Targeted Genetics Faces Extinction, Cell Therapeutics Unloads Debt, Dendreon Raises $221M, & More Seattle-Area Life Sciences News

5/14/09Follow @xconomy

One consequence of the downturn is that it appears to be widening the gaps between the winners and losers in Seattle biotech. Here’s a rundown of who was up and who was down:

—One of the emerging winners, Dendreon (NASDAQ: DNDN), raised a fresh $221 million through a public offering underwritten by Deutsche Bank. The Seattle biotech company was able to raise that kind of loot to beef up its manufacturing and marketing capacity as it gets ready to bring its prostate cancer drug, Provenge, to the U.S. market. The company is in the midst of a hiring binge, looking to fill 81 jobs at last count, to give it the horsepower to commercialize this product that analysts say has $1 billion sales potential.

—Seattle-based Targeted Genetics, a mainstay of the field of gene therapy, appears headed in the opposite direction as Dendreon. The company (NASDAQ: TGEN) said it will consider bankruptcy or shutting down the business if it doesn’t raise money in the next few weeks. The company said it is “unlikely” it will raise the needed cash.

Cell Therapeutics is continuing its high-wire act. A week after the Seattle biotech company (NASDAQ: CTIC) disclosed it only had enough cash to operate into August, it went out and raised $20 million from an unnamed institutional investor. The cancer drug developer plans to use some of the money to wipe out about three-fourths of the debt on its books—$89.2 million.

—As everyone who tries to make a living in the Seattle biotech scene knows, it’s hard to find a good job out there. But we had a thoughtful post this week from Richard Gayle, a former scientist at Seattle-based Immunex, on where he still sees opportunities for young scientists.

Is Seattle a “minor league” innovation town? Ed Lazowska, a University of Washington computer science professor, made this point in front of a high-tech and biotech audience this week at the sixth annual OVP Venture Partners technology summit. His argument is that Seattle lags far behind San Francisco and Boston as hotbeds of innovation, and our region needs to have a serious debate about what we can do better.

—Seattle-based ZymoGenetics (NASDAQ: ZGEN) had a tidbit of positive news this week, that its IL-21 drug for metastatic melanoma showed an ability to shrink or stabilize tumors in a mid-stage clinical trial.

—A few miles up the road, Vancouver, BC-based Tekmira struck a big deal with Swiss pharmaceutical giant Roche to develop RNA interference drugs for cancer. Roche agreed to pay more than $18 million upfront to get access to Tekmira’s technology, which puts RNAi drugs in lipid nanoparticles so that they can remain stable and be delivered throughout the body.

—We had a flurry of news briefs cross our wire. Kirkland, WA-based ProteoTech, the developer of drugs for Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s disease, raised $519,000. Aspen Medtech, a Bellevue, WA-based medical device incubator backed by Polaris Venture Partners and Three Arch Partners, closed down. And lastly, CMC Icos Biologics, the contract manufacturer of biotech drugs in Bothell, WA, reached a deal with Brisbane, Australia-based Implicit Bioscience to manufacture a drug for acute lung injury.

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