Dendreon Slashes 500 Jobs, Gates Foundation Adds Novartis Exec, Theraclone Tacks on $10M, & More Seattle-Area Life Sciences News

Xconomy Seattle — 

The writing was on the wall at Dendreon for weeks, but that didn’t make the bad news of layoffs any easier to stomach.

—Seattle-based Dendreon (NASDAQ: DNDN) said this past week that it is cutting 500 jobs, including about 100 locally, as it seeks to conserve cash in the wake of its sales and marketing stumble. Nothing much more to say other than this hurts those people, especially in a tough job market.

—The new head of global health over at the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation was named this week, and it’s Trevor Mundel. He’s a former Novartis executive, so his pedigree is similar to that of his predecessor Tachi Yamada, who now works in venture capital with Frazier Healthcare Ventures.

—A couple of sizable financings crossed my desk this week. Seattle-based Theraclone Sciences, the company working to discover new antibody drugs, raised another $10.6 million. And across the lake, Bellevue, WA-based RF Surgical pulled in $12 million for its technology that’s supposed to help surgeons avoid leaving behind sponges inside patients.

—Remember Bothell, WA-based Liposonix, the developer of the ultrasound body sculpting machine? It has been pretty quiet in the three years since it was acquired by Scottsdale, AZ-based Medicis Pharmaceutical for $150 million. But now Liposonix has a new corporate parent in Hayward, CA-based Solta Medical, which paid $35 million in upfront cash and near-term milestones to see what it can do with this technology.

—Seattle-based VentiRx Pharmaceuticals is now just that, Seattle-based. The company said it is closing down its San Diego operations and consolidating its work here around an immune-boosting compound for cancer. Co-founder Rob Hershberg has moved up to the role of president, and remains the chief medical officer.

—This week in BioBeat I tried to show what biotech pros are missing by avoiding the daily conversation on Twitter. So far, at least one local CEO, PhaseRx’s Bob Overell, agreed to give it a shot, and you can follow his comments at @Robert_Overell on Twitter. If there’s more interest among our readers, I might be willing to help with a free Twitter tutorial at one of the local coffee shops. Ping me the old-fashioned way—[email protected]—if you’re interested.

—Seattle-based Oncothyreon (NASDAQ: ONTY) said this week that CEO Bob Kirkman is taking a temporary medical leave of absence, and will be replaced on an interim basis by chairman Christopher Henney. Kirkman is expected to return to work in the fourth quarter, a company spokeswoman says.

—Lastly, Bob Nelsen of Arch Venture Partners unloaded on the elected officials in Washington D.C. who voted in favor of a patent reform bill that he says will hurt the little guy inventors out there. There’s a really good thread of comments at the bottom of this post, which I’d encourage you to check if you haven’t already.