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Gilead Antes Up for Cancer, Genentech Eye Drug Passes Big Trial, Bigger Isn’t Better, & More Bay Area Life Sciences News

This was a light news week in SF biotech, but it still flew by, as we get ready to make some small media biz news at our own little startup here on Monday. Stay tuned.

—South San Francisco-based Genentech said its hit drug for eye diseases, ranibizumab (Lucentis) passed the second big pivotal trial in patients with diabetic macular edema. This is important not just to patients with a common condition that impairs vision, but it could help Genentech offset some of the sales it may lose if more patients with macular degeneration switch to a cheap, low-dose form of bevacizumab (Avastin) as an alternative.

Gilead Sciences (NASDAQ: GILD) said this week it has agreed to sponsor cancer research at Yale University in a deal that could be worth as much as $100 million over a 10-year period to the university. It’s the latest big bet on cancer by Foster City, CA-based Gilead, which agreed in February to pay as much as $600 million to buy Calistoga Pharmaceuticals, a cancer drug developer on the verge of pivotal studies.

—In this week’s installment of the BioBeat column, I argued that Big Pharma has been its own worst enemy through its penchant for mega-mergers that make it next to impossible to foster innovation.

—With all the talk about the crisis in venture capital, I’ve been thinking a bit lately about whether angels might somehow find a new niche in biotech financing. Angels, as Morgenthaler Ventures’ Bob Pavey points out in this guest editorial, have always played a role in backing new businesses, and they are particularly visible now in tech startups that can really run lean and mean in the cloud computing era. Biotech drug development has traditionally taken too long and cost too much for angels to play a serious role, but I wonder if readers see ways for angels to get in here now.