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West Coast Biotech Roundup: Gilead, Juno, Hutch, Fibrogen & More

Xconomy Seattle — 

Snow? What snow? The only thing piling up at astonishing rates on the West Coast this week is biotech news. Up in Seattle, the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center has unveiled its new president, and its neighbor Juno Therapeutics filed to go public—two events not entirely unrelated, as we note here.

Down the coast, Gilead Sciences made news all week with a fascinating voucher purchase, a pricing deal with France (the country, that is), and a new European approval. In San Diego, researchers produced a picture of antibodies attacking Ebola, even while the mainstream media has decided, post-election, Ebola isn’t as newsworthy anymore.

We’ve got plenty more to round up out West, so let’s start shoveling.

—The Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center named D. Gary Gilliland its new president and director. His previous gigs were VP of precision medicine at the University of Pennsylvania’s Perelman School of Medicine, head of oncology at Merck Research Labs, and a 20-year stint at Harvard Medical School.

— Juno Therapeutics of Seattle filed paperwork to go public this week, less than a year after it emerged from stealth. The firm has raised $310 million from the state of Alaska, ARCH Venture Partners, Venrock, Jeff Bezos’s family foundation, and others.

—Structural biologists at The Scripps Research Institute in San Diego have produced the first image that shows how ZMapp, the experimental drug developed by Mapp Biopharmaceutical, binds to the Ebola virus. The image reveals weak spots on the surface of Ebola that are targeted by antibodies in ZMapp.

—Gilead Sciences (NASDAQ: GILD) of Foster City, CA, bought an FDA priority review voucher for $125 million from Canadian firm Knight Pharmaceuticals. The FDA awards these vouchers to companies that bring to market treatments for neglected tropical diseases and rare pediatric diseases. The voucher allows for faster review once a company asks FDA for a drug approval. It’s also transferable, which is why Knight was able to sell its voucher, which it earned for a drug to treat leishmaniasis.

—Gilead also struck a deal with France to lower the price of sofosbuvir (Solvadi), the hepatitis C drug it began selling this year with an $84,000 price tag in the U.S. Not in France. The country’s health ministry announced Thursday “the lowest public price in Europe” (the translation is our own). which puts a 12-week course of the drug at about $51,500.

—More Gilead: The European Union approved hep C drug Harvoni. It combines sofosbuvir and another antiviral ledipasvir, and does not require an additional dose of interferon, which sofosbuvir alone requires.

—Last Friday, San Francisco’s Fibrogen (NASDAQ: FGEN) went public and raised $146 million as it pushes forward with a treatment for anemia in people with kidney failure. CEO Thomas Neff and development partner Astellas Pharma were the only shareholders with more than 5 percent ownership pre-IPO.

—San Diego-based Organovo (NASDAQ: ONVO) has introduced a new commercial product—a multiwell micro-titer plate containing bio-printed 3D human liver tissue which can be used in preclinical drug testing.

—Berkeley, CA-based Caribou Biosciences put its genome-editing platform technology, based on CRISPR/Cas9, into a new Boston-area startup. Intellia Therapeutics launched Tuesday with exclusive license to use Caribou technology in human therapeutics. Caribou has an equity stake, while Atlas Venture and Novartis (NYSE: NVS) led Intellia’s $15 million Series A round.

—In San Diego, Receptos (NASDAQ: RCPT) priced a secondary stock offering that raised $360 million. The company, developing a drug to treat several autoimmune diseases, sold 3.6 million shares at $100 each.

—Steve Dowdy of the University of California, San Diego published in Nature Biotechnology a comprehensive look at the RNA interference technology under development in his lab. That work, which could significantly expand the use of RNAi-based therapies, is licensed exclusively to San Diego’s Solstice Biologics.

—With Ebola on his mind, Fortune’s Dan Primack asked Beth Seidenberg of Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers: Whatever happened to KP’s pandemic flu fund?

—After we posted the previous roundup last Thursday, Geron (NASDAQ: GERN) of Menlo Park, CA, announced a deal to hand worldwide rights for its lead drug imetelstat to Janssen Biotech, a division of Johnson & Johnson (NYSE: JNJ). Geron gets $35 million immediately. Future payments could bump the total to $900 million.

—Cue, a San Diego startup developing a wireless diagnostic device that enables consumers to run clinical lab tests to measure their own health, raised $7.5 million in a Series A round led by San Francisco-based Sherpa Ventures. Cue plans to use the funding to begin production of its device.

—The Infectious Disease Research Institute in Seattle said Wednesday it has received $3.6 million from the National Institutes of Health to develop a tuberculosis vaccines that isn’t damaged by heat or cold. The grant could be worth up to $11.9 million if IDRI hits a series of milestones.

—San Diego-based DermTech withdrew its planned IPO, citing poor market conditions. The company is developing non-invasive tests of gene expression that help diagnose various skin conditions. DermTech filed confidentially for its IPO in April.

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  • Bob

    As per the French press release 28 tablets of Solvadi will cost 13667€ which roughly translates to $17,000. This sounds like a much better deal than $84,000. What am I missing?