Tysabri’s Roots at the “Hutch,” MediQuest Spurned by FDA, ZymoGenetics Drug Passes Test, & More Seattle-Area Life Sciences News

Xconomy Seattle — 

Last week brought another mixed bag of news from Seattle biotech.

—Tysabri. The most effective drug on the market for multiple sclerosis isn’t sold by a Seattle biotech company, but it has its origins in a lab here at the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center.

—ZymoGenetics had yet another good news/bad news week. The Seattle biotech company said its pegylated interferon lambda drug for hepatitis C was able to kill the virus in a trial of 18 patients, without any of the flu-like symptoms associated with standard interferons. But the next day, it said it sold just $1.8 million worth of recombinant thrombin, its only marketed product, in the third quarter.

—We occasionally like to take a close-up look at clusters within the Seattle region, and this week I did a census of the local ultrasound industry. About 5,000 people are now employed at 15 companies in the area we counted. If you know of more, please drop us a line at [email protected]

—MediQuest Therapeutics passed along some bad news Friday afternoon when it said its drug for Raynaud’s disease was rejected by the FDA. The privately-held Bothell, WA-based company didn’t say what the FDA’s questions were about the Vascana application, but it plans to meet with the agency to determine its next steps.

—Did you know poor people can legally get prescription drugs in this country for half-price? I didn’t know about it until the folks at Portland, OR-based Wellpartner, a mail-order pharmacy, explained how they’ve found a way to help clinics that serve poor people to handle the bureaucratic red tape to get this deal. This is one reason why Wellpartner has tripled in size over the past year, and attracted investments from Seattle-based Integra Ventures and Buerk Dale Victor.

—Northstar Neuroscience announced to investors this week that it doesn’t plan to just curl up and die. The Seattle-based medical device maker, which was under pressure from an activist shareholder this summer to sell itself, says it expects to have $66 million in cash left at the end of the year, and that it will still have $53 million left in reserves at the end of 2009. The company is developing its electrical stimulation device for severe depression, after an earlier trial failed in stroke patients.