Ultrasound Stethoscopes, Stealthy Software, A New Enzyme Startup, and More from Alexandria Real Estate’s Summer Celebration

8/28/08Follow @gthuang

Yesterday afternoon, Luke and I jumped in the Zipcar and headed over to the Lakeside Event Center on the north side of Lake Union in Seattle. It was time for an end-of-summer party put on by Alexandria Real Estate Equities, and co-hosted by Xconomy. Over cocktails and appetizers of shrimp, beef, pastries, and roasted vegetables, Luke and I got to meet and greet several dozen members of the business and innovation community. Of course, we were looking for interesting tidbits of news from the mix of real-estate officials, lawyers, tech executives, professors, and investors there. So here’s a quick sampling.

—Those commercial real estate people, they’ve got sources. Kris Richey, a senior leasing associate with Jones Lang LaSalle, gave Luke the skinny on an interesting new startup being formed from David Baker’s lab at the University of Washington. It’s called Arzeda, and according to a bare-bones website, it has world-leading computational technology for designing enzymes. Given Baker’s track record as a Howard Hughes Medical Institute investigator and a guru of solving problems related to protein folding, this could have big implications for drug development.

Buddy Ratner of the UW Bioengineering department just chaired a meeting with some 40 medical-device companies that are potentially interested in joining his industry consortium for promoting biomaterials. Ratner, an Xconomist, also mentioned a tissue-engineering startup of his that is in the “conceptual stage,” so we’ll have to wait a bit to tell you more about it. We also learned that Ratner is teaching a course on technology commercialization at UW this fall.

—UW Bioengineering’s Yongmin Kim, who’s also an Xconomist, gave us a history lesson about his storied department. One little-known fact: more than 5,000 people are employed at local ultrasound companies, a technology that was originally hatched at UW. That’s fine, we thought, but being impatient types, we want to know about history being made now. Not a problem. Kim told us about his dream of developing an ultrasound stethoscope, a small and light instrument that could do ultrasound scanning—at a price of $500 or less—and could allow physicians to quickly diagnose medical problems. “You could get it at Costco or Amazon.com,” Kim said. “It would revolutionize health care.”

Bill Bryant of Draper Fisher Jurvetson hasn’t noticed any slowdown in the number of software VC deals recently. Every year, he said, there are about 12 big deals in software/Internet in Seattle, and he’s happy to be involved in two of them. This year, #1 is WidgetBucks, which raised $10 million in Series B funding a couple of months ago. And #2? Something stealthy still to come, he said.

—When asked how the local innovation community can get more exposure to outside VC firms, Alex Rives of Arch Venture Partners talked about how Arch often syndicates deals with non-local venture firms. “This isn’t an under-served market,” he said, referring to the Seattle area. Nor is it under-served on the recreational side. We got to talking about cool excursions from Seattle, and Rives highly recommended Orcas Island in the San Juans, though he admitted he’s never taken a whale-watching trip up there.

Howard Coleman, the CEO of Genelex, gave Luke an update on how the federal Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services has taken up the question of whether to pay for DNA tests to help determine a personalized dose for the common blood-thinning drug, Warfarin. Coleman’s company markets such a test, which can help doctors avoid dangerous bleeding episodes that can happen when people are given the wrong dose. “This decision around the first of the year will have a big impact on personalized medicine and pharmacogenomics,” Coleman says. We’ve marked the calendar.

Additional reporting (and partying) by Luke Timmerman.

Gregory T. Huang is Xconomy's Deputy Editor, National IT Editor, and the Editor of Xconomy Boston. You can e-mail him at gthuang@xconomy.com or call him at 617-252-7323. Follow @gthuang

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