What Will Seattle Biotech Be Like in 20 Years? Xconomy Event Looks Far Into Region’s Future

9/10/09Follow @xconomy

[Updated, 3:15 pm Sept. 11 with added "burst" from Immune Design.]

Seattle biotech has taken its share of lumps lately, but beyond the next quarter or next year, what kind of life sciences potential really exists here in the Northwest? Over the next 20 years, will this area have grown as a world leader in university and corporate research, venture financing, and entrepreneurial activity in the life sciences—and, if so, in what fields? Those are the questions Xconomy is seeking to answer at our next event here in Seattle on Oct. 19.

I’m excited to announce today that we have assembled a panel of some of the most accomplished life sciences entrepreneurs and visionaries in the world, all of whom happen to live here in Seattle. They are: Leroy Hood, president of the Institute for Systems Biology; Steve Gillis of Arch Venture Partners; Ben Shapiro, former executive vice president at Merck and now a partner with Boston-based PureTech Ventures; and Stephen Friend, co-founder and CEO of Sage Bionetworks and formerly of both Merck and Rosetta Inpharmatics.

It’s hard to imagine a group more qualified to speak on the region’s future. Hood is a legendary entrepreneur who has co-founded 13 companies, including Amgen, and is best known for inventing high-speed gene sequencing machines that made the Human Genome Project possible. Gillis co-founded Seattle-based Immunex, where he led the team that created a breakthrough for autoimmune disease that now generates more than $7 billion a year in worldwide sales. Shapiro, a former chairman of the University of Washington’s biochemistry department, was executive vice president of basic research at Merck during its 1990s heyday when it did the early development of Gardasil, the vaccine to prevent cervical cancer. And Friend was co-founder and CEO of Rosetta Inpharmatics before that company was sold to Merck for $620 million, and he stayed with Merck for eight years to integrate its personalized medicine approach through the company’s global operations.

Chris Rivera, the president of the Washington Biotechnology & Biomedical Association, will lead off with introductory remarks about the WBBA’s effort to secure more support for the local biotech cluster. The star-studded panel will be moderated by Carl Weissman, CEO of Accelerator and a managing director of OVP Venture Partners.

After that discussion, Bob Nelsen, co-founder of Arch Venture Partners, will introduce startups from the Seattle area with the potential to transform their respective fields of biotech—Calistoga Pharmaceuticals, VLST, and Immune Design. Executives from those companies will deliver “bursts,” or brief introductions of their work, before the networking portion of the evening.

The event will be held from 5:30 pm to 8 pm on Oct. 19 at the Seattle Biomedical Research Institute in the heart of Seattle’s South Lake Union neighborhood. You can get more information on how to register here. We expect this to be a highly interactive conversation with the audience, with yours truly running around with a microphone—so be ready with your questions. We look forward to seeing you there on Oct. 19.

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