West Coast Biotech Roundup: Volcano, Twist, Calibr, ARMO, and More

Xconomy San Francisco — 

For scheduling purposes, we’re moving the West Coast biotech roundup to Thursday. That move, plus the long Memorial Day weekend, means a short week and a fairly short roundup. It’s like hanging six or seven instead of the full ten. Next week’s roundup will catch a full wave of activity, we promise.

—San Diego medical device maker Volcano (NASDAQ: VOLC) is paying at least $115 million to acquire Menlo Park, CA-based AtheroMed and its Phoenix system for opening up narrowed coronary arteries, which was cleared for sale in the U.S. earlier this year. With AtheroMed’s technology in its portfolio, Volcano said it will gain a stronger presence in the global atherectomy market, estimated at $350 million to $400 million and growing 7 percent a year.

—Twist Bioscience of San Francisco announced a $31 million cash infusion to push its silicon-based gene synthesis system toward the market. CEO Emily LeProust told Xconomy she hopes to launch the service in 2015. The firm coupled a $26 million Series B round led by members of the Pritzker family with a $5 million grant from the U.S. Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency.

—Tiziana Life Sciences, a London-based oncology startup founded last year, named UC San Diego cancer specialist Napoleone Ferrara as a consultant and chairman of its scientific advisory board. Ferrara gained renown for his breakthrough studies of the formation of blood vessels that feed tumors, which figured prominently in the development of the cancer drug bevacizumab (Avastin) at Genentech. Tiziana’s lead drug candidate is under development for treating metastatic breast cancer and targets the B-cell lymphoma 3 gene.

— EKOS, of Bothell, WA, said Friday the FDA cleared its ultrasound device for breaking up pulmonary embolisms, or blood clots in the lungs. The company claims the device, the EkoSonic Endovascular System, is the first FDA-cleared treatment for pulmonary embolism since the drug tPA in 1990. The device helps infuse clot-dissolving drugs into the lung arteries without invasive procedures. EKOS is part of the London-based healthcare firm BTG International.

—ARMO Biosciences of Redwood City, CA said Wednesday it has raised a $30 million Series B round led by NanoDimension, with participation from Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers, OrbiMed Advisors, and DAG Ventures. The money will go toward expansion of the Phase 1 program for its cancer immunotherapy AM0010, a recombinant, longer-lasting form of interleukin-10 (IL-10) to target solid tumors. The firm is working on a so-called “off the shelf” type of immunotherapy, not a personalized one that uses each patient’s own immune cells as the basis for his or her treatment.

—The Wellcome Trust provided a translation award to the San Diego-based California Institute for Biomedical Research (Calibr) to develop a semi-synthetic antibody-based immunotherapy for treating prostate cancer that does not respond to hormone-based therapies. Details of the award were not disclosed. In a statement, Calibr founder and director Peter Schultz said the institute’s partnership with the Wellcome Trust “exemplifies Calibr’s strategy of rapidly translating innovative research into new medicines that address major unmet needs.”

—True Diagnostics, a San Diego startup founded in 2010 to develop immunoassay diagnostics, said it has entered into a collaboration with Darmstadt, Germany-based Merck KGaA (which operates in the U.S. as EMD Serono) to develop rapid, point-of-care screening for hypothyroidism in the People’s Republic of China. Financial terms were not disclosed. The company said its diagnostic device takes only a few minutes and requires only a small sample of whole-blood collected directly from the patient’s fingertip.

Bruce Bigelow contributed to this post.

Totally gnarly photo courtesy of flickrer Steve Corey via a Creative Commons license.