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West Coast Biotech Roundup: Juno, Genervon, Tekmira, DNANexus & More

Xconomy Seattle — 

The West Coast this week is home to news about a new immuno-oncology combination, a tiny step forward in Ebola, and a whole lot of hullabaloo over a tiny L.A. biotech developing a drug for Lou Gehrig’s disease (ALS). Let’s get to the roundup.

—Juno Therapeutics (NASDAQ: JUNO) of Seattle and the AstraZeneca (NYSE: AZN) division MedImmune, of Gaithersburg, MD, agreed to test combinations of their experimental cancer immunotherapy treatments. The companies said they would first combine a T-cell based “CAR-T” therapy from Juno and a checkpoint inhibitor from MedImmune in a Phase 1 trial for non-Hodgkins lymphoma starting later this year. No financial details were disclosed.

—Tekmira Pharmaceuticals (NASDAQ: TKMR) of Vancouver, BC, published positive data Wednesday for its treatment to fight infection of the Makola strain of Ebola. The very small test was in non-human primates and resulted in 100 percent survival; Tekmira is also testing the drug in human trials in Sierra Leone.

—Controversy continued to bubble around Pasadena, CA-based Genervon, which has touted its experimental ALS treatment as a candidate for accelerated FDA approval based on a 12-patient, 12-week study. One ALS expert has roundly criticized the drug program, and on Friday, the FDA publicly called for the company to release more data, a highly unusual move for the agency. This week, the Wall Street Journal reported that Genervon had not actually submitted an application to the FDA.

—Seattle’s Presage Biosciences described in detail its cancer-drug test technology, which injects multiple cancer drugs directly into a living tumor. The company has begun the first human trial of the technology, dubbed CIVO, at Seattle’s Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center.

—Color Genomics unveiled Monday a $249 genetic test kit for breast and ovarian cancer that women can pay for directly after their doctor orders the test online. The Burlingame, CA, firm has raised $15 million in venture funding.

—Stealth startup Metacrine of San Diego has raised nearly $7 million in funding, with a goal of $33 million, according to a MedCityNews report. Founder Ron Evans also co-founded San Diego’s Ligand Pharmaceuticals and Syndax Pharmaceuticals.

—Genomics data company DNANexus of Mountain View, CA, said Wednesday it has formed an alliance with Chinese pharma outsourcing firm WuXi PharmaTech and its genomics division, WuXi NextCODE Genomics. WuXi is investing $15 million in DNANexus and will use the California company’s cloud-based platform for its genomics-based R&D, which it conducts on behalf of life sciences clients.

—Seattle’s Kineta said it would work with the University of Washington on a tech transfer agreement to help turn UW Medicine research into commercial therapeutics. No financial details or licensing goals were disclosed. The deal is part of UW’s overhaul of its technology licensing office and practices.

—San Diego-based Huya Bioscience International, which has agreements with Chinese pharmaceuticals and academics to market their drugs throughout the world, has raised $48 million in convertible promissory notes, according to a regulatory filing. The company says it has amassed the largest portfolio of Chinese-sourced compounds covering all therapeutic areas. When Xconomy talked to her in 2009, Huya chairwoman and CEO Mireille Gillings said she had funded Huya with her own money and funds from individual and institutional investors.

—GlycoRegImmune, a San Diego biotech, has raised nearly $4.4 million of a planned $6.4 million round from investors, according to a regulatory filing. The company, also known as GRI, says on its website that it is developing oral drugs for chronic liver disease.