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West Coast Biotech Roundup: Illumina, Veracyte, Otonomy, Kite & More

Xconomy San Diego — 

Out west this week, the news flow was breezy. There were a sprinkling of diagnostics showers led by Illumina, which is in a patent fight with a Roche subsidiary, and Veracyte, which presented promising data for its lung test. It also seemed to be a week for pharma collaborations. Two pairs of partners signed pacts, while the Bay Area’s Ardelyx waited to hear whether its partner AstraZeneca wants to keep the relationship going. Onward to the roundup.

—Illumina (NASDAQ: ILMN), the San Diego-based maker of genome sequencing machines, said it has filed a new patent infringement suit against San Jose, CA-based Ariosa Diagnostics and Roche, the Swiss biopharmaceutical that acquired Ariosa six months ago. The suit extends a legal battle Illumina has been waging to clarify rights to technologies used in non-invasive pre-natal testing.

—Veracyte (NASDAQ: VCYT) of South San Francisco, CA, presented early data Wednesday that suggest its diagnostic technology can distinguish between idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis and other lung diseases, which the company said could help prevent unnecessary lung surgeries.

—San Diego’s Cypher Genomics said it is working with Celgene (NASDAQ: CELG) to identify the key genetic variants that determine whether or not a patient will respond well to a given clinical drug candidate. If successful, the technology might help Celgene generate statistically valid results in late-stage trials with far fewer patients.

—San Diego-based Fate Therapeutics (NASDAQ: FATE) priced a secondary offering on Wednesday of 6 million shares of common stock at $5 apiece, raising about $28 million. Fate’s stock was buoyed earlier this month when the biopharmaceutical announced a collaboration with Seattle-based Juno Therapeutics (NASDAQ: JUNO).

—San Diego’s Ambrx is being acquired by a consortium of Chinese drug companies and financiers for an undisclosed sum. The deal is expected to close by the end of June. The biologics developer’s most advanced candidate, licensed by Bristol-Myers Squibb, is a type 2 diabetes treatment in Phase 2. Ambrx withdrew an IPO attempt last summer.

—Santa Monica, CA-based Kite Pharma (NASDAQ: KITE) said Thursday it has dosed the first patient with refractory aggressive non-Hodgkins lymphoma in a Phase 1/2 trial of its cancer immunotherapy, KTE-019. Kite also plans to start three more trials of KTE-019 this year and is aiming to market its first product in 2017.

—Otonomy (NASDAQ: OTIC) released top-line Phase 2b data for its treatment of Meniere’s disease, an inner-ear condition. Although the results were mixed, Otonomy still intends to move the program forward into two Phase 3 trials by the end of this year, the company said.

—Ardelyx (NASDAQ: ARDX) of Fremont, CA, said Tuesday it will know soon if partner AstraZeneca will continue developing tenapanor, a treatment for irritable bowel syndrome, or return the drug’s rights to Ardelyx. The company reported positive Phase 2b results for tenapanor last fall.

—GenomeDx Biosciences of Vancouver, BC, and San Diego said a new study shows its Decipher diagnostics technology can be used beyond its existing application in diagnosing prostate cancer.

—Eureka Therapeutics of Emeryville, CA, will work with German pharma Boehringer Ingelheim on antibody-based treatments for cancer, the companies said Thursday. No terms were disclosed.

—The Sanford-Burnham Medical Research Institute of San Diego and Eli Lilly (NYSE: LLY) will work together on new treatments for autoimmune disorders like lupus and inflammatory bowel disease. Financial terms were not disclosed.

—The state of Washington’s Life Sciences Discovery Fund announced 10 new awards totaling $2.9 million. Recipients include both nonprofit researchers and private sector groups.