PacBio Goes Commercial, Tweet by Tweet from BayBio, VCs Turn Up the Heat on FDA, & More Bay Area Life Sciences News

Xconomy San Francisco — 

One of the ambitious new players in the field of superfast/supercheap gene sequencing graduated from R&D mode into a commercial enterprise this week. The plot thickens in this competitive world…

—The sequencing company in Menlo Park, CA, Pacific Biosciences (NASDAQ: PACB), had a coming out party this week when it said it has converted its original 11 beta customers into full-fledged buyers of its new commercial machine. It took PacBio seven years of work, and it raised $580 million of investment capital to get to this point. Wall Street liked what it heard, sending the stock up 5 percent. But it will be fascinating to see how quickly scientists snap up the PacBio machine to see what it can really add compared to the workhorse offerings from Illumina (NASDAQ: ILMN) and Life Technologies (NASDAQ: LIFE).

—One of Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers‘ favored cleantech companies here on the West Coast is Harvest Power, and I’m happy to say co-founder Jan Allen will be making an appearance at an alternative fuels conference I’m organizing for Xconomy in Seattle on May 19. Harvest is seeking to steer organic waste like lawn clippings away from the landfill and into its anaerobic digesters, so it can be turned into more useful stuff, like garden soil and natural gas fuel for electricity generation. A couple more Bay Area cleantech leaders—Kristina Burow of Arch Venture Partners and Ned David of Kilimanjaro Energy—will be featured speakers at this event on May 19.

FivePrime Therapeutics, the South San Francisco-based developer of protein drugs, said this week it has obtained a license to technology from Cambridge, MA-based Dyax (NASDAQ: DYAX) to help develop antibody drugs. Terms weren’t disclosed.

—This week’s edition of the BioBeat column talked about how quite a few VCs from around the country are putting pressure on the FDA to get faster and more predictable, especially in the review of new medical devices. This is almost certainly a story to be continued, as there is a lot of anti-FDA sentiment building out there in biopharma land, too, and the FDA is showing signs of being sensitive to the criticism.

—Last week I was in town for the BayBio annual conference, where I listened, learned, networked, and oh yeah, tweeted a whole lot. Biotechies are certainly not early adopters of the whole social media phenomenon, but I’m starting to hear more and more curiosity about it, so I tried to offer a little bit of a guide for beginners on how it can be useful.

—Ryan McBride, our departing correspondent in New England, made a note this week about how GlaxoSmithKline’s venture investment arm, SR One, has opened up a new Bay Area office. Frankly, I was surprised that SR One didn’t already have a place to hang its hat in the world’s leading hub of venture capital.

—Lastly, my new colleague in New York, Arlene Weintraub, chipped in with a cool feature which talked about why Bay City Capital‘s Doug Given felt it was important to keep one of the firm’s portfolio companies, Vivaldi Biosciences, in the Big Apple, and not the City by the Bay.