Sage Attracts Bigwigs, Hutch Adds Immunotherapy Center, the Pro-Life Vaccine Firm, & More Seattle-Area Life Sciences News

Xconomy Seattle — 

We had an unusual grab bag of news and features this week from the Seattle biotech beat, from the worlds of genomics, cancer treatment, stem cells, vaccines, and medical devices.

Sage Bionetworks, the Seattle-based nonprofit seeking to kickstart an open source movement for biology, said it has secured commitments from a quartet of big-name biologists willing to hand over their precious data to support the cause. The early adopters are Stanford University’s Atul Butte, UC San Diego’s Trey Ideker, Columbia University’s Andrea Califano, and Eric Schadt of Pacific Biosciences (and soon to be on faculty at UC San Francisco.)

—The Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center has been pushing hard on the idea of stimulating the immune system to fight cancer like a virus, and this week it secured some significant support for the mission. Martin “Mac” Cheever, a veteran of Seattle-based Corixa now at the Hutch, was awarded a five-year, $14 million federal grant to set up a national coordinating center for clinical trials of promising therapies that boost the immune system to fight cancer.

VentiRx Pharmaceuticals, the Seattle and San Diego-based biotech company, said this week that its experimental cancer drug candidate passed an initial clinical trial and is being poised to enter the next phase of development.

—I took time to profile Tracy Deisher, the Seattle biotech entrepreneur who made headlines this summer as one of two scientists who, at least temporarily, brought embryonic stem cell research in the U.S. to a standstill through a legal challenge. When she’s not fighting that legal battle, Deisher is working to build what she calls a “pro-life vaccine company” which provides childhood immunizations that haven’t been derived from aborted human fetal cell lines.

—Bellevue, WA-based Innovative Pulmonary Solutions, a stealthy startup founded by the former VP of R&D at Calypso Medical Technologies, secured a $3 million Series A financing that could be worth as much as $8 million. The idea is to create a new treatment for chronic obstructive pulmonary disease that doesn’t need to leave an implantable device behind in the lungs.

Personalized medicine is starting to get more and more real, according to this op-ed from Don Rule, the founder of Translational Software. As always, we’re happy to take guest editorials like this of interest to innovators at the Northwest. If you have something you’d like to say, send me a note at [email protected]