Roche Cutting Hundreds of Jobs, Exelixis Shares Soar, Sutro Pockets $36.5M, & More Bay Area Life Sciences News

11/19/10Follow @xconomy

Quite a few folks at Genentech won’t have so much to be thankful for at this year’s Thanksgiving, as a wave of job cuts swept through South San Francisco.

—Roche, the Switzerland-based pharmaceutical giant that took full control of South San Francisco-based Genentech in March 2009, announced a sweeping series of 4,800 job cuts and restructuring maneuvers worldwide this week that reverberated in Northern California. Several hundred people will be affected, and you can catch up on the details here.

—Nearby in South San Francisco, Exelixis (NASDAQ: EXEL) struck a more upbeat tone this week. The company’s stock climbed more than 30 percent on encouraging, albeit preliminary, news that its lead product candidate appeared to be reducing bone lesions among prostate cancer patients.

Sutro Biopharma secured more than $36 million in its Series C venture round to develop a new method for synthesizing biotech drugs without using conventional methods that require use of living cells. Sutro CEO Bill Newell dropped some hints about a couple potential partnerships he sees coming down the pike.

—Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen made a series of grants this week to support some edgy neuroscience and biotech projects at universities around the country, including Stanford University. This batch of “Allen Distinguished Investigators” was given $9.4 million to pursue ideas that Allen figures have a lot of potential, but can’t secure traditional funding from government agencies or venture capitalists.

Ardian, a startup medical device company in Mountain View, CA, released some very interesting data this week at the American Heart Association’s scientific meeting about a new tool to treat high blood pressure. This is a device that uses radiofrequency waves, delivered in the area of the kidneys, to turn off overactive nerves that are implicated in high blood pressure that can’t be controlled by existing meds.

Anthera Pharmaceuticals (NASDAQ: ANTH), the Hayward, CA-based biotech company with an anti-inflammatory drug designed to prevent people from suffering second heart attacks, showed some preliminary findings from its work at the American Heart Association’s meeting. But, in a case of bad timing, the company also reported that it had put a hold on clinical trials of another drug for lupus after it discovered problems with vials.

—Lastly, we picked up some news about UC San Francisco‘s big new alliance with Pfizer, the world’s largest pharmaceutical company. Pfizer has agreed to pay $85 million over the next five years to support biotech R&D, according to a story first reported by the Wall Street Journal.

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