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West Coast Biotech Roundup: Juno, Tekmira, True North, aTyr & More

Xconomy Seattle — 

We’ll move in geographic fashion through the roundup this week, starting in the Pacific Northwest, where Juno Therapeutics won a patent fight and found a new headquarters. Further south, the Bay Area hosted an IPO and several other financings, and down San Diego way, aTyr Pharma joined the IPO queue. It’s Friday, and we’re roundup-ready.

—Juno Therapeutics (NASDAQ: JUNO) announced a settlement this week of its patent dispute with Novartis (NYSE: NVS). The Seattle developer of cell-based cancer immunotherapies will receive $12.25 million right away from Novartis and potentially much more in milestones and royalties if Novartis’s CTL019 advances through clinical trials and onto the market. The fight centered on a piece of bio-engineering, used by both companies, that helps a cancer patient’s T cells become more tenacious cancer fighters.

—Juno also said it has signed a seven-year lease for 80,000 square feet in a building, not yet constructed, in Seattle’s South Lake Union neighborhood. The company could start to move in next year. The new building will retain an historic sidewalk clock, which was built by a once-famous Seattle company of a bygone era.

—Burnaby, BC-based Tekmira Pharmaceuticals (NASDAQ: TKMR) got the FDA’s nod to resume a Phase 1 trial of its Ebola treatment after the agency put it on hold last July. The trial will test the drug’s safety in healthy volunteers, and Tekmira said it expects results in the second half of 2015.

—Carbylan Therapeutics (NASDAQ: CBYL) of Palo Alto, CA, debuted its stock Thursday on the Nasdaq after raising $65 million in its initial public offering. It sold 13 million shares at $5 apiece, and another $9.75 million could potentially come from the bankers’ extra allotment. The firm’s lead product is a combination of a steroid and a hydrogel in Phase 3 for knee pain relief.

—True North Therapeutics of South San Francisco announced a $35 million Series B round led by OrbiMed Advisors. The cash will help it conduct Phase 1 tests on its lead program, an antibody that aims to shut down rare autoimmune conditions.

—Raptor Pharmaceutical (NASDAQ: RPTP) of Novato, CA, a developer of treatments for rare diseases, said Wednesday it has raised $98 million in gross proceeds from a secondary stock sale.

—Prothena (NASDAQ: PRTA), which is domiciled in Ireland but does its R&D in South San Francisco, CA, aims to raise $122 million in gross proceeds from a secondary sale of 3.3 million shares at $37 apiece. It could add another $18 million if its bankers sell their extra allotment.

—Exelixis (NASDAQ: EXEL) enjoyed a 5 percent stock bump Thursday when the FDA gave fast-track status to its cancer drug cabozantinib, currently in Phase 3 tests as a second-line treatment for patients with advanced renal cell carcinoma. Under the brand name Cometriq, cabozantinib is already approved in the U.S. and Europe for severe cases of medullary thyroid cancer.

—Catalyst Biosciences, based in South San Francisco, CA, heard from Pfizer that their six-year-old hemophilia licensing deal is kaput. The news comes as Catalyst is trying to merge with Targacept (NASDAQ: TRGT). Targacept, which disclosed the bad Catalyst news Monday, saw its stock price fall 20 percent this week before a slight rebound Friday morning.

—San Diego’s aTyr Pharma filed for an IPO this week after raising $76 million last week in a Series E financing round. The company is developing physiocrine-based drugs for severe, rare diseases. In its IPO filing, aTyr says it has completed an early stage clinical trial of its lead drug candidate for treating adult patients with facioscapulohumeral muscular dystrophy (FSHD), a rare genetic muscle disease that has no approved treatments.

—Regulus Therapeutics (NASDAQ: RGLS) said its microRNA-based compound RG-125 is the first to be selected for clinical development under its strategic alliance with AstraZeneca (NYSE: AZN), the global pharmaceutical company based in London. According to Regulus, AstraZeneca chose the compound as a clinical candidate for treating non-alcoholic steatohepatitis (NASH) in patients with type 2 diabetes and pre-diabetes. AstraZeneca will pay Regulus $2.5 million.

—San Diego medical device maker Aethlon Medical said it has engineered a 1-for-50 reverse stock split and applied to list its shares on Nasdaq. The company, which has a dialysis-like filter for treating Ebola, said the split would reduce the number of outstanding shares from roughly 323 million to 6.7 million. If approved by regulators, Aethlon’s stock would trade under the symbol AEMD.

Xconomy San Diego editor Bruce Bigelow contributed to this report.