The Immunex Alumni, Hood Wins Russ Prize, Williams Grabs Biogen Gig, & More Seattle-Area Life Sciences News

Xconomy Seattle — 

‘Twas the week before JP Morgan and all through the house…OK you get the idea. Not much biotech news was stirring this week as everybody is prepping for the big industry confab next week in San Francisco. I’ll be reporting there as always.

—We rang in the New Year on the biotech desk with a story titled “The Immunex Alumni: Where are they now?” It’s been more than eight years since the Seattle biotech bellwether was bought by Amgen, so I thought it would be interesting to track down where a lot of the Immunoids went. I’m getting a lot of great comments in my inbox, and please keep them coming. The list has 306 names at last count, and if you or someone you know is an alumnus that would like to be included, just send me a note at [email protected]

—One of the most prominent Immunex alumni, Doug Williams, made some news this week when he took a new job as the executive vice president of R&D at Weston, MA-based Biogen Idec (NASDAQ: BIIB). This means Seattle biotech can subtract one of its few bankable CEO candidates, as Williams is headed off to the East Coast.

AVI Biopharma (NASDAQ: AVII), the Bothell, WA-based developer of RNA-targeted therapies, said it has formed an alliance with the Karolinska Institute in Sweden to look for new drugs against extensively drug resistant forms of tuberculosis. Financial terms weren’t disclosed, but the two parties will split research costs.

—Seattle-based Omeros (NASDAQ: OMER) said it has obtained an exclusive license from the University of California to a number of new drug candidates for trauma-related and surgical bleeding. Terms weren’t disclosed.

—Genentech, the biotech giant in South San Francisco, has taken a license to a number of antibacterial drug candidates from AMRI, the pharmaceutical service firm. AMRI did much of the work on these novel compounds, derived from natural product sources, at its lab in Bothell, WA.

Leroy Hood added another major prize to his trophy case this week. Hood took home the Russ Prize, a $500,000 bioengineering honor presented by the National Academy of Engineering. Hood won for his most famous series of inventions in high-speed gene sequencing, which laid a critical foundation for the Human Genome Project and the wave of faster/cheaper genome sequencing that came after.

—We have had a bunch of guest editorials flowing into the Xconomy Forum lately, on a number of tech-related themes, and from a number of writers in our 5-city network. Here are two from the past couple weeks that are of most interest to Seattle biotech readers. Sue Siegel, a partner with Mohr Davidow Ventures, offered her view on five things to watch for in the coming year of healthcare and life sciences. And Larry Corey, the new president of the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center, provided his thoughts on how vaccines were the big innovation story he saw in 2010.