Dendreon Recruits Aces to Board, Amgen Seeks to Raise Hit Rate, Lee Hood Startup Gets $30M, & More Seattle-Area Life Sciences News

10/15/09Follow @xconomy

The news has been breaking fast and furious here at Xconomy, just as we are putting the finishing touches on a terrific event on Monday that will explore the 20-year outlook for the Seattle region as a life sciences hub.

—Xconomy dug up an exclusive late Friday afternoon from a couple SEC filings that showed Seattle-based Dendreon has added two heavy hitters to its board of directors. They are Ian Clark, the incoming CEO of the Genentech unit within Roche, and Pedro Granadillo, the former senior vice president of manufacturing at Eli Lilly. Dendreon (NASDAQ: DNDN) announced the move officially, and the wire services picked up the report, on Monday.

Amgen generates $15 billion a year in revenue, and plows back 20 cents on the dollar, or about $3 billion, back into research and development. But what does it really do with that money, and what ideas does it have to improve on the industry’s abysmal 1-in-10 average success rate for new drugs entering clinical trials? Senior vice president Joe Miletich offered up some fascinating insights on what Amgen is trying to do, and how Seattle and Boston teams contribute, in an exclusive interview.

Leroy Hood, the biotech pioneer who has started more than a dozen companies, announced this week that he has raised another $30 million to launch a startup that embodies his latest vision—Integrated Diagnostics. This company will seek to develop instruments that can detect cancer and Alzheimer’s disease by looking at concentrations of proteins from a tiny droplet of blood.

—Seattle-based Omeros (NASDAQ: OMER) pulled off the first IPO of a true biotech company anywhere in the U.S. since February 2008. The company netted about $62 million, part of which will go to support pivotal trials of its treatment to help improve recovery from knee surgery. But other biotechs watching this as a bellwether have to be a little concerned after seeing Omeros price its offering at $10 a share, the low end of its forecasted range. The stock has been heading downhill ever since it started trading, to $7.44 at yesterday’s close.

Chris Henney, the co-founder of Immunex, Icos, and Dendreon, offered up a very entertaining list of six tips for investors on how to spot a winning biotech company. He made these remarks at a luncheon event organized by the CFA Society in Seattle, in front of about 100 investing professionals.

Medical device startups are feeling a lot of pain this year, for a lot of reasons, and it was all laid bare this week in a sobering report by Ernst & Young.

—One of the more fortunate medical device companies in Seattle, Uptake Medical, secured an additional $1.2 million in equity financing, meaning it has now raised $4.6 million out of a venture round that could be worth as much as $13.3 million. The company is developing a minimally invasive technique for treating chronic lung diseases by using hot vapor to seal off damaged parts of the lung so air doesn’t get trapped there.

—Lots of people are wondering whether Roche will retain most of the talent at Genentech in the wake of its acquisition this spring. Bothell, WA-based Seattle Genetics (NASDAQ: SGEN) pried loose at least one important player from the industry’s pioneering company, naming Bruce Seeley to the newly created position of executive vice president, commercial, with responsibility for future sales and marketing. Seattle Genetics will lean on him to spearhead what it hopes will be a successful commercial rollout of its “empowered antibody” for Hodgkin’s disease.

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