ZymoGenetics “Sleeper” Wakes Up, Leroy Hood Unveils New Company, CMC Icos Expands, & More Seattle-Area Life Sciences News

10/2/08Follow @xconomy

Quote of the week in Seattle life sciences goes to Xconomist Clay Siegall: “For biotechnology, it sometimes feels as if we are always in a financial crisis,” he says. While the world faced the possibility of economic catastrophe, the headlines from Seattle biotech suggest it wasn’t all that unusual of a week, as companies continued to report incremental progress.

—ZymoGenetics, the granddaddy of Seattle biotechs, is getting ready to release data on an experimental drug for hepatitis C designed to have the viral killing power of standard interferon drugs, but without the nasty side effects. This is a “sleeper” drug in the ZymoGenetics pipeline, but early results from six patients suggest it is doing what the company wants, at a lower-than-expected dose.

—We’re in a financial crisis? If you’re CMC Icos Biologics, it’s the time to invest $35 million in an expansion of its biotech drug factory in Bothell, where it manufactures genetically engineered medicines for other companies under contract. We’ll have more to report on this strategy next week.

The Technology Access Foundation (TAF) looks to improve computing skills among kids of color, but that’s not the only kind of tech it has in mind. TAF is helping teachers prepare lessons to get high schoolers excited about cutting-edge biotech, like new concepts in development for treating diabetes. Sure beats dissecting frogs.

Leroy Hood gave Xconomy the exclusive story on his newest company, Integrated Diagnostics, in part of a wide-ranging interview. This company aims to develop tests that analyze drops of blood for early telltale signs of an emerging cancer, while it’s still at a treatable stage. A financing deal is expected to close in two or three months, Hood says.

—Siegall, the CEO of Seattle Genetics (NASDAQ: [[ticker:SGEN]), offered his perspective on what it takes to keep innovation alive in times of crisis. Read this, and your blood pressure will drop a few points, guaranteed.

—One fascinating local company that flies below the radar, Bothell, WA-based Halosource, said last week it is expanding into China. We wrote back in July that their water purification technology has started catching on in a big way in India, providing clean, cheap drinking water to more than 1 million people there. We’ll see if they can build on that momentum in the world’s most populous country.

—Lastly, we found a bit of evidence that credit markets haven’t ground completely to a halt. Omeros, a Seattle-based biotech company that backed away from an IPO this year, raised as much as $20 million in a debt financing. When something as risky as a biotech company with no marketed products can borrow money, it makes me wonder how much the commentators really know.

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