Calistoga Pockets $40M, NanoString Hires CEO, Spiration Sells to Olympus, & More Seattle-Area Life Sciences News

Xconomy Seattle — 

This week was so busy with companies breaking news before the holiday weekend that I didn’t have time to immediately jump on the latest tempest affecting Dendreon. Alas, tomorrow is another day.

—Seattle-based Calistoga Pharmaceuticals generated the big news of the week, by raising $40 million in the biggest venture deal of the year so far in Washington state. The company will use the cash to finance the expensive late-stage clinical trials needed to win FDA approval for its lead drug, CAL-101, for blood cancers.

NanoString Technologies has been operating without a permanent CEO for more than a year, but has finally found its new leader in Brad Gray. A veteran of Genzyme’s diagnostics business, Gray is going to map out a plan to help NanoString branch beyond its original customer base in academic research, and into the world of molecular diagnostics.

—Redmond, WA-based Spiration, the developer of a minimally invasive valve to treat lung diseases, said it agreed to be acquired by Japan-based Olympus for an undisclosed sum. The two companies have been partners for a couple years, and considered themselves a natural fit, because Olympus makes the bronchoscopes which doctors use to implant the Spiration valves, which block off air flow to damaged regions of the lungs.

—We had a head-scratcher to report on from the personnel files this week. Seattle Sensor Systems, a startup seeking to develop a miniaturized technology for detecting a wide variety of contaminants, parted ways with CEO Carole Spangler. No reason was given for Spangler’s departure, although she says she had a disagreement with the board and chose to resign.

Emerald Biostructures, the Bainbridge Island, WA-based company that narrowly escaped the bankruptcy of deCode Genetics, took another step as an independent company this week when it said it struck a multi-year collaboration with Cambridge, MA-based Forma Therapeutics.

Roger Longman, the CEO of Real Endpoints, made an interesting case last week about how biotech and pharma companies need to start thinking more seriously about measuring the value their products can deliver to the healthcare system if they want insurers to keep writing checks. This is hard stuff to measure, and the insurers don’t always agree on what’s important, but the message is that running a clinical trial to win FDA approval just isn’t going to be enough anymore.

—Last, but not least, we are having a little open house here at Xconomy Seattle’s humble abode to celebrate a couple important changes around here. Say goodbye to Greg Huang as he heads off to a new adventure for Xconomy Boston, and come by to say hello to Thea Chard, our new assistant editor covering all things tech-related in the Northwest. This event will be from 4 pm to 7 pm today at our building, 1102 Columbia Street in Seattle. I’m taking care of the wine, beer, and snacks, so if you’d like to join us, please send me a note at [email protected]