Seattle biotech leaders gathered at the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center on Wednesday received a generally sunny view of the industry in the region, despite the ongoing laments about our lack of a true anchor tenant and lackluster state-level support.
The crowd erupted in cheers when Adaptive Biotechnologies CEO Chad Robins announced a $195 million funding round, reported earlier in the day. Robins, whose company makes tools to help understand the immune system, said he is frequently asked, “Are you looking for gold or providing pickaxes and shovels?” His answer to that very Seattle question: “Both.”
Fred Hutch president and director Gary Gilliland talked about the coming “tidal wave” of immunotherapeutic approaches to cancer treatment, and the CEOs of two Seattle companies riding that wave—Hans Bishop of Juno Therapeutics and Carlos Paya of Immune Design—provided in-depth looks at their approaches.
Madrona Venture Group managing director Matt McIlwain and ARCH Venture Partners managing director Bob Nelsen squared off on tech versus biotech in Seattle. Nelsen noted how the tech boom is making biotech more expensive, particularly when it comes to real estate. (Exhibit A being Expedia’s purchase of the Helix campus.) The sectors are also increasingly in competition for people with computer- and data-science skills.
But, as McIlwain and Nelsen noted, that is also an area for potential collaboration. Another is in the realm of healthcare IT.
The event culminated with Leroy Hood, president of the Institute for Systems Biology, who gave an update on a decades-long “longitudinal” comprehensive survey of the state of health of up to 100,000 people. Results from the first 100 volunteers are revealing what Hood described as lots of unforeseen connections in the data. He termed them “the dark matter of human physiology.”
There was much more, which our National Biotech Editor Alex Lash, who organized and emceed the event, will report on in coming days.
Thanks again to all of our speakers, attendees, and sponsors.