Genzyme Enters Seattle Hub, Oncothyreon Bets on Cancer Drugs, Pathway Nabs $40M, & More Seattle-Area Life Sciences News

4/2/09Follow @xconomy

The local biotech scene was busy again this week at Xconomy, with breaking news about one of the world’s biggest biotech companies (Genzyme) coming to town, a local medical device leader attracting $40 million in venture capital (Pathway Medical Technologies), and an exclusive feature about how one publicly traded company in Seattle (Oncothyreon) has switched its strategic focus from cancer vaccines to cancer drugs.

—Cambridge, MA-based Genzyme (NASDAQ: GENZ) is the world’s biggest maker of treatments for rare genetic disorders, and it is trying to grow by treating more common diseases, namely multiple sclerosis and cancer. This week, Genzyme said it agreed to acquire three of these products from Bayer, including Leukine, a drug made in Seattle and Bothell, WA, that boosts production of white blood cells for patients undergoing cancer chemotherapy. Genzyme expects to take over manufacturing of this drug at a new factory next year in Snohomish County.

—Xconomy broke the news last Thursday that Kirkland, WA-based Pathway Medical Technologies, the developer of a device that clears out blockages in leg arteries, raised $40 million in venture capital—the Northwest’s biggest venture deal so far this year. The company won FDA approval for its first device last summer, and is using the money to commercialize its product.

—Seattle-based Oncothyreon (NASDAQ: ONTY) has pulled off a pretty significant makeover in a little more than two years, transforming from a company that develops cancer vaccines into one that makes cancer drugs. CEO Bob Kirkman explained what this strategy is about in this exclusive feature story.

—Seattle Genetics (NASDAQ: SGEN) said this week it received “Fast Track” designation from the FDA for its SGN-35 drug against Hodgkin’s disease. This will allow the company to submit an application in phases as data becomes available, and makes it possible to get an expedited six-month review the agency sometimes provides for potentially life-saving therapies. The company still hopes to turn in its application to the FDA in 2011.

—Seattle-based Spaltudaq has officially changed its name to Theraclone Sciences, which certainly will be a little easier for most people to pronounce. We plan to check in soon on what else of substance is going on at this company, particularly focusing on its unusual strategy for fighting HIV.

—Not many biotech companies are daring enough to get started in this recession, and even fewer are trying to create truly novel drugs against a completely new set of targets on cells. That’s the plan of Vancouver, BC-based Indel Therapeutics, which has its sights on creating a new class of antibiotics to fight nasty infections people can get in the hospital.

—The Northwest Association for Biomedical Research, a Seattle-based nonprofit that supports science education, received a $1.3 million grant from the National Science Foundation to help secondary school teachers understand how IT is used in biomedical research.

—Seattle-based Calypso Medical Technologies has had to put a lot of time-consuming labor into getting Medicare to pay for its device, which is designed to precisely target radiation therapy to prostate glands of men undergoing that treatment for cancer. Last week, the company took an important step forward by getting the regional Medicare unit in Florida to agree to a standard reimbursement code there, which will make it easier for hospitals to get paid when they do the procedure.

—MDRNA (NASDAQ: MRNA), the Bothell, WA-based developer of RNA interference technology for drug development, said it sold off one of its older assets, a generic nasal spray for osteoporosis. Financial terms weren’t disclosed.

—Targeted Genetics (NASDAQ: TGEN), the Seattle-based developer of gene therapies, said it entered this year with just $5.2 million in cash, enough to keep operating only through the second quarter of 2009.

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