Seattle’s life sciences industry has been on life support for a few years, but now, for the first time in a long time, biotech has started to show some legit signs of rebirth.
Will the Northwest seize this moment, and become a stronger and more vibrant place for companies that dare to develop new drugs, medical devices, and diagnostics? Or will we look back on 2010 as just another period where the region took two steps forward and then took two steps back? What can the community do now to make sure it builds on this newfound momentum?
These are the kind of hard questions I’m looking forward to raising with an all-star cast of speakers who have agreed to join us for the next big Xconomy event: “Biotech’s Back in Seattle.”
As always, I’ve done a lot to sweeten the pot for this event since I announced it on this site last month. This event will be held the evening of November 29, at the new headquarters for PATH, the global health hothouse in South Lake Union. We will kick things off with a 10-minute keynote address on the state of Northwest biotech from Dendreon CEO Mitchell Gold, whose company has created more than $5 billion of stock market wealth and 800 new jobs since April 2009. That was when it proved that it had developed the first treatment of its kind that could help men live longer with prostate cancer by stimulating their immune systems to fight tumors. It’s by far the biggest story to hit Seattle biotech in a decade. Even so, there are still major issues Dendreon has to settle—namely, reimbursement and manufacturing—before this can truly be considered a lasting success for the Northwest.
After Gold gets the conversation started, I will moderate a wide-ranging panel discussion with CEOs from three other companies that have also taken major steps forward in the past year. The group includes Clay Siegall of Seattle Genetics, Carol Gallagher of Calistoga Pharmaceuticals, and Randy Schatzman of Alder Biopharmaceuticals.
Then right before the cocktail-and-appetizer hour, we will hear short “burst” talks from a number of innovators who will describe their work and its potential to change human health. The short presentations will come from Tom Hansen, the CEO of Seattle Children’s Hospital and the inventor of an inexpensive ventilator with potential to save lives of premature infants in the developing world; Stefan Kappe, the scientist at Seattle BioMed who is spearheading work on a new malaria vaccine candidate in clinical trials; Caitlin Cameron, the CEO of Presage Biosciences, a Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center spinoff seeking to improve the success rate for cancer drug developers; and Ryo Kubota, the CEO of Acucela, a company seeking to develop effective new treatments for glaucoma and age-related macular degeneration, two of the most common causes of blindness among people around the world.
It’s rare to get this many Seattle biotech leaders in the same room, on the same day, so I’m really looking forward to this dynamic event. It’s also a special opportunity to encourage cross pollination between the for-profit biotech community and the global health community, which Xconomy Seattle has been committed to fostering through our journalism and events from the moment I joined the company in May 2008. The folks at PATH love to show people the stuff they are working on, and for this biotech-heavy audience, they are offering short guided tours of their new facility for people who want to arrive a little early, at 4:30 pm or 5 pm.
As always, I’ll be roaming the audience with a microphone to give you a chance to pose questions to the speakers. So if you haven’t already, snap up a ticket at the registration page, or tell a friend about this event they won’t want to miss. See you at PATH on Nov. 29.
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