South San Francisco is known as the birthplace of biotechnology, after Robert Swanson and Dr. Herbert Boyer founded biotech giant Genentech in 1976, eventually leading to other biotech companies and pharmaceutical companies basing themselves in the local area. In this article, we take a look at six biotech companies currently headquartered in South San Francisco.
Nowadays, the region is a major biotech hub, competing with the likes of Boston – notorious for its biotech scene – and North Carolina – known for Research Triangle Park – with over 200 biotech companies having offices or R&D facilities located there, including big names like Genentech, AstraZeneca and Johnson & Johnson. Overall, it is estimated to have 11.5 million square feet of space on 500-acres of land dedicated to biotech and pharma companies.
The region’s proximity to Silicon Valley plays a big part in its attraction for many biotechs, enabling Silicon Valley healthcare entrepreneurs and researchers to easily and efficiently collaborate with companies.
Several biotech companies also officially have their headquarters situated in the South San Francisco area. In no particular order, here are six of the top biotech companies who call South San Francisco their home.
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Regarded as industry giants, Genentech is extremely well known in the biotech industry, having been founded more than 40 years ago in 1976. The company became a member of the Roche Group in March 2009, where the two companies combined their pharmaceutical operations in the U.S. as part of the agreement, meaning Genentech’s South San Francisco headquarters now serves as the headquarters for Roche pharmaceutical operations in the U.S.
Genentech focuses on a wide range of therapeutic areas, including oncology, immunology, neuroscience, metabolism, infectious disease and ophthalmology. Its clinical pipeline is currently composed of more than 60 investigational molecules covering all of these therapeutic areas.
It also has several approved products, such as Activase, to treat patients with acute ischemic stroke, Esbriet, to treat people with idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis (IPF), and OCREVUS, to treat relapsing forms of multiple sclerosis (MS) and primary progressive MS.
After being founded in 2017, 3T Biosciences debuted in 2022 with $40 million series A financing. A company focused on immunotherapy, it is looking to change the future of treatment for solid tumors, as well as other immune-mediated diseases. By studying patient immune responses against cancer, it aims to discover the best immunogenic targets that can be generalized for multiple tumor indications and across patient populations. It pairs this with therapeutic development in an attempt to create transformative therapies.
The company uses its proprietary 3T-TRACE platform technology to identify novel shared T cell receptor (TCR) targets of productive immune responses against solid tumors and other disease, and to comprehensively screen TCR and T cell receptor mimetic (TCRm) molecules for specificity and off-target cross-reactivities, in order to then potentially create tumor-specific, safer therapies that can be delivered at higher doses.
3T Biosciences recently entered into a strategic collaboration and licensing agreement with German pharmaceutical company Boehringer Ingelheim to discover and develop next-generation cancer therapies to address high unmet need in patients.
Vistagen is committed to improving mental health and well-being by developing an innovative pipeline of central nervous system (CNS) medications to try and establish a new standard of care in the treatment of various serious anxiety, depression and other CNS disorders.
The South San Francisco based biotech company currently has three main drug candidates in its clinical pipeline: fasedienol nasal spray is in phase 3 of development to treat social anxiety disorder (SAD); Itruvone nasal spray is in phase 2 trials to treat major depressive disorder (MDD); and AV-101 is an oral drug in phase 1 of development for potential CNS indications, and has specifically been granted U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) fast track designation for MDD and neuropathic pain.
Vistagen recently announced positive data in fasedienol from its phase 3 open-label study designed to evaluate the safety and tolerability of multiple, as-needed intranasal administrations of fasedienol over time in adults with SAD. The FDA also provided positive feedback to the company regarding the use of the Liebowitz Social Anxiety Scale (LSAS) as an endpoint in phase 3 development of fasedienol.
Calico Life Sciences
Calico Life Sciences is a biotech company based in South Francisco focused on a niche area: the process of aging. It wants to find solutions that will help people live longer and healthier lives. It uses academic research and cutting-edge medical technology to answer biological questions surrounding how humans age and to devise interventions to help people lead longer lives, discovering new targets and developing first-in-class therapies for age-related diseases.
The company’s approach has led to a portfolio of more than 20 early- and late-stage preclinical compounds in cancer, neurological diseases, and tissue homeostasis and repair. Moreover, as part of a collaboration with AbbVie – where AbbVie provides scientific and clinical development support and will lend its commercial expertise to lead future development and commercialization activities – Calico is developing an investigational product called ABBV-CLS-7262 for the treatment of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS).
The product is currently being tested in the HEALEY ALS Platform trial by the Sean M. Healey & AMG Center for ALS at Massachusetts General Hospital. In March, the trial enrolled the first participants for ABBV-CLS-7262.
GRAIL’s mission is to improve cancer mortality rates by being able to detect cancer as early as possible, at a stage when it can still be cured. It aims to do this by developing blood testing technology that uses genetic sequencing. The company has several ongoing clinical studies, and it has enrolled over 300,000 participants in clinical study programs to demonstrate broad applicability of its multi-cancer early detection technologies.
In fact, the South Francisco biotech company has already successfully developed Galleri, which is an advanced test that is capable of detecting multiple cancer types in their early stages through a single blood draw. The test is designed to decode fragments of tumor DNA in the bloodstream so it can trace the original organ location of the cancer. The test is available in the U.S. on prescription for people with an elevated cancer risk.
Last year, GRAIL and the National Health Service (NHS) in the U.K. also completed the enrollment of 140,000 participants aged 50 to 77, in what was the largest-ever study of a multi-cancer early detection test.
Another South San Francisco biotech focused on oncology is Sutro Biopharma, which is dedicated to transforming the lives of cancer patients by creating medicines with improved therapeutic profiles for areas of unmet need. The company has a proprietary and integrated cell-free protein synthesis platform called XpressCF, as well as a site-specific conjugation platform, known as Xpress CF+.
These platforms have so far led to antibody drug conjugates (ADCs), bispecific antibodies, cytokine-based immuno-oncology therapies, and vaccines directed at precedented targets in clinical indications where the current standard of care is thought to be suboptimal.
Moreover, the platforms aided the discovery of STRO-001 and STRO-002, which are Sutro’s first two internally-developed ADCs. STRO-001 targets CD74 – a homotrimeric membrane protein that acts as a receptor for macrophage migration inhibitory factor – and is in clinical studies for B-cell malignancies, while STRO-002 targets folate receptor alpha – a folate-binding protein involved in folate transport – and is in clinical studies for both ovarian and endometrial cancers.