West Coast Biotech Roundup: Seragon, Ambrx, Pregenen, and More

7/3/14Follow @bvbigelow

Our nominee for the just-created “Bio Man with the Midas Touch” award goes to Richard Heyman, who co-founded San Diego’s Seragon Pharmaceuticals 11 months ago. Roche’s Genentech unit agreed yesterday to pay over $1.7 billion for Seragon, which has an early-stage drug targeting metastatic breast cancer. Heyman was previously the CEO of San Diego’s Aragon Pharmaceuticals, which was acquired last year by Johnson & Johnson in a deal valued at $1 billion. During his talks with J&J, Heyman negotiated a provision that exempted Aragon’s estrogen-driven cancer technology from the deal—enabling him to quickly restart Seragon with other Aragon executives.

—South San Francisco-based Genentech, the headquarters for Roche’s U.S. pharmaceutical operations, agreed to pay $725 million upfront, and potentially $1 billion more in milestone payments, to acquire San Diego’s Seragon Pharmaceuticals and its breast cancer drug program. Seragon was spun out just 11 months ago by Aragon Pharmaceuticals to clear the way for Aragon’s own deal—a $1 billion acquisition by Johnson & Johnson. The Seragon buyout was a coup for the Column Group, Topspin Partners, Aisling Capital, OrbiMed Advisors, and venBio, the San Francisco firm that has had a remarkable run of noteworthy deals over the past year. Seragon has been advancing so-called selective estrogen receptor degraders, or SERDS, which are supposed to both bind to estrogen receptors and then degrade them, eroding their signaling abilities.

—In other Genentech-related news, ex-Genentecher Stephen Kelsey decided to trek coast to coast and leave San Francisco-based Medivation (NASDAQ: JNJ) to become the new CEO of Cambridge, MA-based Onkaido Therapeutics, the first startup incubated by messenger RNA drug specialist Moderna Therapeutics. Kelsey spent seven years as the executive vice president of Genentech’s oncology portfolio before moving to Menlo Park, CA-based Geron (NASDAQ: GERN) and later Medivation. He’ll now take on Onkaido, which was formed around 15 prospective mRNA programs created within Moderna and is wholly owned by the company.

—San Diego’s Ambrx, a biotech developing bio-conjugates to treat solid tumors and other diseases, withdrew its IPO, citing current market conditions. Ambrx had planned to raise as much as $86 million. The 11-year-old biotech has collaboration agreements with at least six major pharmaceutical companies to develop antibody-drug conjugates.

—Menlo Park, CA-based Avalanche Biotechnologies, a clinical-stage biotech developing gene therapies for treating ophthalmic diseases, hopes to raise as much as $86.2 million in an IPO, according to … Next Page »

Bruce V. Bigelow is the editor of Xconomy San Diego. You can e-mail him at bbigelow@xconomy.com or call (619) 669-8788 Follow @bvbigelow

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