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West Coast Biotech Roundup: Flexus, NGM, Illumina, Bob Klein & More

Xconomy San Francisco — 

A few West Coast companies made news back east this week at the Advances in Genome Biology and Technology conference in Florida, while others (Flexus Biosciences, NGM Biotherapeutics) stayed home to count hundreds of millions of dollars rolling in from huge deals. But the biggest number of the week—$100 billion—came from the mouth of California stem cell fundraiser Bob Klein. To find out what Klein was talking about, and for a lot more news, let’s get to the roundup.

—Flexus Biosciences of San Carlos, CA, was acquired by Bristol-Myers Squibb (NYSE: BMY) for $800 million guaranteed and $450 million more in milestones. Announced Monday, BMS acquired Flexus’s cancer immunotherapy program—considered a prime candidate for combination treatments—but left significant assets behind, which Flexus’s management and investors expect to spin out into a new unnamed company.

—NGM Biotherapeutics of South San Francisco, CA, said Monday it had struck a lucrative partnership with Merck that will feed NGM’s metabolic drug candidates into Merck’s pipeline. NGM receives $200 million immediately and $250 million in R&D subsidies over five years. Part of that cash buys Merck a 15 percent stake in NGM.

—South San Francisco’s Rigel Pharmaceuticals (NYSE: RIGL) also hooked up with BMS, sealing a $30 million guarantee to work together on cancer drugs that target TGF beta, which tumor cells use to suppress the immune system. Rigel could earn more than $309 million in future milestones.

—Relypsa (NASDAQ: RLYP) of Redwood City, CA, sold 3.9 million shares at $38.50 a share on Wednesday to raise about $150 million. Underwriters have the option to buy up to 585,000 additional shares.

—Illumina (NASDAQ: ILMN) said Thursday that its San Francisco-based accelerator has received $40 million from Viking Global Investors to seed its “Boost Capital” fund. The Boost cash will provide matching funding to its graduates that raise between $1 million and $5 million.

—Bayer Healthcare also has a farm-system program in San Francisco. In a deal announced Tuesday, its CoLaborator incubator tenant Aronora will work with Bayer on preclinical manufacturing of its cardiovascular drug AB-022.

— At the AGBT conference, 10x Genomics of Pleasanton, CA, unveiled its GemCode platform, which allows analysis of “long read” genetic sequences using a “short read” Illumina sequencer. Xconomy reported on the company’s emergence from stealth in January.

—Also at AGBT, Maverix Biomics of San Mateo, CA, debuted its Maverix Complete next-generation sequencing platform.

—Theravance Biopharma (NASDAQ: TBPH) of South San Francisco has begun a Phase 3 trial of its antibiotic telavancin (Vibativ) in patients with staph infections that have reached the bloodstream.

—Shire (NASDAQ: SHPG) paid $70 million upfront and $175 million in milestone payments to acquire Meritage Pharma of San Diego and its orphan drug for treating a rare condition known as eosinophilic esophagitis (EoE).

—Bob Klein, who led the 2004 campaign that created the California Institute for Regenerative Medicine and provided $3 billion for stem cell research, is promoting a $100 billion international bond program to speed R&D of new therapies in stem cells and genomics. Klein outlined his idea at the UC San Diego Moores Cancer Center last week, according to a report by Brad Fikes of U-T San Diego.

—San Diego-based Cebix, founded in 2008 to develop a replacement peptide for diabetes-related microvascular problems, shut down last month after a mid-stage clinical trial failed. The company raised at least $50 million from venture investors including Thomas McNerney, InterWest Partners, and Sofinnova Ventures.

—Neurocrine Biosciences (NASDAQ: NBIX) closed out a secondary stock offering, with underwriters boosting the total funds raised to $287 million.

—Longtime San Diego pharmaceutical executive Richard Hollis plans to debut on March 13 a new e-commerce startup at the South by Southwest Interactive conference in Austin, TX. The 62-year-old biotech executive said he started working on San Diego-based Holonis soon after he was ousted from his namesake company, Hollis-Eden Pharmaceuticals.

—San Diego-based Sotera Wireless said it acquired Reflectance Medical, a four-year-old startup in Westborough, MA, with sensor technology that monitors critically ill patients, including those with traumatic injuries. The company’s FDA-cleared sensors go beyond the scope of standard vital signs to continuously monitor microvascular oxygen, pH, and hemacrit. No financial terms were disclosed.

—Seattle’s Juno Therapeutics has rewarded top executives with big bonuses, with CEO Hans Bishop doubling his base salary, according to the Puget Sound Business Journal.

—In a spate of news from the AGBT conference, Spiral Genetics of Seattle said it had launched new products and begun collaborations with Stanford University and the U.S. Department of Energy.

Xconomy San Diego editor Bruce Bigelow contributed to this report.