Cell Therapeutics Shares Boom, Vulcan’s Breast Cancer Bombshell, Microsoft Buys Rosetta Assets, & More Seattle-Area Life Sciences News

6/4/09Follow @xconomy

Most of Seattle’s biotech news this week came out of Orlando, FL, where local companies vied for the attention of 30,000 cancer specialists at the American Society of Clinical Oncology annual meeting. The best clinical trial data I saw didn’t actually come from a Seattle-based company—but it had a strong local tie to Paul Allen’s Vulcan Capital.

—A company founded by Vulcan and other venture capitalists in 2005, BiPar Sciences, captured the biggest headlines of this year’s ASCO. The BiPar drug, the first in a class of PARP inhibitors, helped shrink tumors, stop them from spreading, and keep patients living longer than a standard chemo regimen by itself. We had the scoop on May 22 that this drug was going to make waves at ASCO, and it didn’t disappoint. One researcher told Bloomberg News it was no less than a “bombshell” for the breast cancer field.

—Seattle-based Cell Therapeutics (NASDAQ: CTIC) saw its shares boom 47 percent in the last two hours of trading on Monday after it released some detailed results from a 140-patient trial of its lead lymphoma drug, pixantrone. The compound was able to completely shrink tumors in 20 percent of patients who were heavily pre-treated, compared with 5.7 percent who did that well in the control group [[Correction: A previous version said this group got a placebo--it was comparitor drug]]. But there were side effects, including a higher rate of severe cardiac disorders among patients who got the drug. Regardless, the company hopes to seize on the newfound demand for its shares by getting rid of its $118.9 million in debt.

Microsoft has been getting more serious about dipping its toe into the life sciences software market this year, and this week it took another important step by buying the assets of Rosetta Biosoftware from Merck. This deal gives Microsoft a profitable new division, a customer list of almost 100 names, and highly sophisticated software that would have taken at least three years to build in-house, a Microsoft executive says.

Carl Weissman, the CEO of Accelerator and a managing director with OVP Venture Partners, stirred the pot in the Xconomist Forum this week with a thoughtful and provocative editorial on why he thinks innovators should get perpetual ownership rights to drug patents. This sparked quite a few insightful comments—many of which say this is a bad idea.

—Bothell, WA-based OncoGenex Pharmaceuticals (NASDAQ: OGXI) released some promising data at ASCO that showed its experimental prostate cancer drug, in combination with chemotherapy, was able to help men live a median time of about 7 months longer than men who got the chemo alone. It’s a small study of just 82 men, and needs to be verified … Next Page »

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