to raise about $60 million by offering 4.6 million shares at a price range of $12 to $14, according to Renaissance Capital. The company founded in 2006, plans to list on the NASDAQ under the symbol TBRA.

—Fremont, CA-based Zosano Pharma, a biotech developing a transdermal delivery system to treat osteoporosis, plans to raise $70 million by offering 6.4 million shares at a price range of $10 to $12. The company, founded in 2007, plans to list on the NASDAQ under the symbol ZSAN.

Regulus Therapeutics (NASDAQ: RGLS) of San Diego said Tuesday it has expanded a research deal with Biogen Idec of Cambridge, MA (NASDAQ: BIIB), originally signed in 2012, to identify microRNA as biomarkers for multiple sclerosis. Regulus will receive a $2 million upfront fee and potential milestone payments. The project will use blood samples from patients already treated with Biogen Idec MS therapy.

—Seattle’s CTI BioPharma (NASDAQ: CTIC) said today the FDA has granted its fast track designation to pacritinib for the treatment of intermediate and high-risk myelofibrosis, a disorder in which scar tissue replaces bone marrow. In a statement, the company says its oral drug is in two late-stage clinicial trials.