West Coast Biotech Roundup: Burrill, Topol, Aduro, Receptos, & More

Xconomy San Francisco — 

The ultimate West Coast biotech roundup is happening next week in San Diego. It’s the international BIO convention, which one biotech veteran described to us as a “sharknado” when we asked if he would be there. (He won’t be there.) Xconomy will definitely be there, but we’re getting ahead of ourselves. We’ve got the past seven days to recap, from Steve Burrill’s legal trouble to Receptos’s secondary haul to promising new eye research at the University of Washington. Let’s get to it.

—San Francisco biotech investor Steve Burrill was removed by his limited partners earlier this year from one of his own venture funds. The news emerged in a lawsuit filed last week against Burrill by former employee Ann Hanham. She alleged Burrill and two others at his firm diverted nearly $20 million meant for investment and, when confronted, could not pay back the missing funds. Hanham and others are now stewards of the fund.

—OncoMed Pharmaceuticals (NASDAQ: OMED) of Redwood City, CA, said June 13 it voluntarily halted two Phase 1 trials of its cancer drugs vantictumab and Fzd8-Fc for what it called “mild-to-moderate bone-related” adverse events. The Food and Drug Administration reinforced that decision by placing a partial clinical hold on vanctictumab. OncoMed said it will work to revise its trial plans. The news knocked about $5, or 20%, from the company’s stock price, but it has since recovered, opening Thursday at $26 a share.

—Two San Diego medical device makers, DexCom (NASDAQ: DXCM) and Tandem Diabetes Care (NASDAQ: TNDM) provided major components in the creation of a portable artificial pancreas that has successfully regulated blood sugar levels in patients with Type 1 diabetes. The device, highlighted Sunday at the American Diabetes Association conference in San Francisco, controlled blood-sugar levels better than standard monitors and insulin pumps did in a five-day trial that included 20 adults and 32 teens. The results also were published in the New England Journal of Medicine.

—Eric Topol, a cardiologist and genomics researcher at the Scripps family of institutions in San Diego, gave an interview to Xconomy in which he discussed the integration of digital technology and connectedness into health care.

—Hyperion Therapeutics (NASDAQ: HPTX) of Brisbane, CA, said June 12 it completed its acquisition of Israeli drug developer Andromeda Biotech, a deal first announced in April. Hyperion is paying $12.4 million in cash and nearly 313,000 common shares of its stock. The acquisition gives Hyperion a diabetes treatment that has received orphan drug status in the U.S. and is currently in Phase 3 trials with data expected in early 2015.

—Researchers at the University of Washington in Seattle have created a tiny implantable sensor that can track eye pressure, a potential way to monitor patients for glaucoma after cataract surgery. The electronic sensor, which UW professor Karl Bohringer said is possible “in principle,” would be implanted permanently in the lens and transmit information wirelessly. The research team published their work in the Journal of Micromechanics and Microengineering in March.

—San Diego biotech Receptos (NASDAQ: RCPT) priced its secondary stock offering of 4.4 million shares at $40.25 a share. Gross proceeds are expected to top $178 million and will fund continuing clinical trials of its lead drug candidate, RPC1063, for relapsing multiple sclerosis and ulcerative colitis, and to advance other drug development programs.

—On Wednesday, Xconomy profiled Berkeley-based Aduro BioTech, which recently has raised a $55 million venture round and licensed its genetically engineered version of the food-borne bacterium Listeria to Johnson & Johnson, which wants to use it to develop treatments for prostate cancer. Aduro is pursuing its own program in pancreatic cancer.

—Serenus Biotherapeutics launched Wednesday in San Francisco with the goal of bringing drugs already approved for U.S. and European markets to countries in sub-Saharan Africa. Serenus founder, chairman and CEO Menghis Bairu, a veteran of Elan Corp. and other drug companies, hopes to strike his first licensing deals in the next few months, build sales forces in countries such as South Africa, Ghana, Botswana, Rwanda, and others with a growing middle class, and start selling within 18 months. Serenus is supported so far by individual investors but wants to raise a venture round by mid-2015.

Bruce Bigelow and Ben Romano contributed to this roundup.

SharkTruck (in Sebastopol, CA) photo courtesy of A Syn via a Creative Commons license.