San Francisco-Area Business, Life Sciences, and Technology News Briefs


West Coast Biotech Roundup: Lumena/Shire, Isis, Janssen Labs & More

A new wave of buyout fervor included the acquisition of San Diego’s Lumena Pharmaceuticals, Janssen Labs unveiled plans for a new incubator in South San Francisco, and Statos Genomics raised capital in Seattle. Here is the past week’s roundup of news up and down the left coast.

—San Diego’s Lumena Pharmaceuticals, founded in 2011 to develop oral drugs for treating rare liver disorders, agreed to a $260 million-plus buyout offer from Irish drug maker Shire. The deal helps Shire expand its business in gastrointestinal drugs. In addition to paying $260 million in cash upfront, Shire agreed to make an additional payment for the cash on Lumena’s balance sheet when the deal closes, as well as milestone payments as two Lumena drugs advance through clinical trials. The acquisition comes amid a wave of big pharma deal activity.

—Janssen Labs, part of the Johnson & Johnson (NYSE: JNJ) healthcare empire, announced a new 30,000 square foot life sciences incubator in South San Francisco that could house up to 50 companies and potentially double the group’s nationwide capacity. Janssen Labs’ three current sites are in San Diego, San Francisco, and Cambridge.

—Xenoport (NASDAQ: XNPT) of Santa Clara, CA has licensed its alcohol abuse deterrent arbaclofen placarbil to Reckitt Benckiser Pharmaceuticals of Richmond, VA, for $20 million upfront and $125 million in potential milestone payments, plus royalties. Reckitt receives exclusive worldwide rights to the drug and plans to move it into a Phase 2b clinical study.

—Shares of Carlsbad, CA-based Isis Pharmaceuticals (NASDAQ: ISIS) surged after the company reported encouraging results in a mid-stage trial of its antisense drug GCGRRx in patients with type 2 diabetes. Isis said patients achieved statistically significant reductions in blood sugar levels, with absolute mean reductions in hemoglobin A1c (HbA1c) greater than 2 percent at 200 milligrams and 1 percent at 100 milligrams after 13 weeks of treatment.

Stratos Genomics, a Seattle-based developer of low-cost gene sequencing technology, has raised $10 million of a planned $16 million investment round, according to a recent regulatory filing. The company previously raised over $13 million in the seven years since it was founded to advance its proprietary “sequencing-by-expansion” nanopore technology for both targeted and whole-genome sequencing.

—University of California, San Francisco researcher Alex Marson contributed work to a drug discovery program with ambitions to produce a treatment for multiple autoimmune diseases. Still a long way from human testing, the program, as Xconomy reported Monday, is the property of GlaxoSmithKline (NYSE: GSK) via its Cambridge, MA-based subsidiary Tempero Pharmaceuticals.

—Tacoma, WA-based Revalesio has raised $13.5 million of a planned $40 million investment round to advance its technology, which generates charge-stabilized molecules in medical grade saline solution. The company, founded in 2000, says it is advancing the use of its novel product, which does not contain a traditional active pharmaceutical ingredient, for intravenous use in treating inflammatory diseases.

—Human Longevity, the genomics and cell therapy-based diagnostic company founded in San Diego by human genome pioneer J. Craig Venter, named three leaders to its core scientific team. Details are here.

—San Diego-based Owaves, a digital health startup founded a year ago, introduced a calendar app for the iPad that is intended to help guide users to a healthier standard of living. The seed-stage company plans to use wireless health technology to help users adopt new measurements for health and wellness.

Bruce Bigelow and Ben Romano contributed to this roundup.


Complete to Sequence 1,000 Kids’ Genomes

Complete Genomics (NASDAQ: GNOM), the Mountain View, CA-based company that sequences entire human genomes as a service for researchers, said today it will determine the sequences of 1,000 genomes as part of the second phase of an ongoing pediatric cancer study sponsored by the National Cancer Institute. Scientists at SAIC-Frederick will compare samples of tumors, and normal tissues, from 500 kids with cancer, Complete Genomics said in a statement. This phase of the contract is worth $8 million to Complete Genomics, and is being paid for out of money from the American Reinvestment and Recovery Act of 2009, also known as the federal “stimulus” law.


Vivus Adds $45.8M

Vivus (NASDAQ: VVUS), the Mountain View, CA-based developer of drugs for obesity and erectile dysfunction, said today it has raised $45.8 million in a stock offering. The company agreed to sell about 6.9 million shares of stock at $6.65 apiece. Funds managed by QVT Financial were the lead investors in the deal, while two other existing investors participated, Vivus said. The stock offering was priced at about a 6.5 percent discount to yesterday’s closing stock price of $7.10.


