Geospiza Sells to PerkinElmer, PATH Vaccine Nabs $100M, Halosource Gets China Approval, & More Seattle-Area Life Sciences News

Xconomy Seattle — 

We had one pretty noteworthy acquisition in the Bio/IT community this week, and a smattering of news items from the world of global health, biotech drugs, and biofuels.

—Seattle-based Geospiza, one of the mainstays of the bioinformatics industry, agreed to be acquired by PerkinElmer (NYSE: PKI), the giant life sciences toolmaker in Waltham, MA. Terms of the deal weren’t disclosed, but there were smiles all around, as this company achieved a return for investors after 14 years in business (some of them lean years).

PATH, the Seattle-based global health hothouse, got some good news this week when the GAVI Alliance said it has committed $100 million to disseminate a new meningitis vaccine through three more countries in Africa. PATH spearheaded the development of this new vaccine over the past decade, with support from a $70 million grant from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.

Margaret McCormick gave me the lowdown on the new startup she’s leading, Seattle-based Matrix Genetics, which is seeking to genetically modify single-cell algae organisms to make biofuels and specialty chemicals. This company is being spun out of Targeted Growth, where scientific work has been progressing the past three years. Jim Roberts, a professor at the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center who advises the company, said he thinks this effort can compete with well-funded, well-known outfits like Craig Venter’s Synthetic Genomics, and Cambridge, MA-based Joule Unlimited. You can hear more from McCormick about the state of the algae biofuel business at Xconomy’s alternative fuels event on May 19.

Halosource, the Bothell, WA-based maker of technology for purifying drinking water in developing countries, said this week its technology has secured a first-of-its-kind regulatory approval from health authorities in China. The company is now moving ahead with plans to commercialize its products in China, hoping to build on the momentum it had had in India, which enabled it to go public on the London Stock Exchange last year.

Why are drugs getting such weird brand names? That was the question that got me started on last week’s BioBeat column, and led me to some pretty interesting answers. This column stirred up lots of votes on the best and worst drug names that have come out in the last year or so. Read on to see how your favorites did in this entirely unscientific poll.

—Speaking of interactivity, I took a little time last week to remind readers to check out our new-and-improved Xconomy fan page on Facebook. We are still experimenting a bit with this other mode of distributing the content we produce each day, and I’d love to hear your thoughts on how we can tailor this page to make it even better for you.

Seattle Genetics (NASDAQ: SGEN) gave a pretty uneventful update in its first-quarter financial report, although I noted that it ended March with a whopping $456 million in cash and investments in the bank. Investors were probably most interested in the new brand name for brentuximab vedotin (Adcetris), which, frankly, is partly what inspired to write the column about weird drug names. In this case, brentuximab vedotin is the weird scientific name—and there are a lot weirder brand names out there now, in my opinion.

—Lastly, we had another hard-hitting guest editorial from Stewart Lyman, titled “Pharma/Academic Alliances: What the Numbers Don’t Tell You.” Stewart raised some important questions about how these deals get structured, which generated some back-and-forth commentary with Regis Kelly, the director of QB3, the organization that seeks to commercialize inventions from the University of California.