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Updated: 16 hours 18 min ago

Alder Drug Cuts Down Migraines in Study, But Still Trails Rivals

Tue, 06/27/2017 - 12:47

Alder BioPharmaceutical’s migraine drug successfully reduced the frequency of headaches in a key clinical trial, early results that the biotech says lay the groundwork for its plans to file for FDA approval next year.

Bothell, WA-based Alder (NASDAQ: ALDR) has been studying its drug eptinezumab in patients who have episodic migraine, defined as experiencing between five and 14 migraine headaches per month. The company’s intravenously infused treatment is part of a new class of drugs that aims to prevent headaches before they start. Alder reported no side effects other than to say that its drug’s safety profile was similar to... Read more »

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What’s Hot in Cancer Immunotherapy 2017: The Photos

Mon, 06/26/2017 - 17:20
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Xconomy’s cancer immunotherapy event on June 14th in Seattle brought a packed house to The Pelton Auditorium on the campus of the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center. Attendees heard top executives, physicians, researchers, investors and entrepreneurs discuss the different types of immunotherapy in development, their successes, and the challenges in each part of the field.

Highlights from the event included Richard Maziarz, who treats people with blood cancers at Oregon Health and Science University, and Juno Therapeutics CEO Hans Bishop, discussing both the promises and the problems from a doctor’s perspective when treating patients with CAR-T cell therapies. Brad Gray, CEO... Read more »

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Genentech’s Hemophilia Drug Slashes Bleeding Rates, Early Data Show

Mon, 06/26/2017 - 16:09

While a host of companies are racing to treat hemophilia with cutting-edge gene therapies, others are working on nearer-term improvements to more conventional approaches, with billion-dollar franchises at stake. Genentech hopes to enter the hemophilia fray and announced Monday that its experimental drug emicizumab reduced bleeding by 87 percent, according to preliminary Phase 3 data.

Genentech, the South San Francisco, CA-based subsidiary of Swiss pharma giant Roche, has been testing emicizumab in hemophilia A patients enrolled in two Phase 3 trials dubbed HAVEN 1 and HAVEN 2. The drug is meant to be self-injected once a week as a preventive measure,... Read more »

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Texas Roundup: Acessa Health, CareSet, TeVido, Larry Lawson, TAMU

Mon, 06/26/2017 - 14:16

Here’s what’s making news across the cities in Xconomy Texas.

Acessa Health in Austin announced the company has completed a $30 million Series A financing and acquired a non-invasive treatment for uterine fibroids from a California medical device company. Acessa says the new capital comes from institutional venture investment firms and will be used for marketing efforts and to develop additional technology. Acessa bought the therapy from Halt Medical, which filed for bankruptcy in April. The company uses a laparoscopic instrument to deliver radiofrequency energy to fibroids, which shrink and are reabsorbed by surrounding tissue following the procedure, Acessa says.

—... Read more »

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Boston Is Arguably the Heart of Biotech. But Who Makes It So? Have Your Say.

Mon, 06/26/2017 - 09:50

By the end of this year, for the first time, patients with certain deadly types of blood cancer might have a new option, CAR-T cell therapy, to prolong their life. Immunotherapy could further entrench itself as a mainstay of cancer treatment. Newer drugmaking methods—RNA interference and gene therapy—could get their first ever FDA reviews. Multiple human trials of a new gene editing technology sure to win the Nobel Prize someday may have begun.

These are the types of scientific innovations that challenge norms and change the lives of millions of people across the globe, not to mention the... Read more »

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GE, IBM Race to Deliver on A.I. Hype in Healthcare

Mon, 06/26/2017 - 09:30

This story is part of an ongoing series on A.I. in healthcare. A companion piece today looks at the question of when A.I. might replace doctors.

Artificial intelligence has a long road ahead to reach the front lines of healthcare—but it’s coming.

Big companies and startup investors are pouring billions of dollars into A.I. technologies for healthcare, but a lot needs to happen before such technologies become common tools used by doctors, nurses, and other caregivers. To get there, companies will not only have to spend time and money honing their products and convincing regulators, healthcare organizations, and patients that... Read more »

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When Will A.I. Replace Doctors?

Mon, 06/26/2017 - 09:30

This story is part of an ongoing series on A.I. in healthcare. A companion piece today looks at advances from GE, IBM, and other competitors.

Even as big companies race to build up their artificial intelligence capabilities, the prospect of using A.I. technologies in healthcare raises more questions than answers.

