West Coast Biotech Roundup: Regulus, Ardelyx, Juno, Sangamo & More

Xconomy San Francisco — 

While a big slice of the oncology world was packed into a Chicago conference center earlier this week for the American Society for Clinical Oncology conference, other news happened, too. In San Diego, Regulus lost a CEO, and in the Bay Area, Ardelyx said goodbye to a big partner. In Seattle, Juno kept churning out news, and the University of Washington spun out a bio-software company. We didn’t do a roundup last week, so we’ll reach back a little farther than usual as we bring you the highlights of what’s been happening out west.

—The big surprise this week came from Regulus Therapeutics (NASDAQ: RGLS), which announced the resignation of CEO Kleanthis Xanthopoulos after seven years at the helm “to pursue investment opportunities.” He also gave up his board seat. Chief medical officer Paul Grint was named the new CEO. Regulus also said it had begun a Phase 1 trial of a treatment for Alport syndrome, a genetic kidney disease.

—Another parting of the ways: Ardelyx (NASDAQ: ARDX) of Fremont, CA, said Wednesday it has regained rights to its lead product tenapanor and other assets from AstraZeneca (NYSE: AZN). The companies agreed in 2012 to codevelop tenapanor and other NH3 inhibitors; Ardelyx is paying at least $25 million to bring those programs back in-house. The company also said it would move a treatment for hyperkalemia into clinical trials this year. It also raised nearly $78 million to help pay for the programs.

—A top researcher at Sangamo Biosciences (NASDAQ: SGMO) of Richmond, CA, is under SEC investigation in an insider trading case. The agency says four people outside the company allegedly profited from knowledge about the Sangamo-Biogen Idec 2014 licensing deal, provided by the Sangamo insider, before the deal was publicly disclosed. (h/t Fierce Biotech)

—CytRx (NASDAQ: CYTR) of Los Angeles said Tuesday it settled a shareholder lawsuit by repricing the stock options of several officials.

—Seattle’s Juno Therapeutics (NASDAQ: JUNO) has been busy. Its academic collaborators released data at ASCO, as we noted in the roundup. Before the conference, Juno announced a partnership with Editas Medicine of Cambridge, MA, to use CRISPR/Cas9 genome-editing technology to develop cancer immunotherapies, as well as the hiring of a new chief scientific officer, Hy Levitsky, formerly Roche’s head of cancer immunology experimental medicine.

—Juno also disclosed this week the acquisition of nine-person X-Body, of Waltham, MA, to gain an antibody discovery platform. Juno is paying $21 million cash and 439,265 shares of its stock, worth $23 million before Tuesday’s market opened. (Juno shares have risen 17 percent since then.) Juno could also pay post-acquisition milestones to X-Body.

—Staying in Seattle, Cyrus Biotech launched with the aim of turning protein design software, licensed from the University of Washington lab of David Baker, into commercial tools for making therapeutics and diagnostics. Cyrus has nabbed seed funding from the W Fund and the WINGS angel network.

—Down the road in Olympia, WA, stalled budget negotiations in state government have put Washington’s Life Science Discovery Fund in jeopardy, as Xconomy reported Friday. If funding isn’t renewed, the organization, created 10 years ago to funnel tobacco settlement money into health research, will shut down on June 30.

—San Diego’s Halozyme Therapeutics (NASDAQ: HALO) agreed to work with AbbVie (NYSE: ABBV) on compounds that increase the absorption of biologic drugs just under the skin. Abbvie will initially pay Halozyme $23 million, with milestone payments totaling roughly $130 million each for up to nine drug collaborations.

—Halozyme also said last week it would collaborate with Roche’s Ventana Medical Systems on a diagnostic test for high levels of hyaluronan, a chain of natural sugars that can accumulate around cancer cells. The partners want to pair the diagnostic test with PEGPH20, Halozyme’s investigational new drug headed for a late-stage clinical study in 2016.

—Nektar (NASDAQ: NKTR) of San Francisco said Tuesday it would team up with the University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center of Houston to run a Phase 1/2 study and conduct other research on NKTR-214, meant to stimulate via the IL-2 receptor a patient’s own immune system to fight cancer.

—San Diego-based NuVasive (NASDAQ: NUVA) last week named Greg Lucier as CEO. Lucier, who joined the NuVasive board at the end of 2013, has been serving as the interim CEO since the end of March, when longtime CEO Alex Lukianov resigned. The medical device maker has developed more than 90 products for spinal surgery.

—Google Ventures president Bill Maris published a post last week about medicine’s “transistor moment” and the eight ways in which technology will speed the pace of healthcare improvements.

Alcatraz photo courtesy of Brian Shamblen via Creative Commons.

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One response to “West Coast Biotech Roundup: Regulus, Ardelyx, Juno, Sangamo & More”

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