Sentilla Collects $15M

Redwood City, CA-based Sentilla, which makes data center analysis and planning software, said today that it has collected $15 million in Series C funding. New investor SingTel Innov8 Ventures led the round, which was joined by existing backers ONSET Ventures and Claremont Creek Ventures. The company said it will use the funds to expand sales and marketing efforts.

$3M for iScience Interventional

iScience Interventional, a Menlo Park, CA-based maker of microcatheter technology that helps surgeons reduce intraocular pressure in glaucoma patients, reported last week in a regulatory filing that it has raised $3 million in new equity-based financing. The company was founded in 1999 and has a long list of backers including Affinity Capital Management, Asset Management Company, Clarian Health Ventures, De Novo Ventures, Johnson & Johnson Development, L Capital Partners, Pacific Horizon Ventures, Prism VentureWorks, and Three Arch Partners.


Digital Chocolate Eats Up Sandlot Games

San Mateo-based social game maker Digital Chocolate said this week that it has acquired Bothell, WA-based Sandlot Games, a casual game studio known for Web and mobile titles such as Cake Mania, Super Granny, Tradewinds, and Westward. Financial details of the acquisition were not disclosed. “Sandlot has built a great reputation in casual games,” Digital Chocolate founder and CEO Trip Hawkins (an Xconomist), who also founded Electronic Arts, said in a statement. “We love their development teams and we can now expand further in Seattle.” Collects $19M in Fourth Round

Palo Alto, CA-based cloud document sharing company has upped the size of its ongoing Series D funding round to $35 million and has collected $19 million of that amount so far, according to a regulatory filing disclosed this week. Existing investors Andreessen Horowitz and Draper Fisher Jurvetson are participating in the D round, along with some new investors who will be identified soon, CEO Aaron Levie told VentureBeat this week. Box has been sucking up cash fast this year: in February it closed a $48 million funding round.

RelayRides Boosts Series A Round

RelayRides, the San Francisco-based car sharing network, said this week that it has increased its Series A2 funding round to $10 million with help from existing investors Google Ventures and August Capital and new investor Shasta Ventures. Author and entrepreneur Lisa Gansky also contributed to the round. RelayRides raised $5.1 million in Series A2 funding in March and an additional $673,000 in in May.

$650K Round, New App at drchrono

A Mountain View, CA-based electronic health records startup called drchrono announced this week that it has collected $650,000 in new funding from Russian investor Yuri Milner, the founder of DST Global, and General Catalyst. Drchrono makes an iPad-based app that helps physicians’ practices handle medical records, electronic prescribing, medical billing, and patient management. Drchrono also announced the release of a patient check-in app called OnPatient; it allows patients to update their medical data via iPad while in the waiting room.


Evernote Buys Skitch, Announces Developer Competition Winner

At its first-ever developer conference in San Francisco yesterday, Mountain View, CA-based online notekeeping startup Evernote announced that it has acquired Skitch. The Australian startup makes a popular Mac application used to capture, annotate, and share images. Evernote has already made the Skitch app free (it formerly cost $19.95 in the Mac App Store) and says it plans to integrate Skitch’s features into Evernote, so that users can more easily save annotated images in their Evernote notebooks. Evernote also announced the winners of its first developer competition, intended to highlight the work of outside developers building applications that integrate with the Evernote service. The $50,000 grand prize winner was Touchanote, an application that stores shortcuts to Evernote notes on near-field communications tags that can be attached to real-world objects.

$15M for GoodData

San Francisco-based GoodData, which offers a cloud-based business intelligence software platform, said yesterday that it has collected $15 million in new venture funding. New investor Andreessen Horowitz led the Series B round, which was joined by existing investors General Catalyst Partners, Fidelity Growth Partners, and Windcrest Partners. The firm, which was founded by Czech-born serial entrepreneur Roman Stanek and was originally based in Cambridge, MA, has raised $28.5 million to date.


Report: FivePrime CEO Out

Julia Gregory, the CEO of FivePrime Therapeutics, has resigned and been replaced by company founder and executive chairman Lewis “Rusty” Williams, according to a report by In Vivo, a biotech industry publication. Gregory spent two years at the company, and during her time there, struck a lucrative new partnership with Rockville, MD-based Human Genome Sciences (NASDAQ: HGSI). A year ago, in an interview with Xconomy, Gregory described FivePrime as a “biotech CEO’s dream.”


