Affymax Isn’t Dead Yet, ZeaChem Pursues Wood Chip Ethanol, Third Rock Heads West, & More Bay Area Life Sciences News

Xconomy San Francisco — 

This was a light week on the biotech beat, because yours truly was out climbing mountains for a couple days in the Northwest. But I’m here in SF for the Xconomy open house from 5 pm to 9 pm today. Come have a glass of wine and say hi if you can.

Affymax (NASDAQ: AFFY), the Palo Alto, CA-based developer of an anemia drug for patients with kidney disease, was written off by most investors in June when clinical trials showed its treatment appeared to be linked to a higher rate of cardiovascular adverse events than a standard therapy from Amgen. But after combing through the data, Affymax says it only saw that effect in kidney patients who hadn’t yet progressed to dialysis, and that there didn’t appear to be an added safety risk in dialysis patients. So, the company plans to seek FDA approval of its treatment in dialysis patients. That prompted one analyst to say Affymax is “not dead yet.”

ZeaChem, a little company with a lab in Menlo Park, CA, is putting its cellulosic ethanol dream to the test in a big way this year in a demonstration plant along the Columbia River near Boardman, OR. ZeaChem co-founder Dan Verser talked about how his company has developed a process that ferments sugars in the wood chips into ethanol, but also generates energy by gasifying the tough lignin material that glues the wood together.

Nuon Therapeutics, a San Mateo, CA-based developer of treatments for autoimmune diseases, collected $10 million in debt and options financing, according to a regulatory filing. The company didn’t say who invested, although Domain Associates and Frazier Healthcare Ventures have seats on its board.

Third Rock Ventures, one of the big names on the Boston biotech VC scene, is opening an office in San Francisco. Third Rock has put together a portfolio of some truly audacious cutting-edge biotech companies in the Boston area, and says it intends to keep hunting in San Francisco to invest in the same sort of ideas. The firm is also on the prowl for a new $400 million fund to build on the early momentum from its maiden fund of $378 million, which closed in 2007.

Xconomy, as I mentioned above, is planning a little open house to celebrate the opening of our newest bureau in the Potrero Hill/Dogpatch neighborhood. Stop on by to say hello after work from 5 pm to 9 pm and tell me about your big new idea, or just chat about who’s up and who’s down in Bay Area biotech.