West Coast Biotech Roundup: Dendreon, Venter, Orexigen, & More

6/12/14Follow @alexlash

What did we learn out west the past seven days? Orexigen will have to wait at least three more months to learn if it can market its obesity drug. Four companies in our coverage cities inched closer to the public markets. Dendreon CEO John Johnson decided to step down, and Peter Thiel’s Breakout Labs decided to step up with more life sciences funding. Onward to the roundup.

—IPO news: Pfenex, a San Diego biotech spun out from Dow Chemical in 2009, has filed for an IPO and is looking to raise nearly $75 million to advance its development of biosimilars, vaccines, and other biologic drugs. Also in San Diego, drug developer Ambrx set its terms, aiming to raise $70 million with the sale of 5.4 million shares in the $12 to $14 price range. Ardelyx, of Fremont, CA, indicated Monday it would aim to raise $50 million with an offer of 3.6 million shares at $13 to $15 each. Medical diagnostics maker KineMed of Emeryville, CA, clocked in with a more modest goal of $32 million by selling 4.5 million shares at $6.50 to $7.50.

—San Francisco’s Breakout Labs unveiled three new life science investments: Cortexyme, developing diagnostics and therapeutics for Alzheimer’s disease; G-Tech Medical, developing a wireless wearable device that measures a patient’s gastrointestinal muscle activity; and EpiBone, which is using stem cells and CT scans to create autologous bone regeneration.

—San Diego’s Orexigen Therapeutics (NASDAQ: OREX) surprised investors with the news Wednesday that the FDA would extend the review of the company’s weight-loss drug by three months. The agency was expected to make an approval decision this week. Company officials said the delay was to finalize a post-approval plan to monitor the drug’s cardiovascular risk, not to spend more time analyzing the drug’s clinical data. Shares dropped more than $1, or 16%, on Wednesday.

—Seattle Children’s Research Institute and biotech firm Kineta, also of Seattle, said Wednesday they would create the Alliance for Children’s Therapeutics, a collaboration funded by charitable donations and Kineta’s equity investors. The alliance will fund development of drugs for pediatric diseases. The first project will explore Kineta’s first clinical compound ShK-186—which is moving into clinical tests in adults with psoriasis and psoriatic arthritis—as a potential treatment for lupus nephritis in children.

—San Diego-based RuiYi, which has been developing biologic therapeutics for China, disclosed a research collaboration with the iHuman Institute at ShanghaiTech University. Together they intend to create new monoclonal antibodies targeting G Protein Coupled Receptors (GPCRs) for therapeutics, diagnostics, and research. While RuiYi CEO Paul Grayson is based in San Diego, most of the company’s operations are in Shanghai. In a separate statement, RuiYi said it had closed on $4 million in debt financing from Silicon Valley Bank.

—Seattle’s Dendreon (NASDAQ: DNDN), developer of a groundbreaking but logistically complicated prostate cancer treatment, said Monday its CEO John Johnson would step down this summer. The firm’s treatment, sipuleucel-T (Provenge), has failed to catch on since its launch in 2010, and recent months have brought a spiral of falling sales, stock price, and headcount. In his first interview as CEO in 2012, Johnson told Xconomy that Dendreon would be “his last stop.” “We’re at a crossroads that only successful biotechs get to,” he said at the time.

—The National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases has awarded a five-year, $25 million grant to the J. Craig Venter Institute to establish and operate a new Genome Center for Infectious Diseases. The institute operates facilities in San Diego and Rockville, MD. The research will be led Karen Nelson, the institute’s president and a microbiology specialist, and William Nierman, an infectious disease specialist, and is focused on using genomics to gain a better understanding of pathogen biology, virulence, drug resistance, immune evasion, and host microbiome biological interactions.

Bruce Bigelow contributed to this roundup.

Photo of Sea World (in San Diego, of course) courtesy of Smart Destinations via a Creative Commons license.

Alex Lash is Xconomy's National Biotech Editor. He is based in San Francisco. Follow @alexlash

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