West Coast Biotech Roundup: Juno, Nektar, Kite, Glooko & More

Out west this week, Bay Area clinical data carried the day. Nektar got bad news from a Phase 3 breast cancer trial, but Pharmacyclics, about to become (a very expensive) part of AbbVie, kept rolling with lymphoma/leukemia data so good that reviewers voted to release it early. Vancouver was also abuzz, as Bill Gates spoke at a TED conference there about the need for better epidemic preparation. In cancer immunotherapy news, Kite Pharma expanded into Europe, while Juno reported earnings—or more accurately, spendings—for the first time. You don’t have to spend a dime; our roundup is free, as always.

—Nektar Therapeutics (NASDAQ: NKTR) of San Francisco said Tuesday that its experimental breast cancer treatment etirinotecan pegol failed to hit its main goals in an 852-patient Phase 3 study. The drug did not boost overall survival in a statistically significant way compared to patients receiving a chemotherapy agent of their physician’s choice. Nektar shares fell 15 percent Tuesday.

—Sunnyvale, CA-based Pharmacyclics (NASDAQ: PCYC) made its buyer AbbVie (NYSE: ABBV) very happy on Monday with good clinical news about its flagship product ibrutinib (Imbruvica), which is already approved in four cancer indications. A review panel recommended unblinding Phase 3 results early in a trial for patients with chronic lymphocytic leukemia and small lymphocytic lymphoma. AbbVie has agreed to pay about $21 billion for Pharmacyclics in cash and stock.

—Bill Gates gave a TED talk in Vancouver and wrote in several places, including his own blog, about the lack of preparedness for the next epidemic infectious disease. The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation pledged $50 million to fight Ebola last September.

—Kite Pharma (NASDAQ: KITE) of Santa Monica, CA, bought Dutch firm T-Cell Factory to expand its T cell receptor cancer therapy platform and to acquire manufacturing space. Kite is initially paying up to $21 million in cash and stock, and it will rename the group Kite Pharma EU.

—Juno Therapeutics (NASDAQ: JUNO) reported earnings for the first time since its December 2014 IPO, with nearly $200 million in net losses for the full fiscal year. Roughly half its R&D expenses for the year ($182 million) was cash payouts to the research institutions that developed much of Juno’s technology. The spending should continue, as the company should have 10 clinical programs in the next 12 months, according to a statement. It estimates $125 million to $150 million in cash burn in 2015.

—After closing on $42 million in private funding last month, San Diego’s Cidara Therapeutics plans to raise as much as $69 million through an IPO, according to a recent filing. The cash will help advance its anti-fungal products, including lead candidate CD101 as both an intravenous treatment for systemic fungal infections and a topical treatment for vaginal yeast infections.

—South San Francisco, CA-based Second Genome on Friday signed a collaboration deal with Germany’s Evotec to do small-molecule discovery work based on Second Genome’s research in diseases mediated by the gut microbiome. No financial details were disclosed.

—Palo Alto, CA-based digital health firm Glooko said Tuesday it has raised a $16.5 million Series B round from Canaan Partners and others to expand its diabetes management system.

—Richard Scheller, the new head of therapeutics at 23andMe in Mountain View, CA, has also joined the board of directors of Xenon Pharmaceuticals, a Burnaby, BC-based firm looking to develop drugs based on insights into rare genetic conditions.

—Tekmira (NASDAQ: TKMR) of Vancouver, BC, said Wednesday it would sell 6 million shares in a secondary offering, with an underwriter option to buy up to 900,000 more shares. The shares have not yet been priced.

—Santa Rosa, CA-based pharma company Ruthigen (NASDAQ: RTGN) is merging via stock swap into privately held Pulmatrix, of Lexington, MA, to give Pulmatrix access to Ruthigen’s public listing. The combined company will keep the Pulmatrix name and focus on development of Pulmatrix’s inhaled therapeutics.

—Israel’s Teva Pharmaceutical Industries has agreed to sell four of its clinical cancer programs to San Diego-based Ignyta (NASDAQ: RXDX) as part of a stock purchase agreement with an overall value of $41.6 million. Teva also agreed to buy an additional 1.5 million shares of Ignyta at $10 per share. Ignyta is focused on developing companion diagnostics-and-drug programs for the emerging field of precision medicine.

—San Diego-based Accriva Diagnostics Holdings, formed from the 2013 merger of San Diego’s Accumetrics and New Jersey’s ITC Nexus Holdings, has raised almost $15.5 million of a planned $18.9 million round of equity funding, according to a recent filing. The company makes diagnostic products, including a device used in hospitals and clinics to measure a heart patient’s response to anti-clotting drugs.

—San Diego-based Banyan Biomarkers, which is developing a point-of-care blood test to detect signs of traumatic brain injury, has raised $1.8 million from investors in a planned $5 million round, according to a recent filing. The company, founded in 2002 with technology from the University of Florida, moved to San Diego before enrolling 2,000 patients in a pivotal clinical trial funded by a $26.3 million contract from the U.S. Department of Defense. Those results are expected by the end of this year.

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

Image “Fall in Vancouver” courtesy of JMV via a Creative Commons license.

Alex Lash is Xconomy's National Biotech Editor. He is based in San Francisco. Follow @alexlash

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