Genentech Inks Antibody Deal, Cytokinetics Sticks With Science First, BioMarin Scraps Drug, & More Bay Area Life Sciences News

A lot of the Bay Area news this week sent ripple effects up and down the West Coast, to our other Xconomy network cities of Seattle and San Diego.

Genentech, the U.S.-based unit of Roche, expanded an alliance with Seattle Genetics (NASDAQ: SGEN) to develop “empowered antibodies” against cancer. Genentech is paying $12 million upfront, and as much as $900 million in milestone payments to develop these more potent antibody drugs against a number of undisclosed targets on cells.

—Bruce Montgomery, the prolific drug developer and senior vice president at Gilead Sciences (NASDAQ: GILD) says he is leaving the company this month to consider his next career move, which could be at a startup. Foster City, CA-based Gilead paid $365 million in 2006 to acquire Montgomery’s most recent startup, Seattle-based Corus Pharma, and it spent another $50 million on a cutting-edge lab in Seattle devoted to respiratory drugs. This has been part of Gilead’s long-running effort to diversify its portfolio beyond its core franchises in HIV drugs. Gilead hasn’t yet named a successor to Montgomery.

Cytokinetics CEO Robert Blum offered some revealing insights into how his company has stuck with a science-first, long-term growth strategy even while many biotech investors have been itching for lower-risk, quick-return business models. The South San Francisco-based company (NASDAQ: CYTK) has spent years working on the forefront of muscle biology, and expects to find out later this year whether it has “evidence of effect” in a Phase IIa study of patients with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis. Blum isn’t going so far as to brand this a “proof of concept” trial—the company plans to do more methodical trials over time to make sure they get it right, he says.

BioMarin Pharmaceutical (NASDAQ: BMRN), the Novato, CA-based developer of drugs for rare genetic diseases, said this week it has pulled the plug on developing a new treatment for Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy. The company sought to counterbalance that downer with what it called an “encouraging” interim update on PEG-PAL, a new treatment for phenylketonuria (PKU).

Complete Genomics, the Mountain View, CA-based company that is offering a low-cost gene sequencing service to researchers, released a prospectus that says it hopes to raise $86 million through an IPO. Complete Genomics’ list of backers runs up and down the whole West Coast, and includes Kirkland, WA-based OVP Venture Partners, San Diego-based Enterprise Partners Venture Capital, and Palo Alto, CA-based Prospect Venture Partners.

—My East Coast colleague Ryan McBride offered up an interesting story about SV Life Sciences, the VC firm with operations in both Boston and the San Francisco Bay Area. SV just raised a $523 million fund, and plans to start putting more of it to work in the health IT sector.

—And lastly, my colleague Wade Roush announced that we are having an open house at our new Xconomy San Francisco headquarters in the Potrero Hill/Dogpatch neighborhood. I’m planning to fly down from Seattle for this event from 5 to 9 pm on August 13, and would love for a few biotechies to stop by and say hello, and have a little wine and cheese on us. I will also have some time earlier in the day to do a few in-person interviews, so if you’re free then and would like to tell me your story about innovation in life sciences, shoot me a note at [email protected]

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