Zymo Boss Sees Immunex Parallel, Arch Startup Bags $7M, Northstar Folds, & More Seattle-Area Life Sciences News

1/8/09Follow @xconomy

The news cycle for Seattle biotech is revving up again, after everybody but the lab mice took a rest during the holidays. We found some predictable doom and gloom (the shutdown of Northstar Neuroscience) to go with a more upbeat exclusive about a cancer drugmaker emerging in town (Qwell Pharmaceuticals.) Here are the past couple of week’s highlights:

—ZymoGenetics (NASDAQ: ZGEN) was badly beaten up by the market in 2008, and new CEO Doug Williams isn’t trying to sugarcoat it. But he sees a parallel here to the dark days he experienced at Seattle-based Immunex in the mid-1990s, right before that company hit it big with a transformative medicine for rheumatoid arthritis. We’ll be watching to see if history will repeat itself.

Xconomy broke the news of a $7 million Series A financing of Seattle-based Qwell Pharmaceuticals. This company, developing new cancer drugs derived from a plant source, is being bankrolled by Arch Venture Partners and the Wellcome Trust.

—VentiRx is aiming to make cancer drugs that aren’t just “grande” but are “venti.” This San Diego and Seattle-based company, with the coffee-inspired name, is trying to harness the punch of the innate immune system to make new medicines. These are the cells that fight pathogens as the first line of defense, under the skin, or in the mucus lining of the nose, for example.

—It’s game over for Northstar Neuroscience (NASDAQ: NSTR). The Seattle-based medical device company, which failed last year in a trial to help stroke patients regain arm movement, gave in to the demands of angry investors and decided to shut down and distribute its remaining cash to its remaining shareholders.

—I did an exit interview with Jack Faris, the outgoing president of the Washington Biotechnology and Biomedical Association. He sees potential to do more for local K-12 science education as a way of strengthening the industry in the future.

—We ran a fun little feature that we buried on Christmas Eve, … Next Page »

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