It was a volatile week in the stock market, and as usual, in Seattle biotechnology. We got insights into an expansion of a biotech drug factory, the advance of a potentially important new drug for multiple sclerosis, and a warning that cuts are coming at Arch Venture Partners’ portfolio companies. Here are some of the week’s highlights:
—Allozyne raised $30 million in venture capital last year, so I checked in with them to see how they’ve spent the cash. It turns out the Seattle-based company, a “graduate” of the Accelerator, plans to enter clinical trials before the end of March with a drug that could be the first every-other-week or monthly injection for multiple sclerosis patients. If this works, it could open the door to a lot more uses of its platform technology.
—Sonosite dumped its chief financial officer, Bernard Pitz. The Bothell, WA-based maker of portable ultrasound machines didn’t say what happened, but it doesn’t like he quit to pursue other interests as the usual corporate boilerplate goes. Pitz left “at the request of the company,” after he just got the job in May.
—Arch Venture Partners told us they warned their portfolio companies to cut back and brace themselves for the financial crisis. Quote of the week from Arch’s Bob Nelsen. “My guess is we are all in for a severe whack, but not a depression, but who knows,” he says.
—Cell Therapeutics isn’t going down without a fight. The Seattle biotech company is running seriously thin on cash, and has a stock price that’s worth less than a pack of gum. But it got some terrific data published this week on its Zevalin drug in the Journal of Clinical Oncology, combined with a heavyweight endorsement from lymphoma guru Oliver Press.
—Leroy Hood turned 70 last Friday, so I marked the occasion by profiling the biotech entrepreneur who made high-speed gene sequencing possible in the 1980s when scientists said it was impossible. One great moment from the gala dinner that night at the W Hotel came when Hood’s son, Eran, was interviewed on a video biography. He said his dad’s life is best summed up by ’90s rap star Tupac Shakur’s album “Me Against the World.” Replace crooked cops with stifling university administrators, and you see the parallels. No word on whether the elder Hood has any of these tracks saved on an iPod.
—CMC Icos is getting ready to break ground on a big expansion of its biotech drug factory in Bothell. It’s one good break the region has gotten after Icos was carved up by Eli Lilly. It wouldn’t surprise me if this turns into a piece of critical infrastructure for local startups that need a place to get their experimental drugs made.
—Dendreon took advantage of a brief boost in its stock to sell about $20 million worth of common shares. The Seattle biotech company announced that an interim analysis of a trial of Provenge for prostate cancer showed it still has a chance of reaching its goal of extending lives when the final analysis is due in mid-2009.