Plexxikon’s Big Payday, InterMune Wins EU Approval, UCSF’s $48M Windfall, & More Bay Area Life Sciences News

Xconomy San Francisco — 

The biotech world was buzzing this week on the first 10-bagger I’ve seen in a long, long, time.

—Berkeley, CA-based Plexxikon captured all that buzz when it agreed to be acquired by Japan-based Daiichi Sankyo for $805 million upfront, plus another $130 million in milestone payments. Not shabby for a company that raised $67 million in venture capital over its decade in business. CEO Peter Hirth will be on hand at our next Xconomy event on March 16th, where I’ll be sure to ask him how this cancer drug development model—which people snickered at years ago—ultimately paid off.

—Brisbane, CA-based InterMune (NASDAQ: ITMN) looked like a dead duck in May when the FDA shot down its application for a new drug for idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis. The stock crashed more than 80 percent that day. But InterMune found a more friendly reception from European regulators, and this week it got the official green light to start selling pirfenidone (Esbriet) in the EU. InterMune shares were $45.44 before the FDA smackdown, and they climbed all the way back to $40.23 at yesterday’s close, following the good news from the EU.

—A couple of noteable items came out of UC San Francisco this week. The university secured a $48 million gift from the estate of Nina Ireland, who dedicated her money to lung disease research and care, particularly complex pulmonary conditions such as interstitial lung disease and idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis. So between that donation and InterMune’s approval, this was an especially newsy week for people with idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis, a deadly condition that many of the 9/11 rescue workers developed.

—The other news item out of UCSF was a new partnership with Zcube, the venture arm of Italian pharmaceutical company Zambon. This new alliance calls for Zcube to sponsor research into delivering pills filled with microscopic drug-laden adhesive patches. Terms weren’t disclosed.

—We’re getting ready to produce the first Xconomy San Francisco event with a life sciences theme, which we’re calling Bay Area Life Sciences 2031. This event, on March 16th at UCSF Mission Bay, will take a hard look at the 20-year outlook for biotech, and ask whether the Bay Area stands to remain the No. 1 diversified hub for life science innovation, or whether it risks losing the edge. Besides Peter Hirth, we’ll hear from an all-star panel that includes Corey Goodman of venBio, Randy Scott of Genomic Health, and Jeff Bluestone of UCSF.

—And lastly, on Monday I debuted my national biotech column for Xconomy, called BioBeat. This one was about how Big Pharma’s hardball negotiating tactics with biotech might make the quarterly income statement look good, but threaten to wreck the innovation ecosystem Big Pharma depends on. If you have suggestions of some edgy themes worth exploring in the column, feel free to shoot me an e-mail at [email protected]