Like a good cup of coffee, Seattle’s life sciences ecosystem is a balanced blend of complementary parts: research to find the underpinnings of disease, and information technology that helps scientists make sense of the data. That convergence was on display last week at Xconomy’s annual What’s Hot in Seattle Biotech event. Here are a few highlights from the day:
Researchers in Seattle are already availing themselves of powerful new tools in their quest to understand disease and find new treatments. The Allen Institute for Brain Science is creating databases and crunching data that could pave the way for new neuroscience discoveries. Others are also taking a big data approach to disease. Both Leen Kawas, CEO of M3 Biotechnology, and Harlan Robins, head of innovation at Adaptive Biotechnolgies, pointed out how the search for new healthcare solutions is advancing with big data analysis. M3’s lead drug is an experimental regenerative treatment for Alzheimer’s disease. Adaptive and Microsoft are joining forces to develop new diagnostics. Autoimmune disease is their first target.
Patients may not realize it, but big data analytics is already playing a role in how they receive their care. Nicholas Mark, medical director at KenSci, explained how his startup’s technology analyzes the flow of patients in a hospital. The software can then predict times when the hospital will be busiest, helping administrators manage staffing schedules.
Cancer research continues to hold a prominent place in the Seattle life sciences community, and we showcased three startups that are contributing to it. Blaze Bioscience is testing a new way of spotting cancer, EpiThany is developing a cancer vaccine, and SEngine Precision Medicine has brought to the market a new way to match patients to cancer treatments.
Building a life science company in Seattle does have challenges. The region doesn’t benefit from the presence of a large pharmaceutical company, nor does it draw venture capital investment at the levels of larger markets, such as Boston and the Bay Area. But Phase Genomics CEO Ivan Liachko pointed out that venture capital isn’t the only way to grow a business, as his mostly bootstrapped startup was able to commercialize a technology that helps researchers obtain genomic data from microbiome samples. Claudia Mitchell, CEO of Universal Cells, noted that partnerships with larger companies offer a path for smaller startups to finance and develop their technologies.
We’d like to thank Cambia Grove, which hosted What’s Hot in Seattle Biotech. We also want to extend our thanks to sponsors BioCrossroads, ICON, and ARCH Venture Partners, whose support made the event possible. Photos of the speakers and the event are courtesy of I Sometimes Dream | Event Photography. And last, but not least, thank you to all of the attendees who came to hear more about the new ideas and technologies that are brewing in the Seattle-area life sciences scene.