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West Coast Biotech Roundup: Genentech, Sutro, Amgen, Regulus & More

Xconomy San Francisco — 

Immunotherapy deals that could reach $1 billion? We’ve got two of them this week. Sure, those billion-dollar figures include, as they often do, a lot of biobucks, but the rest of the details in those deals—Genentech and NewLink Genetics; Celgene and Sutro Biopharma—are no small potatoes. Let’s get to the roundup.

—Roche’s Genentech division in South San Francisco, CA, and NewLink Genetics (NASDAQ: NLNK) of Ames, IA, said Monday Genentech will pay $150 million upfront for rights to NewLink’s cancer immunotherapy candidate NLG919, currently in Phase 1, that targets the IDO pathway. The companies will also collaborate on discovery of other compounds in that class. NewLink could earn up more than $1 billion in milestones and sales royalties if Genentech brings multiple products to market.

—Activist investor Daniel Loeb, who runs the hedge fund Third Point, began a campaign to break Amgen into two companies, one that would sell its commercial products like Enbrel, another to do riskier R&D. Amgen (NASDAQ: AMGN) acknowledged the Third Point campaign with a statement and said more updates would come during a business review on October 28.

—Amgen also announced Friday that Gladstone Institutes president R. Sanders “Sandy” Williams has joined its board of directors, which brings the number of board members to 13.

—Antibody developer Sutro Biopharma of South San Francisco, CA, extended a cancer immunotherapy collaboration with Celgene (NASDAQ: CELG) Thursday, with Celgene paying $90 million up front, as much as $95 million in R&D help for the next three years, and more than $1 billion in milestones. Celgene also gets an option to acquire Sutro and boosts its ownership in the company to 15 percent.

—The price of San Diego’s Regulus Therapeutics (NASDAQ: RGLS) shares more than doubled Wednesday after the company said its experimental drug for hepatitis C led to a significant reduction in viral load, according to interim results from an ongoing clinical study.

—Diagnostics firm Sequenta of South San Francisco, CA, said Monday it has nabbed an equity investment of undisclosed size from Celgene and other corporate investors who remained anonymous

—Vancouver, BC-based Zymeworks announced Wednesday an expansion of its antibody development deal with Eli Lilly, which was originally signed in January. The deal now includes future payments that could bring Zymeworks as much as $375 million.

— Norwest Venture Partners of Palo Alto, CA, led a $32 million Series C round in Telcare, a Bethesda, MD-based maker of a mobile diabetes management product that includes a wireless blood glucose meter.

—Tekmira Pharmaceuticals (NASDAQ:[[ticker: TKMR]]) of Vancouver, BC, said Tuesday it has begun a limited manufacturing run of its TKM-Ebola treatment, meant for people already infected or suspected to have infection. Supply should be available in December.

—San Diego-based Neothetics, an “aesthetic biotech” with substantial backing from Domain Associates and Rusnano MedInvest, filed for a $63 million IPO. Neothetics, previously known as Lithera, plans to use the proceeds to move into late-stage clinical trials with LIPO-202, an injectable drug for localized reduction of belly fat in non-obese patients.

—San Diego’s Edico Genome said its Dragen Bio-IT processor for analyzing genomic data is now broadly available to clinical labs and researchers using next-generation genome sequencing machines. Edico claims Dragen reduces the time to analyze a whole human genome from 24 hours to 18 minutes.

Photo courtesy of David McSpadden via Creative Commons.

Xconomy San Diego editor Bruce V. Bigelow contributed to this roundup.