The Year in Seattle Biotech: Lots of Acquisitions, Few New Startups

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distribute it more widely after a successful initial rollout. But big change is coming to PATH as longtime leader Chris Elias announced he is leaving for a new job running anti-poverty programs at the Gates Foundation, creating a void at the top. Elias plans to stay at PATH as part of his transition until Feb. 1.

Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. The Gates Foundation moved into its fancy new headquarters near Seattle Center this year, and it made its first ever equity investment in a biotech company—North Carolina-based Liquidia Technologies. But its biggest announcement of the year came in October when it held a global malaria conference, and GlaxoSmithKline announced that a Gates-supported malaria vaccine candidate was effective for about half of patients in a pivotal clinical trial, verifying what researchers had seen in smaller studies. The next steps in development, manufacturing, and distribution will all be tricky, and navigating that process will be partly up to the foundation’s new global health leader, Trevor Mundel, formerly of drug giant Novartis.

Allen Institute for Brain Science. Billionaire Paul Allen rarely gets much attention for his work as a benefactor of brain research, but he did get a guest op-ed published in the Wall Street Journal in which he used it as a model of open science (kind of interesting, given his history as a co-founder of that paragon of proprietary software, Microsoft). The Allen Institute made a significant personnel move this year as well, luring in former Caltech neuroscientist Christoph Koch as its chief scientific officer.

Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center. This was the first full year for the Hutch’s new leader, Larry Corey. One of Corey’s major projects is a collaboration to help establish the first comprehensive cancer center in Uganda.

Seattle Biomedical Research Institute. This nonprofit global health center made a big move in March when it lured Alan Aderem and his team from the Institute for Systems Biology. Aderem is taking over leadership of the center from Ken Stuart, the founder of Seattle Biomed.

Alder Biopharmaceuticals. The Bothell, WA-based antibody drug developer had a pretty quiet year in 2011, but back in March it revealed that it is working on a couple of novel uses for antibodies, as treatments against migraines and high cholesterol.

Resolve Therapeutics. Resolve, a startup led by former Eli Lilly dealmaker Jim Posada, crafted an unusual business model to try to capitalize on some University of Washington research into the treatment of lupus. It’s all about finding a way to build a company on a shoestring, and get a return without ever going public, or even striking a classic acquisition deal.

Emerald Biostructures. The Bainbridge Island, WA-based company continued to grow this year, securing a big extension of its contract with Belgium-based UCB. The company saw its revenue grow 40 percent, and it hired an additional 20 people, building its staff to about 60.

Allozyne. This Seattle-based company made a big strategic move when it struck a reverse takeover deal with San Francisco-based Poniard Pharmaceuticals (NASDAQ: PARD). The deal was essentially set up so that Allozyne, a private company, could go public by merging into the shell of what was left of Poniard, a company left for dead by investors. Shareholders were so apathetic about Poniard that Allozyne struggled to muster up enough votes to approve the deal for months. Poniard said before Thanksgiving that the deal was done. The companies have been mum ever since about what’s next.

Immune Design. This startup developer of vaccines continued to hit its milestones, and raise new venture capital. The big move of the year came when it hired CEO Carlos Paya, the former president of Elan.

Omeros (NASDAQ: OMER). This Seattle biotech company hit the wall back in March when it said it pivotal clinical trials of an anti-inflammatory drug for knee surgery failed to reach its goals. The company has tried to move on, pointing to … Next Page »

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3 responses to “The Year in Seattle Biotech: Lots of Acquisitions, Few New Startups”

  1. krassen says:

    Allozyne/PARD merger is a no-go. Another write-off for OVP.

    They have also been taking loss on Complete Genomics, selling for ~$3, while average purchase price was $7.50

    The common is that both companies were hyped on Xconomy, multiple times…

  2. krassen says:

    to add for the record: @ldtimmerman is a very decent guy… I just hate it how he constantly gets played by the OVP “propaganda machine”, as was the case with Allozyne…

  3. RIP Lightsciences says:


    Lightsciences Oncology is no longer a business entity. Most employees were let go in late Oct. It’s surprising it lasted so long considering the management knew the PDT did not work on solid tumors. LSO was literally kicked out of Taiwan after Ph II studies and most companies would not have gone to Ph III with the piss poor data. Of course ex-CEO Llew spun it all up for another 3 years. It was clear by end of Q1 in 2009 (1st peek) that HCC trial failed the survival endpoint.