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 pancreatic precursor cells encapsulated in a proprietary, immune-protective medical device. Once implanted under the skin, the cells are supposed to differentiate into various types of endocrine cells that regulate blood sugar in roughly the same manner as a normal pancreas.

—As we reported Tuesday, the new venture capital firm HealthQuest Capital has raised $110 million to invest in patient care products and medical technologies where innovation can lower healthcare costs as well as improve patient care. Former Sofinnova Ventures partner Garheng Kong founded HealthQuest Capital, which is sharing office and back office resources with Sofinnova in Menlo Park, CA.

—San Diego-based Celladon (NASDAQ: CLDN) raised $43.7 million in gross proceeds from a secondary public offering that sold 4.6 million shares of common stock at $9.50 a share. The company plans to use net proceeds to fund R&D related to its lead product candidate, which uses genetic enzyme replacement therapy to treat systolic heart failure and to develop commercial manufacturing capabilities, and other general corporate purposes.

—Palo Alto, CA-based Nirmidas Biotech said Monday it has raised $2 million in seed funding from the Stanford-StartX fund and unnamed venture and angel investors to boost its diagnostic research technology, which is dubbed pGOLD. The Stanford University spinout is part of StartXMed, a subset of the Stanford-affiliated StartX accelerator program. The company is commercializing a nanoscale gold coating for biomedical testing that could help researchers and doctors amplify and detect otherwise faint traces of pathogens and other biological material.

—Fremont, CA-based Zosano Pharma, a biotech developing a transdermal delivery system to treat osteoporosis, plans to raise $70 million by offering 6.4 million shares at a price range of $10 to $12. At the midpoint of the proposed range, it would command a market value of $139 million. Zosano, which was founded in 2007, booked $3 million in collaboration revenue over the last 12 months. The company plans to list on the NASDAQ under the symbol ZSAN. Wedbush PacGrow, Ladenburg Thalmann and Roth Capital are the joint bookrunners on the deal.

—Batu Biologics, a San Diego startup developing a lung cancer vaccine, said it raised $100,000 in philanthropic donations through an Indiegogo crowd-funding campaign. The company said the funding would be used to complete preclinical studies needed to support the submission of an Investigational New Drug application to the FDA in the first quarter of 2015.

SupraMed, a San Diego-based provider of health record systems and practice management software for private practice surgeons, told Xconomy that it has raised $1 million from over 25 angel investors. SupraMed was founded in 2011 by two plastic surgeons who saw a need for practice-specific software to manage their offices and patient information. SupraMed recruited San Diego serial entrepreneur Bob Nascenzi as CEO in May, and it plans to expand its product line and add new sales and marketing initiatives.

Xconomy San Diego Editor Bruce V. Bigelow contributed to this report.

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

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