Cell Therapeutics Nears Brink, ‘Hutch’ Dog Breed Test Hits Market, Lee Hood’s Institute Grows & More Seattle Area Life Sciences News

2/19/09Follow @xconomy

We had another mixed bag of Seattle biotech news this week, as one of the region’s oldest biotech companies (Cell Therapeutics) ran dangerously low on cash, and one of the newer scientific institutions (Institute for Systems Biology) said its budget for the coming year is growing by $20 million.

Cell Therapeutics is skating closer than ever to the brink, with only enough cash to last until the end of February. The Seattle-based biotech company (NASDAQ: CTIC) is attempting to keep its head above water to commercialize two cancer drugs. The company had trading in its stock halted last week in order to meet requirements of Italian securities regulators, although it resumed trading yesterday.

—What breed is your dog? A pair of canine genomics researchers from the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center developed a test to answer this question, now being marketed by Mars, the giant candy and pet food company. Mars doesn’t disclose sales, but the test, at $125 to $150 a pop, hasn’t yet caught on the way its founders hoped.

—It’s a struggle to whip up enthusiasm for high-risk, high-reward biotech investments, but the folks at the Washington Biotechnology & Biomedical Association are soldiering on this year with the eighth annual Invest Northwest. The trade group has signed up more than 200 people to attend the meeting March 17-18, and has a goal of getting to 500-600.

—Leroy Hood gave an update on the Institute for Systems Biology last Friday at the Technology Alliance’s Science & Technology Discovery Series. Despite the downturn, support is growing for his vision of “P4″ (predictive, preventive, personalized, and participatory) medicine. The Institute’s budget is increasing from $35 million to $55 million next year because of support from the government of Luxembourg.

—Helix Biomedix, the Bothell, WA-based maker of peptide molecules, raised $3.2 million in convertible debt for general corporate purposes and to go after new opportunities in the consumer market. The firm’s peptides are used in skin care and cosmetic products.

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