Here are four key issues voiced by healthcare and technology experts in recent interviews with Xconomy:

—Will doctors, hospital administrators, and patients trust A.I. technologies? If the creators of a seemingly “black box” machine-learning system have trouble explaining how it makes decisions, will FDA regulators approve it?

—Will... Read more »

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Initiative to Boost SoCal’s Startup Scene Teams With GV Founder

Mon, 06/26/2017 - 01:38

A Silicon Valley entrepreneur has set out to boost the startup ecosystem in San Diego and the rest of Southern California—and he already has scored a coup by partnering with Bill Maris, the founder and former CEO of Google Ventures, now known as GV.

Steve Poizner, who sold two of his startups to Qualcomm (NASDAQ: QCOM) and served as California Insurance Commissioner a decade ago, has signed a collaboration agreement with a venture fund that Maris founded in suburban San Diego.

Maris raised $160 million last month for the inaugural fund of Section 32, a new venture firm he founded... Read more »

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Portola Pharmaceuticals’ Drug to Prevent Blood Clots Wins FDA Nod

Fri, 06/23/2017 - 17:06

[Updated, 6/23/17, 6:23 pm, see below.] A Portola Pharmaceuticals drug developed to prevent risky and potentially fatal blood clots in patients who are hospitalized for an extended period of time received FDA approval on Friday.

The FDA approved the Portola (NASDAQ: PTLA) drug betrixaban (Bevyxxa) for patients hospitalized for conditions such as heart failure, stroke, and pulmonary disease. Being stuck in a hospital bed and immobile for a long period of time puts such patients at risk of developing venous thromboembolism (VTE), or blood clots. The South San Francisco, CA-based company’s drug, a pill, is what’s called a... Read more »

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Purdue Pharma’s Mark Timney Leaving, Craig Landau Named CEO

Fri, 06/23/2017 - 13:38

Purdue Pharma announced that CEO Mark Timney is leaving “to pursue other career opportunities” and another executive within the Stamford, CT-based drug company is taking his place. Craig Landau, a 14-year Purdue veteran, is now CEO. Landau had held several executive and senior management roles in the company, including serving as chief medical officer. In 2013, he was appointed president and CEO of Purdue’s Canada operations. Purdue says Landau will keep his executive management responsibilities for the company’s Canadian sites.

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Five Prime’s Williams to Transition from CEO to Executive Chairman

Fri, 06/23/2017 - 13:30

Five Prime Therapeutics (NASDAQ: FPRX) announced that founder Lewis “Rusty” Williams plans to transition from CEO to executive chairman next year. Williams founded South San Francisco, CA-based Five Prime in 2001 and then shifted from CEO to executive chairman in 2003. He returned as CEO in 2011. Five Prime, which is developing drugs to treat cancer and inflammatory diseases, says that Williams will continue to lead the company until a new chief executive has been appointed.

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Startup Founder’s Quest for Cure Leads to Genomics Hackathon at Google

Fri, 06/23/2017 - 10:35

This story is part of a series on A.I. in healthcare.

Onno Faber was a member of Silicon Valley’s happy breed of tech startup founders when he was diagnosed with a rare genetic condition that can come with dire health damage, but few treatments.

Faber responded with entrepreneurial zeal, exploring whether Silicon Valley’s mastery of algorithms might help root out and defeat the threatening quirks in his genetic code. Without any ready-made solutions on hand from big drug companies and their established research teams, Faber started to recruit individuals to his cause.

The results of Faber’s crusade so far demonstrate... Read more »

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Bio Roundup: Senate Trumpcare, FDA On Cancer, Alzheimer Review & More

Fri, 06/23/2017 - 08:05

All eyes are on the nation’s capital this week, where the Senate released its version of the American Health Care Act (now called the Better Care Reconciliation Act) and the White House worked on an executive order to address drug prices. No one knows how to pay for high-priced medicines that could bring long-term relief or even cures; we checked with gene therapy maker Bluebird Bio about its latest experimental data and asked officials for their thoughts on pricing. There were plenty more clinical results and FDA news to round up, plus boatloads of startup funding. Let’s get right to it.... Read more »

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Bluebird Reports Early Results From Upgraded Gene Therapy

Fri, 06/23/2017 - 08:00

One of the year’s most closely watched clinical studies could lead to a landmark approval of a gene therapy and throw wide open the debate over how to pay for expensive drugs. The first drips of data have emerged.

