PacBio’s $200M IPO, Ablexis’ 5-Way Big Pharma Deal, Codexis Morphs Into $100M Business, & More Bay Area Life Sciences News

This week, the life sciences tool industry grabbed a rare opportunity to take the spotlight away from its better known counterpart the biopharmaceutical business.

—Menlo Park, CA-based Pacific Biosciences (NASDAQ: PACB) made the biggest headline this week when it pulled the trigger on a $200 million IPO that gave it a beginning market cap of more than $800 million. The company, a leader in the world of faster/cheaper gene sequencing instruments, didn’t exactly create a “Netscape moment” like the one that kickstarted the Internet boom in 1995, but it is an encouraging sign to toolmakers and their investors, says Mohr Davidow’s Bill Ericson. PacBio’s stock traded up from its initial price of $16 to $16.97 at the close of its second day of trading.

—One of PacBio’s competitors, Mountain View, CA-based Complete Genomics, is also gearing up for an IPO, in another test of investors’ appetites to own a piece of this new wave in genomic research. Complete Genomics set its price range at $12 to $14 a share, and is scheduled to go out the week of November 8.

—I took some time to profile Codexis, a company that has made the difficult transformation from science project to $100 million business. The Redwood City, CA-based company (NASDAQ: CDXS) is all about making industrial enzymes to do new things, like create pharmaceutical ingredients, catalysts for biofuel processes, and even capture carbon to help mitigate the pollution from coal-fired power plants.

—San Francisco-based Ablexis struck a creative new deal to provide its antibody drug discovery technology to five Big Pharma companies, including Pfizer. Full terms weren’t disclosed, but essentially this deal will allow Ablexis’ venture investors to get a liquid cash return when Ablexis delivers its antibody-producing mice to the five Big Pharma companies, instead of waiting around for an IPO or acquisition that might never happen.

Antigenics (NASDAQ: AGEN), the Lexington, MA-based company developing an immune-boosting therapy for brain cancer, had some good news this week for its longtime champion at UC San Francisco—neurosurgeon Andrew Parsa. Antigenics has stumbled with its treatment for kidney cancer, but based on promising results from Parsa’s studies over the past five years, it is investing some more corporate money into speeding up a mid-stage brain cancer trial led by Parsa.

—QB3 director Reg Kelly weighed in this week with another thoughtful analysis of why the big players in the innovation world—universities, government, and business—aren’t working together well enough. He says these three entities need to do a better job at “triangulating” with three-way dialogue.

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