Genentech, Plexxikon Cancer Drug Gets FDA OK

Genentech, the South San Francisco-based unit of Roche, and its Berkeley, CA-based Plexxikon, a unit of Daiichi Sankyo, said today that the FDA has approved their new drug for certain patients with melanoma that has spread through the body. The FDA said the companies can now start selling vemurafenib (Zelboraf) for patients who have mutations of a protein called BRAF that is implicated in their melanoma. The drug, which showed startlingly positive results in clinical trials, was approved ahead of the FDA’s legal deadline of Oct. 28, an action the agency rarely takes.


ZeaChem Teams With Chrysler on Ethanol

ZeaChem, the developer of cellulosic ethanol technology, said today it has agreed on a memorandum of understanding, the first step toward a strategic alliance, with Auburn Hill, MI-based Chrysler Group. Terms of the agreement weren’t disclosed. ZeaChem, which runs an R&D facility in Menlo Park, CA, said one of the goals will be “to strengthen the credibility among regulators and American consumers of cellulosic ethanol as a cost-effective green transportation alternative.”


$16M for Link A Media

A Santa Clara, CA, maker of chips for storage systems called Link A Media said yesterday that it has closed a $16 million Series D funding round. Participating backers include Itochu Technology Ventures, Keynote Ventures, Lightspeed Venture Partners, SunAmerica Ventures, and “several strategic partners,” according to the startup. Link-A-Media makes controllers that handle error checking during read-write operations on both hard drives and Flash-based storage devices. “This infusion of capital allows us to continue to build product momentum and increase our presence in the fast evolving storage market, which is driven by the explosion in content and its delivery across a multitude of platforms,” said Link A Media CEO Hemant Thapar in a statement.

Rocket Lawyer Served $18.5M

Rocket Lawyer, a San Francisco-based provider of online legal documents and attorney-finding services, said today that has collected $18.5 million in Series D financing. The round was led by August Capital, with Google Ventures and Investor Growth Capital also participating. August Capital partner David Hornik has joined the company’s board. “We see a large market opportunity for legal solutions that are easily accessible and affordable to users,” Google Ventures partner Wesley Chan said in a statement. “Rocket Lawyer’s combination of an intuitive user-driven front-end with a strong technology-based platform uniquely positions the company to scale and deliver the type of ‘wow’ user experience that online customers love.” The startup has now raised $28 million all told.


Gilead HIV Drug Gets FDA OK

Gilead Sciences (NASDAQ: GILD), the world’s largest maker of HIV drugs, said today that the FDA has approved a new once-daily pill the company has developed for patients with HIV. The drug is a combination of three antivirals—emtricitabine/rilpivirine/tenofovir disoproxil fumarate—that will be marketed under the name Complera. This is the second once-daily HIV pill from Foster City, CA-based Gilead, following a combination of efavirenz/emtricitabine/tenofovir disoproxil fumarate (Atripla), which Gilead markets in partnership with Bristol-Myers Squibb.

Couchbase Lands $14M

NoSQL database software maker Couchbase, formed from the February merger of CouchOne and Membase, has collected $14 million in Series C financing from a group including new investor Ignition Partners and existing investors Accel Partners, Mayfield Fund, and North Bridge Venture Partners, according to an announcement today. The Mountain View, CA-based startup says it will use the funds to accelerate the delivery of its product, ramp up marketing to enterprises, and expand internationally.

$8M for BVI Networks

San Jose, CA-based BVI Networks, a maker of business intelligence visualization software for consumer retailers, said today that it has raised $8 million in a Series B funding round. New investor August Capital led the round, which was joined by the startup’s existing investors. “While physical stores generate over 95% of all retail business in the US, the existing analytics and business intelligence tools are woefully inadequate compared to e-commerce,” said August Capital partner Vivek Mehra in a statement. “We were impressed with BVI Networks’ technology and customer traction and are excited to lead their round of financing.”


Twitter Buys Bagcheck

Bagcheck, a site where consumers can list and discuss their favorite personal gear and other products, has been purchased by San Francisco-based social media giant Twitter, according to a blog post on the Bagcheck site. Bagcheck co-founder and Yahoo alum Sam Pullara has joined Twitter’s enginering team and will continue to maintain the Bagcheck site, at least for now, according to the post. Co-founder Luke Wroblewski has not joined Twitter. Bagcheck raised venture funding from Sutter Hill Ventures and Morado Ventures as well as individual investors Jonathan Katzman and Peter Fenton.

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