Bluebird Bio (NASDAQ: BLUE) says the first three patients—of 15 total expected—have had good results from a revised version of its LentiGlobin gene therapy to treat certain genetic variants of the rare blood disease beta-thalassemia, which causes severe anemia and requires frequent transfusions.

Bluebird has changed the way it manufactures the product, which requires extracting a patient’s bone marrow cells, altering... Read more »

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Lilly Adds Chemistry Capabilities in San Diego Lab Expansion

Thu, 06/22/2017 - 19:41

Eli Lilly (NYSE: LLY) has completed a $90 million expansion of its biotechnology R&D center in San Diego, added new automated synthesis equipment, and plans to build out its next-generation chemistry capabilities here over the next two years.

The new facility adds 180,000 square feet of space to Lilly’s laboratory in La Jolla—a 145 percent increase for the site. The expansion features a soaring architectural façade intended to resemble DNA molecules during gel electrophoresis. During a dedication ceremony of the revamped facility Wednesday, David Ricks, chairman and CEO of the Indianapolis-based pharmaceutical giant, said the project is part of the... Read more »

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Mary Lou Jepsen: The Full Xconomy Voices Interview

Thu, 06/22/2017 - 09:00

For the inaugural episode of our new podcast, Xconomy Voices, we chose to speak with Bay Area entrepreneur and executive Mary Lou Jepsen. She leads a startup called Openwater, which is developing a new kind of wearable imaging device that might one day enable communication by thoughts alone. Of course, there are nearer-term goals as well, such as supplementing (and even replacing) bulky, expensive MRI machines.

Xconomy has followed Jepsen’s work over the years—from her role as CTO of One Laptop Per Child, to senior executive positions at Google X and Facebook/Oculus. In this recent conversation, we focused... Read more »

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Introducing Xconomy Voices (Podcast), Episode 1: Mary Lou Jepsen

Thu, 06/22/2017 - 09:00

It’s always been Xconomy’s mission to reach audiences—both here on our website, and at our many live events around the country—with deep insights into the innovation process, divined from experts embedded in the world’s most important hubs of high-tech entrepreneurship.

And now we’re doing that in one more medium: podcasting.

I’m thrilled to be collaborating with my former colleagues at Xconomy on a new interview show called Xconomy Voices. Each episode brings you a timely, compelling, 15-minute conversation with a leading entrepreneur, innovator, or investor from one of Xconomy’s eleven cities and regions. We ask them what they’re working on, what... Read more »

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Repare Nabs $68M To Find Synthetic Lethal Cancer Targets Beyond PARP

Thu, 06/22/2017 - 06:00

The concept of synthetic lethality has been around for decades, but only recently has it been exploited for cancer therapy. The idea is to hit cancer cells in at least two places at once; the trick is to find the right combination of genetic mutations that make the cells vulnerable.

The newest company aiming to fight cancer with synthetic lethality is Repare Therapeutics, which today announced a $68 M Series A funding after more than 18 months in stealth. Repare can thank the early success of a class of drug called PARP inhibitors, which block an enzyme that cancer cells with... Read more »

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Syntimmune Snares $50M to Test Autoimmune Drug in Two Rare Diseases

Wed, 06/21/2017 - 09:00

Although antibodies play a key role in neutralizing invading bacteria and viruses, sometimes these protective proteins can turn against the body’s own tissues, sparking an autoimmune disorder.

Syntimmune’s leaders believe their company has found a way to block the immune system’s attack on the body. And now the biotech has $50 million to advance its lead drug through clinical trials in two rare diseases. Apple Tree Partners led the Series B investment round with a $48 million commitment. Earlier backers also joined in the financing for the New York-based company, which has now raised $78 million total from investors.

David de... Read more »

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With $23M, Flagship-Backed Sigilon Protects Protein-Producing Cells

Wed, 06/21/2017 - 08:00

Companies have been trying for years, if not decades, to find a way to encapsulate cells for therapeutic use in a way that protects them from the body’s reactions. Sigilon Therapeutics, a Cambridge, MA-based biotech, announced today it has raised $23.5 million from Flagship Pioneering to take its technology to clinical trials.

The company has developed capsules that hold cells engineered to secrete therapeutic proteins, which Sigilon says can target disorders of the blood and enzymes, and possibly diabetes, too. The capsules are notable, Sigilon says, because they were developed to avoid tissue scarring and immune responses that have historically killed... Read more »

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