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West Coast Biotech Roundup: Tobira, Novartis, NantCell, & More

Xconomy San Francisco — 

Whew. J.P. Morgan is almost over. (The healthcare conference, that is, not the investment bank.)

Opening the week’s proceedings at the Biotech Showcase, a satellite conference that features small, private, often European companies that would get trampled at the main event, Sangamo Biosciences CEO Ed Lanphier greeted the early crowd: “Welcome to Hell Week.”

We’ll soon have a notebook full of thoughts, observations, and other news from the conference itself—and all the discussions, interviews, chance meetings, and parties that revolve around it—but let’s get the rest of the West Coast biotech news out of the way. To the roundup!

—Tobira Therapeutics of San Francisco and Regado Biosciences of Basking Ridge, NJ, said they would merge, a move that gives the privately held Tobira access to the public markets. Just before the holidays the firm had revived its move toward an IPO. Now that’s not necessary thanks to the reverse merger with Regado, a publicly traded company that has been essentially a shell since its Phase 3 drug REG1 failed last summer. Tobira is testing its lead drug in liver disease and HIV. With the merger, Tobira also pulled in a $22 million funding round from existing backers.

—Terms of a deal announced by Novartis (NYSE: NVS) and Qualcomm (NASDAQ: QCOM) make it clear that clinical trials are emerging as a new global market for wearable health monitors and related technologies. Novartis is using Qualcomm Life’s wireless 2net platform to aggregate patient data in clinical trials. In a related move, Qualcomm and Novartis agreed to form a $100 million fund to invest in innovative digital health startups.

—Second Genome of South San Francisco, CA, said Monday it had been quietly testing for months its first product to reach human trials, a drug to treat Crohn’s disease by blocking the inflammatory effects of a disrupted microbiome. Those Phase 1 tests will continue into 2015. (See another microbiome item below.)

—NantCell of Los Angeles said it has acquired … Next Page »

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