Omeros Accused on Eve of IPO, Seattle Genetics Trial Fails, How Much Biotechies Really Earn, & More Seattle-Area Life Sciences News

10/8/09Follow @xconomy

Omeros is attempting to become the first true biotech company to go public in more than a year, and the first in Washington state in two years, but it will have to overcome controversy to do it.

—Seattle-based Omeros, the biotech company with a treatment to help patients recover from knee surgery, has been listed as a contender to go public, possibly as soon as this week, according to Renaissance Capital. But the company will have to overcome an accusation by its former chief financial officer, Richard J. Klein, who has filed a lawsuit in U.S. District Court that claims he was wrongfully terminated after he blew the whistle on the company’s practice of filing false time claims on grant work performed for the National Institutes of Health. The company, in a legal response, admits it made mistakes and changed its policy after Klein’s report, but it denies many of his allegations and says the NIH accepted its self-reporting on the matter.

Seattle Genetics has had a great run this year on the strength of its “empowered antibody” for Hodgkin’s disease, but it suffered a setback this week with another drug for lymphoma. The Bothell, WA-based company (NASDAQ: SGEN) saw its shares drop after it said a clinical trial of SGN-40, dacetuzumab, was halted early after independent data monitors said it was unlikely to succeed.

—How much do biotech workers really earn? The politicians like to throw around an average salary of about $81,000 in Washington state, but one local entrepreneur found the median salary in the Pacific Northwest was about $60,000 when he analyzed actual job openings from the past year.

—Seattle-based Theraclone Sciences struck a deal with a Japanese company that could bring in $18 million over time to generate new antibodies with broad capability to neutralize many different strains of flu virus. This is building on the Theraclone platform, which led to the creation of two new antibodies against HIV, which was featured in Science last month.

—Bothell, WA-based AVI Biopharma (NASDAQ: AVII) got some good news this week with an $11.5 million defense contract to make a novel treatment for Junin virus, in addition to its existing work against Ebola and Marburg.

Sage Bionetworks, the Seattle-based nonprofit that aims to ignite an open source movement for biology, has secured a “major founding donation” from Quintiles, the giant contract research organization for biotech and pharmaceutical companies. Sage co-founder Stephen Friend was traveling in Europe, trying to drum up more support for the new collaborative, when the news broke.

David Miller, the president of Seattle-based Biotech Stock Research who recently ran for the Seattle City Council, offered some great insights in a guest editorial about why biotechies need to pay attention to local issues just like they do the big national stories, like health reform and cheaper “follow-on” biotech drugs.

Carl Weissman, the CEO of Accelerator and managing director of OVP Venture Partners, offered some advice to government officials who want to stir innovation. Instead of doing a lot of the same old stuff, they should try to recruit more superstar scientists.

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