[Corrected 1/19/16, 10:10 am. See below.] Last week’s annual J.P. Morgan Healthcare Conference put the biotech industry’s biggest event on display, as some 9,000 life sciences executives and investors descended upon San Francisco. Unfortunately, as Bloomberg News pointed out, the industry’s lack of gender diversity also was on display—most egregiously at a LifeSci Advisors party that sought to balance the shortage of women in biotech with models in black cocktail dresses.
From the business side of the conference, Xconomy’s Alex Lash and Ben Fidler offer their highlights here. I’ve got the rest of the West Coast life sciences news wrapped up here.
—San Diego-based Illumina (NASDAQ: ILMN), the world’s largest DNA sequencing company, says it is forming Grail, a new San Francisco-based startup, to advance so-called “liquid biopsy” technology that can routinely screen patient blood samples for cancer. Illumina CEO Jay Flatley says that using genome sequencing to identify infinitesimal pieces of tumor DNA circulating in the bloodstream (about 0.01 percent of the blood sample) would be a “turning point in the war on cancer.”
—Juno Therapeutics (NASDAQ: JUNO) of Seattle bought private AbVitro, a maker of single cell sequencing technology, for $125 million in cash and stock. Juno’s T cell therapies have shown promise in clinical trials fighting blood-borne cancers, but the AbVitro technology would help Juno extend its efforts into treatments for solid tumors, Juno officials said.
—UC San Diego announced the appointment of Howard Feldman, a doctor and scientist who specializes in dementia, to oversee the Alzheimer’s Disease Collaborative Study, a nationwide research program at the heart of a power struggle between UCSD and USC. Litigation between the two research universities over control of the program has been playing out since last summer. In a ruling issued last week, U.S. District Judge Roger T. Benitez signaled his intent to issue a written order in the case. A UC San Diego spokesman said Feldman’s recruitment offer included $10 million to set up his laboratory and support his research, and an annual salary of $390,000.