Ligand Inks Deal, Ionis Details Succession Plan, & More SD Biotech

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Dupont was most recently vice president and global head of breast and gynecologic cancer development at South San Francisco, CA-based Genentech, a subsidiary of Swiss healthcare giant Roche. Previously, he was CMO and senior vice president at Redwood City, CA-based OncoMed Pharmaceuticals (NASDAQ: OMED). Sheila Gujrathi, co-founder and CEO of the San Diego company, said Dupont’s clinical development and regulatory expertise will help Gossamer advance its clinical and preclinical drug candidates.

In September, Gossamer hired another big pharma vet, Luisa Salter-Cid, from Bristol-Myers Squibb (NYSE: BMY), as its chief scientific officer. In July, Gossamer said it had raised a $230 million in a Series B round of financing led by Chinese private equity firm Hillhouse Capital. The Abu Dhabi Investment Authority; Invus; the Boston, MA-based hedge fund Baupost Group; and venture capital firm Polaris Partners were among the new investors that participated. So did Gossamer’s existing investors, Arch Venture Partners and Omega Funds. Arch and Omega led the company’s $100 million Series A, announced when the company started nearly one year ago. Gossamer was started by Receptos’ former executive leadership team, Gujrathi and Faheem Hasnain. Receptos was acquired in 2015 by Celgene (NASDAQ: CELG) for about $7 billion.

—One of San Diego’s newest startup accelerators, Ad Astra, has graduated its first cohort of life sciences companies. Acceptance into the 12-week program came with a $20,000 investment in each company from Ad Astra’s founders, Vidya Dinamani, Allison Long Pettine, and Silvia Mah. Ad Astra (Latin for “to the stars”), which launched this year, focuses on women-led companies. The life science group was its second ever cohort. On Dec. 6 Ad Astra recognized the three startups that recently completed its curriculum of one-on-one sessions with mentors, connecting with advisors, and practice investor pitches. More than 150 people turned out to hear the companies’ business pitches at an event at the AMN Healthcare auditorium.

Here are the companies that graduated:

Hydrostasis, headed by Debbie Chen, is developing a product for athletes to monitor their level of hydration levels.

Vivid Genomics, headed by Julie Collens, is developing noninvasive tools to identify top candidates for clinical trials of investigational treatments for neurodegenerative disease.

Cooler Heads, headed by Kate Dilligan, is designing products to address the needs of cancer patients, including a cooling cap intended to reduce hair loss.

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