Seattle biotech had a little something for everybody this past week. There was drama (Dendreon), politics (Life Sciences Discovery Fund getting whacked), a scientist’s life story (David Baker), and young competitors vying to make the world a better place (UW Environmental Innovation Challenge).
—Dendreon (NASDAQ: DNDN), the Seattle developer of an immune-stimulating therapy for prostate cancer, has been waiting for months to see whether its drug can help men live longer with minimal side effects. This month, it will find out, and this long-running saga could take yet another twist.
—Gov. Chris Gregoire staked much of her economic development strategy on the 10-year, $350 million Life Sciences Discovery Fund, and now the fund is in jeopardy of being shut down, as we reported in this exclusive. Lawmakers are still ironing out the differences between bills to see how deep to cut. The legislative session is scheduled to end April 26.
—I took out some time to profile one of the leading innovators at the University of Washington, biochemistry professor David Baker. His lab has been fascinated for years by how a linear sequence of genetic code gets transformed into a 3-D protein structure. The Baker lab has gotten good enough at this that it can now design new proteins from scratch on a computer, with potential to do things like create new cellulosic biofuels.
—Elsewhere on campus, we reported on the winners of the first-ever UW Environmental Innovation Challenge. The winning team, calling themselves HydroSense, envision a way to help consumers monitor their household water consumption in real-time, which ought to help people better conserve this precious resource.
—VLST and Novo Nordisk are cementing their new partnership to develop drugs for autoimmune disease, just a few blocks away from each other in Seattle’s South Lake Union neighborhood. I spoke to VLST CEO Marty Simonetti about why proximity means so much in making this budding partnership work.
—Most scientists would scoff at the idea of developing antibodies against HIV, because the virus is known to mutate well enough to dodge these kinds of genetically engineered bullets. But Seattle’s Theraclone Sciences (formerly known as Spaltudaq) is using some of the clues offered by unique antibodies found in rare people who can innately fight off the virus, and is engineering copies of these antibodies that appear to work in the lab. If the company can find a couple more of these antibodies, it might have an alternative treatment to the daily regimen of pills, which patients might take in a once-monthly injection, says CEO David Fanning.
—SonoSite, the Bothell, WA-based maker of portable ultrasound machines, warned investors this week that its revenue dropped 1 to 2 percent in the first quarter. The company (NASDAQ: SONO) plans to report earnings on April 27.
—Seattle Genetics, the cancer drug maker that’s in the same Bothell, WA office park as SonoSite, said it pulled in $4 million in an upfront technology license fee from Millennium: The Takeda Oncology Company. Seattle Genetics gave Millennium permission to use its antibody-drug conjugate technology, which is designed to link antibodies that seek out tumors to toxins that can make them more potent tumor-killers.
—PATH, the Seattle-based nonprofit that works to reduce worldwide health disparities, said it has outgrown its headquarters in Ballard and is moving to new offices under construction in South Lake Union.
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