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West Coast Biotech Roundup: Juno, UCSD v. USC, Natera, LSDF & More

Xconomy Seattle — 

It was a short work week leading up to the 4th of July, but it was long on news out West. There were plenty of fireworks of the legal, political, and financial variety, with an academic lawsuit in Southern California, a legislative defeat for the Washington state life sciences community, a big Bay Area IPO, and a blockbuster immunotherapy deal in Seattle. All that, and our Seattle editor Ben Romano’s ride in a submersible to see the biology of Elliott Bay (pictured) up close, plus news from a busy Monday today… let’s get to the roundup.

—Juno Therapeutics (NASDAQ: JUNO) of Seattle inked a $1 billion deal with Celgene (NASDAQ: CELG) that gives Celgene 10 percent ownership of Juno in exchange for the right to license a wide range of Juno’s T-cell based immunotherapy products. Celgene would gain certain non-U.S. rights, or worldwide profit sharing rights, depending on the program. Juno also gains options to license certain Celgene products. Of the $1 billion, $850 million goes toward Juno equity, for which Celgene paid a 100 percent premium.

—Staying in Washington, the state legislature pulled the plug on the Washington state Life Sciences Discovery Fund, a 10-year-old program created with tobacco lawsuit settlement money that has provided $105 million in grant funding to academics and startups. Washington Gov. Jay Inslee declined to veto the legislature’s move to shift the LSDF money into the state general fund. The legislature also voted to end Washington’s R&D tax credit.

—Late last week, the University of California, San Diego, filed a lawsuit against the University of Southern California over USC’s recruitment of a top Alzheimer’s disease researcher and his colleagues. UCSD is also suing the researcher, Paul Aisen, who was overseeing a major Alzheimer’s study at UCSD. The school alleges it can no longer access the study data. As Xconomy San Diego editor Bruce Bigelow reports today, the suit comes amid USC’s long-running attempt to position itself at the center of a Los Angeles-centric biotech cluster.

—In San Carlos, CA, prenatal diagnostic maker Natera went public, raised $180 million, and saw its shares jump last week after aggressively boosting its targets in the hours leading up to the IPO. It sold 18 million shares at $10 each. Coming out of the holiday weekend, its share price closed Monday at $22.

—More Bay Area IPO news: BioCardia, also of San Carlos, filed paperwork to raise about $50 million in an initial public offering. The company expects to enter its lead, cell-based therapy for cardiovascular disease into a Phase III trial this year. Meanwhile, allergy medicine maker Aimmune of Brisbane, CA, hopes to raise $115 million. The firm began life as Allergen Research.

—BioMarin Pharmaceutical of San Rafael, CA, said last week the FDA would begin an accelerated review of its drug drisapersen, a treatment for one version of the rare, genetically inherited muscle-wasting disease Duchenne muscular dystrophy. The news came as rival DMD drug maker Sarepta Therapeutics said it had asked FDA for an accelerated review.

—Gilead Sciences used its priority review voucher, which it bought last fall for $125 million from an obscure Canadian drug company, to ask FDA for a sped-up review of its new once-a-day anti-HIV combination therapy.

—The ever-acquisitive Allergan struck again, buying ophthalmology device maker Oculeve of South San Francisco, CA, for $125 million. Oculeve makes a stimulatory device that produces tears in patients with dry eye disease.

—23andMe, the data gatherer with drug development aspirations, appears to be raising $150 million of new funding, according to a document filed with the Securities and Exchange Commission July 2. The company has raised $79.1 million in the offering so far, according to the document, which shows at least part of the funding was for Series E preferred stock. A spokesman said the company does not comment on a financing until the round is complete.

—Zosano Pharma of Fremont, CA, said that Novo Nordisk has backed out of the companies’ efforts to develop a Type 2 diabetes treatment with Zosano’s skin patch technology.

—Menlo Park, CA-based Versartis said today that the FDA will let it go forward with a Phase 3 trial of its recombinant human growth hormone to treat kids with growth deficiency. The agency had put a partial hold on the trial in May.