Seattle Genetics’ Dark Horse Fails, The Future of Zymo’s Landmark, PATH Nabs Flu Vaccine Contract, & More Seattle-Area Life Sciences

Xconomy Seattle — 

Seattle biotech is still buzzing more than a week later about Bristol-Myers Squibb’s acquisition of ZymoGenetics (NASDAQ: ZGEN) and whether it means we live in some dead-end biotech loserville. If you have some thoughts on this, please shoot me a note, because the last words haven’t yet been written on the Zymo deal.

—Everyone wants to know what will happen to the 320 ZymoGenetics employees when Bristol takes over, and for now, mum’s the word. The company also isn’t ready to talk about what will happen to its landmark headquarters, the renovated City Light Steam Plant on Eastlake Avenue. Chances are good, according to a couple veterans of the local biotech real estate scene, that this space will likely remain a center for biotech R&D even when Zymo exits the scene.

—One of the region’s other most important biotech companies, Seattle Genetics (NASDAQ: SGEN) suffered a setback this week when it said an experimental antibody for acute myeloid leukemia failed in a clinical trial of 210 patients. While a clinical failure is never good, this wasn’t exactly a disaster for Seattle Genetics because it was considered such a long shot. The more important news will come in the next weeks, when Seattle Genetics gets results from its lead “empowered antibody” in development for Hodgkin’s disease. If that fails, then Seattle Genetics will probably have to make some very hard decisions.

—One of the Seattle companies that got away, University of Washington spinoff Bio Architecture Lab, scored some crucial validation this week. The company, now based in Berkeley, CA, struck a partnership with Norway-based Statoil, the world’s largest offshore oil and gas producer. This 3-year deal will enable Bio Architecture Lab to take process for making ethanol from seaweed into the Norwegian coastal waters, in addition to its existing work off the coast of Chile. Bio Architecture Lab has now secured more than $33 million in support from from venture capitalists, governments, and strategic partners.

PATH, the Seattle-based global health hothouse, has snagged an important new contract from Uncle Sam to help develop flu vaccines that can be stockpiled for years in case of a global flu pandemic. This deal, worth $5.2 million, will be used to further test work that PATH has been doing for years to make vaccines that don’t need to be refrigerated, even in hot parts of the world that lack reliable electricity and fridge space.

Seattle Genetics, a day after its leukemia drug disappointment, had a minor positive bit of news. The company licensed its technology to make potent antibodies to Denmark-based Genmab. If Seattle Genetics likes the cancer drug that Genmab comes up with after the first phase of clinical trials, it will have the option to go into a 50-50 co-development arrangement.

—Down the road from Seattle Genetics in Bothell, WA, Alder Biopharmaceuticals was honored as one of the nation’s top 15 biotech companies by FierceBiotech, an online industry publication. Alder, which rose from the ashes of Celltech R&D’s shutdown in 2003, burst on the national scene last year when it struck a billion-dollar partnership with Bristol-Myers Squibb. Alder was the only Seattle-area company to make the FierceBiotech list this year, although Seattle’s Calistoga Pharmaceuticals earned the distinction last year.

—This whole bit about ZymoGenetics and what it means for the future of Seattle biotech was certainly a hot topic of conversation this week at the inaugural “Xconomy Meetup.” This was an informal get-together at the Streamline Tavern, in which I invited Accelerator CEO Carl Weissman to be the special guest for our readers to mingle with over a beer. This event was a big hit, with more than two dozen people coming out for some great networking. We’ll do it again. And if you missed a chance to hear Carl’s thoughts on acquisitions in Seattle biotech, he wrote a guest editorial which sums up his thinking on the issue.

—Just before we put together the informal meetup at the Streamline, we announced one of Xconomy Seattle’s showcase events, coming up Oct. 28. This event, called “VC Crossfire” will bring together some of the region’s top venture capitalists and entrepreneurs for a conversation about how innovation will be financed in the future as traditional VC faces an uncertain future after a decade of lackluster returns. For more information, check out the “VC Crossfire” registration page.

—Last, but not least, we couldn’t have a big news week around here without a little drama from Seattle-based Dendreon (NASDAQ: DNDN). The maker of the first FDA-approved treatment to actively stimulate the immune system against cancer said this week that one of its high-profile board members, Genentech CEO Ian Clark, is resigning from the board. Clark, who oversees a portfolio of the world’s best-selling cancer drugs, said in a statement that he doesn’t have enough time to serve on the board anymore.