Seattle Genetics Raises Dough, Trubion Feels Fallout of Pfizer Deal, Novo Sets Up Shop, & More Seattle-Area Life Sciences News

1/29/09Follow @xconomy

The great fear in biotech, one Boston-based executive told me a couple weeks ago, is that the markets have turned so dark that fundamentals no longer matter. The idea is that a company could show its drug really works, but the stock still won’t fly. At least one company in our neck of the woods, Seattle Genetics, showed this week that things aren’t that grim—not yet, anyway.

—Seattle Genetics, the Bothell, WA-based developer of cancer drugs, raised $55.8 million through a stock offering, which could swell to $67.3 million if shareholders agree to allow Baker Brothers Life Sciences to buy a bunch more shares at the same price. The company (NASDAQ: SGEN) is riding high after it released stellar results last month for patients with Hodgkin’s disease.

—Trubion Pharmaceuticals, a Seattle-based biotech company (NASDAQ: TRBN), got a headache this week when news broke that Pfizer bid $68 million to acquire Madison, NJ-based Wyeth this week. This could affect Trubion in a big way, because it has a partnership for its lead drug in development, TRU-015 for rheumatoid arthritis, with Wyeth. The takeover also narrows down the pool of potential dealmakers and acquirers for other little biotechs shopping around their wares.

—We at Xconomy broke the story about how MDRNA is running low on cash and taking drastic steps to slow down the burn. The Bothell, WA-based developer of RNA interference drugs (NASDAQ: MRNA), has asked executives to work for no pay, and frozen employee salaries at a flat $1,250 for the final two weeks of January, according to a source close to the situation.

—Novo Nordisk lost interest in the cancer drug business, so Seattle-based ZymoGenetics (NASDAQ: ZGEN) found a way to get back the full rights from Novo to a cancer drug candidate without forking over any upfront cash. We’ll know by mid-year whether this was a shrewd move, when data comes out showing whether the IL-21 drug treatment holds promise for kidney cancer and metastatic melanoma.

—Speaking of Novo Nordisk, the Danish company that is the world’s largest maker of insulin for diabetics, I profiled the company’s serious move to establish an inflammation research shop in Seattle. The new operation is hiring 80 local workers by 2010, and hopes to scoop up some of the world’s top immunology talent.

—Kirkland, WA-based Cardiac Dimensions is one of the many medical device companies in town that not a whole lot of people know, but is actually doing very interesting stuff. I got the inside scoop of what to expect this year from CEO Rick Stewart.

—The Infectious Disease Research Institute, the Seattle-based nonprofit research center devoted to diseases of the developing world, struck a deal with a partner in Brazil that hopes to develop a marketable vaccine for leishmaniasis. This disease affects about a half-million people worldwide each year, and kills one in 10, so this would be quite a feat if IDRI and Instituto Butantan in Sao Paolo can create an effective vaccine.

—Omeros continues to defy the gravity of the financial markets. The privately-held drug developer in Seattle raised $3.1 million in equity and grants from The Stanley Medical Research Institute to continue developing a drug candidate for schizophrenia. It’s the second dose of cash the company grabbed this month, after getting $465,000 from the Michael J. Fox Foundation for Parkinson’s Research.

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