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Life Science Innovation NW Notes: SeaGen, NanoString, Viket, & More

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to gather the data needed to win FDA approval in that segment, and then compete with a pioneer in the personalized medicine field, Redwood City, CA-based Genomic Health (NASDAQ: GHDX). “We’re not becoming a service business, we’re becoming a product business,” Gray said.

—Viket Medical, a startup founded by former Ekos vice president Bob Wilcox, made the first public presentation of its work at the Innovation Northwest conference. The idea is to create a suction device that vacuums out dangerous blood clots in the brain. He’s particularly focused on intracranial hemorrhage, the kind that comes from uncontrolled high blood pressure.

His task is to create a system that works by boring a hole in the skull, and threading a catheter with a sensor on the tip that can tell the operator when it’s inside a clot, and not brain tissue. Once that determination is made, the Viket (pronounced like ‘ticket’) system, should be able to suck out the clot in a matter of minutes, helping the patient recover better than they otherwise would on existing treatment.

The market for such a device could be $550 million, Wilcox says, based on an average sale price of about $5,500 for the device.

—Algomedix, founded by pharmacologist Jeff Herz, is pursuing a new idea in the treatment of pain. There hasn’t been much in the way of innovation in pain treatment, and existing drugs like opioids and COX-2 inhibitors all have their drawbacks, like addiction and cardiovascular side effects. The idea at Algomedix is to make small-molecule drugs that block a target called TRPA1, a receptor channel that allows ions like salts to pass in and out of cells. This target, Herz said, gets involved early in the pain signaling process, before a signal makes its way to the spinal cord and brain.

Herz, the former director of discovery research at Seattle-based Omeros (NASDAQ: OMER), said he’s particularly intrigued with the TRPA1 target, because while it’s found in many tissues of the body, it’s not found in the brain. That means that a drug which blocks the target shouldn’t cause any of the usual central-nervous system side effects, like addiction, that cause so much trouble for people taking opioid. Based on the work done so far to develop drugs against the target, Algomedix expects to file its first application to start clinical trials in early 2014, Herz said. Given the size of the market is for chronic pain, which afflicts millions of people around the world, Big Pharma has already started to notice, Herz said. “We see this as a highly partnerable program. We have already had expressions of interest from a number of companies,” he said.

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