VentiRx Nabs $25M, Gilead Deepens Seattle Roots, Sage Strikes Deal With Pfizer & More Seattle-Area Life Sciences News

Xconomy Seattle — 

Hope sprang eternal at this year’s JP Morgan Healthcare Conference, the annual kickoff event for the biotech industry. A few Seattle biotech companies offered some reasons for people to think a little hope may be justified.

VentiRx Pharmaceuticals said it raised $25 million to further develop its drugs that stimulate the innate immune system against cancer and allergies. A pair of local investors, Arch Venture Partners and Frazier Healthcare Ventures, chose to re-invest in the Seattle and San Diego-based company, while MedImmune Ventures, a unit of AstraZeneca, led the new round.

Stephen Friend is at it again. The visionary founder of Sage Bionetworks said he struck a partnership with the world’s largest drugmaker, Pfizer, to support Sage’s effort to spark an open-source-style movement for biology. Pfizer is paying to support research at Sage to find new cancer drug targets and predict which patients are likely to respond to therapies in development. Terms weren’t disclosed.

Gilead Sciences (NASDAQ: GILD), the world’s largest maker of HIV medications, is deepening its roots in the Seattle area with a $50 million respiratory disease research center looking out over Lake Union. The company hasn’t yet seen U.S. product sales to justify its $365 million acquisition of Corus Pharma in 2006, although it is hoping to get the green light from the FDA next month to start selling Corus’s inhalable antibiotic for cystic fibrosis.

ZymoGenetics (NASDAQ: ZGEN), the granddaddy of Seattle biotech companies, closed on a financing that netted about $90.9 million. The company plans to use the cash to support R&D, and to boost sales of its lone marketed product, recombinant thrombin (Recothrom) for surgical bleeding.

—Seattle-based Targeted Genetics (NASDAQ: TGEN) said it is allowing itself to be de-listed from the NASDAQ exchange in order to save cash. The longtime gene therapy stalwart is down to the equivalent of six full-time employees.

—The Institute for Systems Biology was found to have the highest scientific impact of any research center in the U.S., and the third highest in a global survey of more than 2,100 research centers, according to an analysis by Spain-based SCImago Research Group. The report looked at total research output, how much each institute collaborates with other centers, the influence of its publications, how often they are cited by other scientists, and other factors.

SonoSite (NASDAQ: SONO), the Bothell, WA-based developer of portable ultrasound machines, said it plans to spend $100 million to buy back shares of its stock.

Kineta, the Seattle-based biotech company, raised $942,000 in new capital, according to a regulatory filing. The company is developing anti-viral therapies, as well as drugs for autoimmune diseases.