West Coast Biotech Roundup: CareFusion, Sunesis, Second Genome, Etc.

Xconomy San Francisco — 

After a week’s hiatus, the roundup is back. We’ve been busy. New Xconomy San Francisco editor Bernadette Tansey took a first look at a plan to build a local incubator for synthetic biology startups, while I covered an appearance by Tekmira Pharmaceuticals CEO Mark Murray, the first since his company’s drug was approved for emergency use in Ebola patients.

I also dived into the rapidly expanding pool of digital health products—many of which are being developed in San Francisco and Silicon Valley—to ask how much clinical evidence we (meaning patients or users), our healthcare providers, and the insurers need before adopting these apps and programs.

And in case you’ve missed it, our Seattle biotech op-ed contributor Stewart Lyman is exploring in depth his hometown’s troubles in building a sustained, thriving life-science industry. His prescription: more “semi-successful” companies. Here are parts one, two, and three.

There was plenty of other news we couldn’t cover the past seven days; that’s why we round things up. Let’s get to it.

—After last week’s market debuts of Bay Area biopharmas Dermira and Calithera Biosciences, the queue looks like it’s about to move fast again. At least four West Coast biotechs made progress toward an IPO in recent days. Atara Biotherapeutics re-filed its paperwork after pulling back in July. Virobay of Menlo Park, CA said it would aim to sell 3.8 million shares between $12 and $14 a share in its upcoming offer. Vista, CA-based diagnostics firm AutoGenomics hopes the third time’s a charm, filing for a $60 million IPO after two previous attempts fizzled. Up the coast and across the border near Vancouver, BC, Xenon Pharmaceuticals has targeted a sale of 4 million shares between $10 and $12.

—San Diego-based CareFusion (NYSE: CFN) agreed to a $12.2 billion cash-and-stock acquisition by Franklin Lakes, NJ-based medical technology maker Becton, Dickinson and Company (NYSE: BDX). BD said it would keep a presence in San Diego, where CareFusion, a maker of infusion pumps and drug-dispensing systems, has about 2,100 employees.

—Data from a Phase 3 trial of vosaroxin from South San Francisco-based Sunesis Pharmaceuticals (NASDAQ: SNSS) showed acute myeloid leukemia patients on the drug (combined with cytarabine) lived slightly longer than those only on cytarabine, but the result was not statistically significant, which was the main goal of the study. Sunesis officials said they would try for European approval based on the data, but investors bailed, sending the stock down 78 percent to $1.43 a share as of market close Wednesday.

—Second Genome of South San Francisco, CA, announced Tuesday a microbiome research collaboration with the Mayo Clinic to pursue therapeutics for up to eight disease areas, including inflammatory bowel disease, metabolic disorders, and colorectal cancer. Mayo will also make an undisclosed amount of equity investment in Second Genome.

—Six months after its IPO, San Diego’s Vital Therapies said it plans to raise about $35 million by selling 2 million shares. The 11-year-old company (NASDAQ: VTL) has developed an artificial liver support system using human liver-derived cells.

—The Allen Institute for Brain Science in Seattle announced receipt of an $8.7 million National Institutes of Health grant for the study of synapses. Stephen Smith, who came to the Allen Institute from Stanford University in August, is the lead investigator.

—Cardiac Dimensions of Kirkland, WA, has raised $8.5 million from Arboretum Ventures, also of Kirkland, adding to the $20 million round it announced in April.

—Blaze Bioscience of Seattle received a $1.5 million small-business grant to fund a Phase 1b study of its lead product, an imaging agent to identify cancer cells for more precise surgical removal, in patients with soft tissue sarcoma.

Xconomy San Diego editor Bruce V. Bigelow and Xconomy Seattle editor Ben Romano contributed to this post. Photo courtesy of “Captain” Bigelow.