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West Coast Biotech Roundup: Audentes, Fate, Zosano & More

Xconomy National — 

When 23andMe said Wednesday it had raised $115 million in a new venture capital round, Reuters reported that the round implied a total valuation of $1.1 billion for the genomics company—making 23andMe a new member of the rare and wondrous (and growing) unicorn club. (The Wall Street Journal has listed the Mountain View, CA-based company on its billion-dollar startup list since June, and CB Insights added 23andMe to its unicorn list in July, but no matter.)

Silicon Valley’s technorati define “unicorn” as a private technology startup valued at more than $1 billion, and 2015 is already a record year for newborn unicorns. Of the 142 companies on CB Insights’ global unicorn list, 66 were added in the first nine months of 2015 (including companies like Lynda.com, which became a unicorn before exiting). According to CB Insights’ latest report, the 66 new unicorns include 39 U.S.-based companies.

But unicorns aren’t just for tech companies any more. There are now 10 life sciences companies on CB Insights’ list, including Theranos (valued at $9 billion, with some controversy here), Intarcia Therapeutics ($5.5B), Stemcentrx ($3B), Moderna ($2B), and NantHealth ($2B).

Xconomy’s Alex Lash has argued, “Biotechs, being the home of disciplined scientists (we hope), should have a more reality-based buzzword. From here on out, billion-dollar biotechs are snow leopards, and the preclinical ones that manage an IPO are coelacanths—so rare that people once thought they only existed millions of years ago.”

In a note yesterday, he adds, “When you study biology and chemistry all day instead of trying to create the next reality distortion field, you tend not to put much stock in mythological life forms.”

In other life sciences news:

—San Francisco’s Audentes Therapeutics, which is focused on commercializing gene therapy products for serious and rare diseases, said Tuesday it raised $65 million in a Series C financing led by Sofinnova Ventures, an existing investor, Redmile Group, a new investor. Audentes said proceeds would be used mostly to advance its three lead development programs and to establish internal manufacturing capabilities.

LeafBio, the commercial arm of San Diego’s Mapp Biopharmaceutical, said today the European Medicines Agency has given the Ebola drug ZMapp its “Orphan Medicinal Product Designation.” The agency uses the designation to encourage the development of drugs and other products targeting rare diseases with no existing cure or treatment. The designation provides such benefits as protocol assistance and market exclusivity.

—A new Global Health Vaccine Center of Innovation will be housed at Seattle’s Infectious Disease Research Institute (IDRI). The center, with funding from Sanofi Psteur and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, aims to accelerate vaccine development for global infectious disease, and to ensure their accessibility. The center also plans to collaborate with other vaccine developers.

—The human genome pioneer J. Craig Venter invited VIPs and reporters to tour Health Nucleus, a new business venture that uses whole genome sequencing, microbiome sequencing, advanced medical imaging, and other diagnostics for elite, self-paying customers. The proposal triggered some skepticism among the Twitterati; you can follow their comments here.

—The biotech accelerator IndieBio says it’s enrolling a new class of 15 startups at its … Next Page »

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