Five Red Flags of a Biotech, Pathway Medical Learns Lessons, Amgen Faces FDA Delay, & More Seattle-Area Life Sciences News

10/22/09Follow @xconomy

This week we were jamming on our big event on the 20-year outlook for Seattle’s life sciences hub, but we still found a way to squeeze in a lot of news and features.

—Biotech pioneer Chris Henney offered an insightful and entertaining talk about how to invest in biotech at a recent speech before the CFA Society of Seattle. I included his six tips on how to spot a winning biotech in last week’s roundup, but that piece didn’t include the sequel on the five red flags investors should watch out for. The In Vivo Blog did a fun follow up on this story, too.

—If Seattle wants to grow as a biotech hub over the next 20 years, it could use a few more bars, and less university red tape. That’s according to Stephen Friend, the Rosetta Inpharmatics founder who’s now trying to ignite an open source movement for biology, in comments he made at the Xconomy event Monday evening on the 20-year outlook for Seattle life sciences. I summed up some of the other great insights I heard from his fellow panelists Ben Shapiro and Steve Gillis, and also posted a big photo gallery here that captured the energy in the room.

—Kirkland, WA-based Pathway Medical Technologies is one of the big success stories of the past year in the local medical device community, but even it has had to endure a few lessons from the school of hard knocks. CEO Paul Buckman offered a candid look at how the company is adjusting to the new reality of the medical device business.

Amgen (NASDAQ: AMGN), the giant biotech company with 900 employees in Seattle, said its experimental drug for osteoporosis, denosumab (Prolia), was delayed by FDA requests for more information. That didn’t seem like much of a big deal at first glance because the FDA didn’t ask for any new clinical trials, and it has been missing a lot of deadlines lately. But then Amgen said yesterday in its earnings release that the FDA is asking for more clinical trials to demonstrate safety of denosumab for cancer patients. Ouch.

Sonosite, the Bothell, WA-based maker of portable ultrasound machines, got a lift this week when it settled all of its patent litigation with General Electric over ultrasound devices that weigh less than 10 pounds. Sonosite (NASDAQ: SONO) will get $21 million upfront and an undisclosed royalty on sales of GE’s portable ultrasound machines until 2016.

—Seattle-based Calistoga Pharmaceuticals released some preliminary, but encouraging, results over the weekend from a small leukemia trial. The company’s experimental drug was able to shrink tumors for 29 percent of patients in the trial, but based on some secondary findings, the company thinks it might be able to do much better than that in combination with other treatments, or with longer follow-up.

—San Diego-based Fate Therapeutics, the company co-founded by a group of top stem cell scientists that includes Randall Moon of the University of Washington, announced over the weekend that it has taken a big step toward “industrialized” production of stem cells for drug discovery. The advance for inducing adult cells into a pluripotent, stem-cell like state, came from the lab of Fate co-founder Sheng Ding, a professor at The Scripps Research Institute in San Diego.

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