Technology Alliance Showcases Four New Companies in Biotech and Cleantech, and Revisits One Past Presenter

The Technology Alliance put on its fifth “Innovation Showcase” at the Rainier Square Conference Center earlier this week in Seattle, where a handful of up and coming local technology and life sciences companies presented their projects to a select group of entrepreneurs, businesspeople, academics, and potential investors. This is only the second time the press has been invited to attend the quarterly event, the first being at the last showcase that Greg covered back in April.

Although there wasn’t as much of a University of Washington presence as there has been in the past, the university clearly has a lot of interest in the event. Before the presentations began, Linden Rhoads, the UW vice provost who runs the Center for Commercialization, joked that she intentionally made sure that her colleague and OVP partner Rick LeFaivre would be double-booked at another event so that she could have the honor of giving the introductory remarks.

Three of the four presenting companies showcased developments in different varieties of biotechnology. The fourth company came out of an entirely different vein—cleantech—and the last presentation was really an update from a previous presenter in the mobile hardware development sector.

Although many of these companies are in the beginning stages, you’ll no doubt be hearing about some—if not all—of them in the near future. For now, here is a quick overview of the presenting companies and what jumped out to me the most:

1. Assay Dynamics (Seattle)

This company, founded in September 2009, but traces its roots back through six years of planning. Assay Dynamics aims to improve point-of-care wellness screening capabilities, according to founder and chief executive Kjell Nelson. Assay has developed diagnostic testing technology that will give physicians the ability to perform a number of regular tests and screenings, including blood glucose and cholesterol, on a single patented and disposable card.

The second part of the package is a device that’s capable of screening and running quantitative analysis and error checks on multiple tests simultaneously, bypassing time spent waiting on results while a test is outsourced to a lab. And while there are many diagnostic instruments already on the market for physicians looking to run in-house tests, according to Nelson, they are all designed to run only one type of test each, whereas Assay’s would consolidate multiple tests into one machine.

“Laboratory testing is a linchpin of medical practice today,” Nelson said. “[Assay’s device] aims to improve the quality of primary care.”

Assay Dynamics currently has five patents on its technology and has received $4 million in funding. It plans to market the automated assay card and screening instrument to primary care physicians looking to expand their in-house laboratories and pharmacies interested in offering walk-in and emergency care. The company expects to finish development on its automated card in the next 18 months, followed by another 18 months for the industrial instrument design and an estimated six months for FDA approval, with hopes of getting the product on the market by 2013. Assay expects to generate $50 in revenue per test, totaling to an estimated $3.3 million in the first year and $42 million by 2016.

2. Kaleetan Pharmaceuticals (Seattle)

Kaleetan Pharmaceuticals is tackling one of the most ambitious goals in medicine today—finding a cure for cancer. Kaleetan was founded by some big names on the Seattle biotech scene, with expertise in immunology. The co-founders include Jeff Ledbetter and Martha Hayden-Ledbetter, the husband and wife scientific team that co-founded Trubion Pharmaceuticals (NASDAQ: TRBN); Alan Wahl, a veteran of Trubion and Seattle Genetics; and Cassian Yee, a scientist at the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center.

Their vision is to stimulate the body’s immune system to fight tumors as if they were a virus. This approach has been in the news this year, as Seattle-based Dendreon won the first-ever FDA approval for a treatment designed to actively stimulate the immune system in such a way against tumors. But Kaleetan hopes to build on that success with an immune-booster that would be less complicated to administer to patients than the method used by Dendreon.

Dendreon’s technique requires that blood be drawn from an individual patient, a certain type of white blood cell gets separated out, which incubates with a protein marker found on cancer cells. That system “teaches” the immune system to recognize cancer, so that when the cells are re-infused into the patient, they know what to fight.

Kaleetan, however, aims to stimulate those specific white blood cells—dendritic cells—with an injectable protein drug that isn’t customized to the patient. This approach ought to drive “robust immunity capable of destroying cancer cells” specific to the type of cancer—not the patient—that can be easily manufactured and administered through injections, says Kaleetan co-founder Grant Risdon.

“Throughout our lives we’ve seen vaccines prevent many diseases, such as polio,” Risdon said. “It’s the goal of therapeutic vaccines to stimulate an immune response that you would see in other people.”

Kaleetan is in the process of getting preclinical validation on the vaccine, and hopes to have a pilot drug to test on dogs with cancer in the next 18 months.

3. Vitriosic (Seattle)

The only cleantech company represented at the showcase, Vitriosic, … Next Page »

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