West Coast Biotech Roundup: Ebola, Mapp, Tekmira, ViaCyte & More

8/21/14Follow @alexlash

Big news this morning: two Americans treated with an experimental Ebola treatment have recovered and are now out of the hospital. (A third person, a Spaniard, who received the treatment unfortunately did not recover.)

Meanwhile, the Ebola epidemic continues—more than 1,300 people have died—and with it comes fear and rage.  In the U.S., potential cases continue to crop up, including one person who could be California’s “patient zero” in the state capital, Sacramento.

The experimental drug that seems to have saved two lives is ZMapp. Xconomy checked in Friday with Erica Ollman Saphire, a structural biologist at The Scripps Research Institute in San Diego, who helped the drug maker, San Diego’s Mapp Biopharmaceutical, identify drug targets on the surface of the thread-like Ebola virus. Saphire has been leading a global research consortium in a campaign against Ebola and related diseases that cause hemorrhagic fevers.

It remains to be seen if Mapp can make more ZMapp quickly, which our San Diego editor Bruce Bigelow writes about in his report. Meanwhile, BioCryst Pharmaceuticals (NASDAQ: BCRX) of Durham, NC, Xconomy’s newest region of coverage, is also working on an Ebola treatment.

And back on the West Coast, Tekmira Pharmaceuticals (NASDAQ: TKMR) of Vancouver, BC, has an experimental Ebola treatment that, once stalled by regulators, is again under consideration. (Another Tekmira drug for Marburg virus, a hemorrhaghic fever like Ebola, showed promising results this week in infected monkeys.)

There is, of course, plenty of other news out West, even if it’s somewhat overshadowed by world events. Let’s get to the roundup.

—Emergent BioSolutions (NYSE: EBS) of Rockville, MD, has licensed German biotech MorphoSys the rights to its experimental prostate cancer treatment ES414 for $20 million immediately and up to $163 million in potential milestone payments. ES414 was developed by Emergent’s protein sciences group in Seattle, which was once Trubion Pharmaceuticals, which Emergent bought for $97 million in 2010, with nearly $40 million in potential post-acquisition milestone payments. Emergent keeps commercial rights in the U.S. and Canada but will pay MorphoSys sales royalties up to 20 percent if they bring it to market. MorphoSys gains commercial rights in all other regions. An Emergent spokeswoman told Xconomy that the MorphoSys deal will not trigger post-acquisition payments to Trubion’s former shareholders because “the timeframe has expired.”

—BioMed Realty Trust is adding 122,000 square feet of space for life science labs and offices in Seattle’s South Lake Union neighborhood. The developer broke ground Wednesday on an extension of its current facility on Fairview Ave., which currently houses Novo Nordisk, Presage Biosciences, and NanoString Technologies.

—Clinical data firm Comprehend Systems of Redwood City, CA, said Monday it has raised a $21 million Series B round, led by Lightspeed Venture Partners. Existing investor Sequoia Capital also participated. The company makes software that combines disparate clinical trial data sources into a single database that drug and device makers and their development partners can share.

—The Sanford-Burnham Medical Research Institute named pharmaceutical industry executive Perry Nisen to head the nonprofit, which is based in San Diego and Lake Ono, FL, near Orlando. As a senior vice president of science and innovation at GlaxoSmithKline, Nisen specialized in commercializing new drugs. At a time when Big Pharma has been turning increasingly to collaborations with academic research centers, Nisen said he wants to strengthen Sanford-Burnham’s ties with industry.

—San Diego’s ViaCyte said the FDA has accepted its Investigational New Drug application for VC-01, its artificial pancreas based on a novel use of stem cells. ViaCyte said it will initiate an early stage clinical trial believed to be the first clinical evaluation of a stem cell-derived islet replacement therapy for type 1 diabetes. VC-01 consists of … Next Page »

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

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