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West Coast Biotech Roundup: Receptos, ProNAi, Protagonist & More

Xconomy San Diego — 

Once again, the big West Coast news of the week came from an East Coast company, Celgene, making it rain. (That’s a figure of speech, unfortunately. Out here, rain would be about as welcome as a cure for cancer these days.) Tuesday, Celgene (NASDAQ: CELG) said it would pay $7 billion-plus to scoop up San Diego’s Receptos (NASDAQ: RCPT), which has taken a promising drug for autoimmune diseases into advanced clinical trials. Two weeks ago, it was Celgene’s billion-dollar deal with Seattle’s Juno Therapeutics (NASDAQ: JUNO), and back in April, it was the purchase of tiny Quanticel Pharmaceuticals, a Stanford University spinout, for potentially $485 million. At this rate, Celgene will have sewn up rights to half of the West Coast by Halloween. There was other news, of course; let’s round it up.

—Protagonist Therapeutics of Milpitas, CA, tapped Canaan Partners and a few crossover investors for a $40 million Series C round. The cash will push its lead program, a treatment for irritable bowel disease, into the clinic by the end of 2015. Protagonist and its backers feel that its drug technology—oral versions of peptides—will give it an advantage over injectable autoimmune disease treatments, such as the one Receptos is developing.

—Vancouver, BC-based ProNAi Therapeutics (NASDAQ: DNAI) is a newcomer to the coast; it moved from Michigan last year. The cancer drug developer is also a newcomer to the public markets, having just raised $138 million in an IPO. At the end of its first day of trading Thursday, shares closed at $30.80, up 81 percent over the $17 IPO price.

—In the Alzheimer’s study lawsuit that Xconomy San Diego editor Bruce Bigelow is following closely, a San Diego judge this week denied the University of Southern California’s request for a restraining order against the University of California, San Diego, that would have cut off UCSD’s access to the study’s database.

—In Seattle, new wellness company Arivale announced a $36 million Series B round of funding and plans to expand to San Francisco this fall. Based on a longitudinal health study at Seattle’s Institute for Systems Biology, Arivale is charging customers $2,000 a year for extensive health screening and monitoring, with notifications and coaching when a customer’s data indicates a potential health problem.

—Five Prime Therapeutics (NASDAQ: FPRX) of South San Francisco, CA, paid $10 million to San Diego’s Inhibrx for rights to its antibody technology, which is focused on a protein known as GITR. The technology could be useful in cancer immunotherapy. Five Prime could pay Inhibrx more than $400 million in future milestones, depending on the success of the collaboration.

—Researchers at the University of Washington, in collaboration with researchers in Texas and Australia, have developed a new type of malaria treatment that could only require a single dose. It is now in human trials sponsored in part by the nonprofit Medicines for Malaria Venture. The paper describing the academics’ preclinical work was published this week in Science Translational Medicine.

—Bloomberg reported that FDA has had a conversation with a Google (NASDAQ: GOOG) researcher who co-wrote a paper in 2013 about using search records to identify drug side effects. The FDA has also been working with patient advocacy platform PatientsLikeMe and other West Coast tech companies on the problem of tracking drugs’ untoward effects.

—San Francisco VC Steve Burrill was sued by the managers of his former fund for fraud, as first reported by the Wall Street Journal. The fraud accusations surfaced last year in a previous lawsuit brought by former employees of Burrill’s firm, as Xconomy reported at the time.

—Rare disease drug maker Ultragenyx Pharmaceutical (NASDAQ: RARE) of Novato, CA, raised $264 million in a public stock offering, with the potential to raise another $40 million.

—South San Francisco drug maker Cytokinetics said that $1.5 million of the $100 million-plus raised by the Ice Bucket Challenge last year will help pay for a Phase 3 trial of its drug tirasemtiv for amyotophic lateral disease, or ALS.