Tekmira Sues Alnylam, Alan Aderem Bolts to Seattle BioMed, Dendreon’s Warhorse Retires, & More Seattle-Area Life Sciences News

Xconomy Seattle — 

This week’s big headlines came from a couple of personnel moves, and one potentially nasty trade secrets lawsuit.

Dendreon (NASDAQ: DNDN) said that David Urdal, the chief scientific officer who lived through the company’s roller coaster story over the past 15 years, plans to retire at the end of 2011. Urdal, 62, says it’s time for him to spend some more time with his grandchildren. But I don’t think this is the last we’ve heard from Mr. Urdal—so stay tuned for more in these pages.

—The other big move in town happened on the academic side of biotech, where Alan Aderem left his faculty post at the Institute for Systems Biology to become the new director and president-in-waiting at Seattle Biomedical Research Institute. Aderem is taking more than 40 people with him to Seattle BioMed, plus all his grant support, and a new $7 million donation from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation to help bring systems biology to global health.

—Up the road in Vancouver, BC, a potentially quite nasty bout of litigation has broken out between Tekmira Pharmaceuticals and its longtime partner, Cambridge, MA-based Alnylam Pharmaceuticals. Tekmira, in a lawsuit filed in Massachusetts, is accusing Alnylam of misappropriating trade secrets on techniques for delivering RNA interference drugs into cells. Tekmira also accused Alnylam of passing along the know-how of RNAi delivery to an unnamed third party, without Tekmira’s consent. Alnylam hasn’t yet responded to the suit.

Seattle Genetics (NASDAQ: SGEN) said it agreed to provide expanded access to its “empowered antibody” technology to its partner Millennium: The Takeda Oncology Company. Millennium, presumably quite pleased with the stellar results of brentuximab vedotin for rare lymphomas, has decided it wants to try this technique for linking targeted antibodies to potent toxins in other forms of cancer.

—This isn’t really a biotech story, but it’s a good excuse to talk about biotech. I’m having a meetup next Tuesday March 22 to introduce my new tech reporting colleague Curt Woodward to Xconomy readers. So if you want to shoot the breeze during happy hour, come on over to my neighborhood dive bar, The Streamline, and and say hi to me and Curt.

—Where are tomorrow’s blockbuster biotech drugs coming from? That was the question I posed in my latest BioBeat column, and the answer for Seattle is pretty good. I picked out eight drugs that I write about nationally, which are making a truly major difference on all three major criteria of a blockbuster that’s really scientifically innovative, clinically meaningful, and lucrative in the business sense. Two of these eight high-impact drugs are from Seattle.

Dendreon, as expected, got FDA approval to quadruple the production output from its first factory in New Jersey that manufactures its immune-booster drug for prostate cancer. Now Dendreon will have to prove it can do the same at its two other factories being built out in greater Atlanta and Los Angeles.

Tobin Arthur, the CEO of Seattle-based iMedExchange, chimed in with an op-ed about how “medical images are getting cloudy.” A good read, which has nothing to do with screen resolution.