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West Coast Biotech Roundup: Illumina, Atara, Invitae, Canaan & More

Xconomy San Francisco — 

From big venture firms to tiny genomics startups, we’ve got plenty to round up this week—beyond biotech, too, as the San Francisco Giants head east to the biggest baseball rodeo for the third time in five years, thanks to Seattle native Travis Ishikawa (pictured). Here’s the windup, and the pitch…

—Canaan Partners of Westport, CT, and Menlo Park, CA, closed its tenth general fund with $675 million in commitments, the ninth largest venture fund raised in 2014.

—Invitae, a San Francisco-based genetic testing company, raised $120 million in a Series F round of financing. The funds came from a long list of investors. New investors included Decheng Capital, Deerfield Management, OrbiMed, and Wellington Management, while existing investors coming back included Casdin Capital, Genesys Capital, Genomic Health, and Invitae CEO Randy Scott. Scott is the former CEO of Genomic Health.

—The National Institutes of Health awarded nearly $32 million to solve big data problems in genomics and other healthcare fields. The initial investment will establish big data “centers of excellence” at 11 research centers, including UCLA, The Scripps Research Institute in San Diego, Stanford University; UC Santa Cruz, and the University of Southern California.

—Atara Biotherapeutics of Brisbane, CA, raised $55 million in its public debut on NASDAQ Thursday after postponing its IPO try earlier this year.

—Immune Design (NASDAQ: IMDZ) of Seattle and Paris-based multinational drug firm Sanofi (NYSE: SNY) announced Thursday a joint development project for Herpes simplex virus (HSV) treatments. Both companies will contribute a vaccine candidate, and Sanofi will be responsible for Phase 3 development and commercialization.

—A surgical team at UC San Diego’s Sanford Stem Cell Clinical Center is ready to carry out the first human clinical trial of a stem cell-derived therapy for patients with type 1 diabetes. Doctors plan to implant embryonic stem cells engineered by ViaCyte of San Diego to grow into healthy pancreatic cells that produce insulin and related hormones.

—San Diego-based Illumina (NASDAQ: ILMN) revealed the first three companies admitted to its six-month accelerator program in San Francisco for genomics-related startups. The three companies—Encoded Genomics, Xcell Biosciences, and EpiBiome—get full access to Illumina’s next-generation gene sequencing systems.

—DNAtrix, a biotech based in San Diego and Houston that is modifying viruses to treat the most aggressive forms of cancer, said it has raised $20 million in a Series B round led by Shanghai-based Morningside Ventures. Existing investors, including the Houston-based Mercury Fund and San Antonio, TX-based Targeted Fund, joined in the round.

—The FDA gave its approval to pirfenidone (Esbriet) for the treatment of idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis. The drug is owned by Roche, which acquired it in late August when it bought Intermune of Brisbane, CA, for $8.3 billion. The FDA also approved another IPF drug, nintedanib (Ofev) from Boehringer Ingelheim.

—Shares of Aethlon Medical, a San Diego medical device company, closed at 24 cents a share yesterday, after leaping 9 cents (a 60 percent gain) in over-the-counter trading after the company said its experimental blood-filtration technology was used to treat an Ebola-infected patient in Germany.

—Seattle’s Kineta said Tuesday that it has launched a Phase 1b trial in psoriasis for its drug candidate ShK-186. It also plans to test the drug against psoriatic arthritis in the next few months.

— Xconomy San Diego editor Bruce Bigelow and Xconomy Seattle editor Ben Romano came in from the bullpen to contribute to this report.