Cell Therapeutics Nears Judgment Day, AVI Biopharma Awaits Results, HemaQuest Gets $6M & More Seattle-Area Life Sciences News

Xconomy Seattle — 

The Seattle biotech beat is about to get a dose of drama over the next week, as one of the oldest companies in town prepares for a make-or-break moment in suburban Washington, D.C.

—Seattle-based Cell Therapeutics (NASDAQ: CTIC]) is getting ready for a critical decision next Wednesday, when a panel of cancer drug experts will advise the FDA on whether to approve pixantrone as a new treatment for relapsed, aggressive forms of non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma. I laid out what’s at stake in this preview story.

AVI Biopharma (NASDAQ: AVII), a company that’s even older than Cell Therapeutics but a relative newcomer to Bothell, WA, has some important, albeit early-stage, clinical trial data to look forward to later this year. This story recaps what researchers, investors, and parents will be watching for from AVI’s lead drug candidate for Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy.

—Seattle-based HemaQuest Pharmaceuticals has raised $6 million in equity financing out of a round that could be worth as much as $12.7 million, according to a regulatory filing. This company, led by former Xcyte Therapies CEO Ron Berenson, is pursuing a new treatment for sickle cell anemia.

NanoString Technologies, the Seattle-based maker of genetic analysis instruments, has added a big name to its board. William Young, the chairman of Biogen Idec and former chairman and CEO of Monogram Biosciences, has signed on as NanoString’s executive chairman. The company is still looking for a permanent CEO to replace Perry Fell, who stepped down last March.

—My colleague in Boston, Ryan McBride, wrote a story last week about Millennium: The Takeda Oncology Company has big ideas for how to capitalize on its new partnership with Bothell, WA-based Seattle Genetics (NASDAQ: SGEN]). This week, we saw one example of the strategy in action, as the two companies started a clinical trial of brentuximab vedotin for patients with newly-diagnosed Hodgkin’s disease, beyond the smaller group of patients with relapsed forms for whom the drug was initially developed.

Bill Gates made some big biotech news this past week in Davos, Switzerland. His namesake foundation is pledging $10 billion over the next decade to research, develop, and deliver new vaccines against global health scourges. Biotech entrepreneurs on the fundraising trail, are you listening?

—Every March, the Washington Biotechnology and Biomedical Association tries to bring in big-time national investors for a conference where they can to scope out the local life sciences scene. And every year, they struggle. This year could be different, as Steve Burrill, the biotech jack-of-all-trades, is putting his money, organizational horsepower, and Rolodex into raising the profile of this year’s event, called Life Sciences Innovation Northwest.

—We published a thoughtful guest editorial from Richard Gayle about how to create an environment where people get out of their cubbyholes and start real, meaningful scientific collaborations. Just as a reminder, the space in the Xconomist Forum is open for you, our readers, not for me. So if you have an idea, an insight, or something you want to get off your chest that you think may have some value to other members of the local innovation community, just ping Greg and I at editors@xconomy.com