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West Coast Biotech Roundup: Auspex, Hyperion, NuVasive, & More

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announcement that Glenn Dranoff of the Dana Farber Cancer Institute will lead a new research group dedicated to the discovery and development of innovative cancer immunotherapies.

—After Amgen unveiled its plan to pull out of Washington last summer, local biotech industry backers had hoped the Amgen Helix campus along Elliott Bay would find a second life hosting another biotech company. But under a deal announced today, the online travel giant Expedia is paying $228.9 million for the Helix campus, and plans to move in by 2018.

Jennifer Doudna, the UC Berkeley scientist who helped develop an easy-to-use technique to edit DNA, answered some questions from Xconomy national biotech editor Alex Lash about her call for a moratorium on using the technology for any treatments that would cause heritable changes in DNA until more research can be done. Doudna heads the new Innovative Genomics Initiative in Berkeley, and led the group of 18 scientists who published a letter in Science magazine calling for a moratorium.

—In his “In Translation” column, Xconomy’s Alex Lash highlighted the challenges of the government’s new initiative in precision medicine, which includes an effort to develop a whole genome database of 1 million Americans. One of the biggest challenges is the lack of interoperability among various electronic health records.

—San Diego’s aTyr Pharma said it has raised $76 million in a round that includes a number of prominent public investment funds as well as several unnamed institutional investors, prompting speculation that an IPO may not be far behind. The latest round brings total financing for aTyr (pronounced A-tire) to at least $184 million since the company was founded in 2005.

—San Diego’s Cypher Genomics said new data shows that its Mantis technology for interpreting the significance of variants in a patient’s whole genome sequence was “highly equivalent” to a panel of experts. Cypher said its software technology could pave the way for more comprehensive genetic analyses in non-invasive prenatal testing.

—Sarepta Therapeutics (NASDAQ: SRPT) CEO Chris Garabedian, who steered the company from a biotech afterthought to one of Wall Street’s darlings, and from Bothell, WA, to Cambridge, MA, resigned Tuesday. Edward Kaye will serve as the company’s interim CEO.

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