Exelixis Seeks to Exit Doghouse, Sangamo Morphs Into Drugmaker, Siluria Adds $13M, & More Bay Area Life Sciences News

Xconomy San Francisco — 

This week we ran a couple of features about Bay Area biotechs known as scientific hothouses, which have been testing the patience of investors who want them to become real drugmakers.

—Mike Morrissey, the CEO of South San Francisco-based Exelixis (NASDAQ: EXEL), talked about how he’s been trying to get the company “out of the penalty box” with investors after the company endured a rough summer. His plan is to fight the negative perception around his company’s lead drug, XL184, with fresh new clinical trial at an upcoming medical meeting in November.

Sangamo Biosciences (NASDAQ: SGMO), the Richmond, CA-based developer of technology to turn genes on and off, is another one of those companies known for scientific pedigree, which it hasn’t yet parlayed into a marketed drug. CEO Ed Lanphier talked in depth about the company’s plan to step up to the next level with a new drug for diabetic neuropathy.

Siluria Technologies said this week it raised $13.3 million to pursue its vision of creating a cheaper, low-emissions process for making ethylene, the world’s most common commodity chemical. The San Francisco-based company, based on science from the MIT lab of materials scientist Angela Belcher, raised its cash from Alloy Ventures, Arch Venture Partners, Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers, Altitude Life Sciences Ventures, Lux Capital, and Presidio Ventures.

Pearl Therapeutics had the biggest financing news of the week, raising $69 million to pursue its mid-stage clinical trial program for chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. The Redwood City, CA-based company scooped up its new capital from Vatera Healthcare Partners, Clarus Ventures, New Leaf Ventures, and 5AM Ventures.

—South San Francisco-based Genentech said it has revamped its collaboration with Weston, MA-based Biogen Idec (NASDAQ: BIIB) on the development of next-generation drugs that block CD20, the same target as the hit cancer treatment rituximab (Rituxan). There are a lot of moving pieces in this deal, but Genentech is getting a $10 million payment as part of the amendment.

—Lastly, we had a fun little guest editorial from Stewart Lyman, a Seattle-based biotech consultant who challenges a lot of the flabby thinking and basic BS that often passes for insight in the biotech industry.