PhaseRx Angles for a Deal, Tom Clement’s New Device Gig(s), InDi’s Alzheimer’s Plan, & More in the Life Science Innovation Northwest Wrap-Up

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he notes that everyone interested in RNAi is also interested in improving delivery technology. “There’s a large need out there for this technology,” Overell says.

Margaret McCormick has a startup company in the works. McCormick, the chief operating officer at Seattle-based Targeted Growth and a partner at Integra Ventures, is in the process of spinning out an algae biofuel research project she has led at Targeted Growth the past three years. The new operation, called Matrix Genetics, is working on genetically modifying single-cell algae known as cyanobacteria to turn them into mini-factories for oils.

McCormick has no illusions this will be a straightforward thing. Matrix is up against some formidable competitors in the algae biofuel business, like Sapphire Energy, Solazyme, LS9, and Alganon. But McCormick, who has a PhD in biology from MIT, has decided to stake this new company’s claim on basic science, instead of trying to build up massive, scalable infrastructure like others. There are already 14 employees working on the Matrix Genetics team, housed in offices at the Institute for Systems Biology, McCormick said. Her goal for this year—raise a $15 million Series A financing.

“There are still huge biology challenges to be met,” McCormick said. “Most companies are spending so much time on engineering, they aren’t focused on the biology. That’s where we will make the difference.”

—Al Luderer, the CEO of Integrated Diagnostics, offered a little update on where things stand with this company, which seeks to detect protein signatures in the blood that offer early telltale signs of Alzheimer’s disease and lung cancer.

InDi has been focused in on 198 different proteins it believes are associated with diseases of the central nervous system, and is working to drill down into the data to find out which ones are really most important signs of disease. Having Leroy Hood and David Galas of the Institute for Systems Biology among the cast of co-founders means that Luderer hasn’t had to worry about raising money—the company already pulled in a $30 million Series A financing. Instead, he’s focused on assembling the clinical data to prove the usefulness of its test, and thinking ahead about how to make this transform from a science project into a business.

InDi doesn’t sound like it’s planning to run forward-looking clinical trials that look at a blood marker, and follow patients to see whether they really get Alzheimer’s. Instead, these tests will be retrospective. It will be very interesting to see how much confidence they can really provide doctors, and how much it will cost. InDi plans to commercialize the Alzheimer’s test as soon as 2012, Luderer said.

“We’re already having dialogue with reimbursers on how to do this properly,” Luderer says. Finding a price point that provides a return for InDi’s investors, and that isn’t cost-prohibitive for insurers, is the tricky part, he said.

Tom Clement, the founder and chairman of Kirkland, WA-based Pathway Medical Techologies, revealed a bit more about what new ventures he’s discovered during his time as an entrepreneur-in-residence at the UW.

“I’m the CEO of Cardiac Insight, as of about 24 hours ago,” he quipped at the beginning of his Wednesday talk.

Cardiac Insight, the brainchild of cardiologist David Linker, is seeking to combine … Next Page »

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