Sage Bionetworks On a Roll, Allon’s Foray into Alzheimer’s, Frazier Bets on Antibiotics, & More Seattle-Area Life Sciences News

4/8/10Follow @xconomy

The Seattle biotech scene had a smattering of blurbs this week from a few of the lesser-known names. But at least one local organization is clearly starting to emerge.

Sage Bionetworks, the Seattle-based nonprofit seeking to spark an open source movement for biology, secured a $5 million grant from the state’s Life Sciences Discovery Fund. This is just the latest show of support from an impressive, and growing, list of organizations rallying their money and talent behind the vision of former Merck executive Stephen Friend. Research teams at the University of Washington and the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center also nailed down $5 million grants.

—Seldom do I ever get a chance to write about anything innovative in the pipeline for Alzheimer’s disease, the condition that robs an estimated 5 million elderly Americans from their memory and cognitive thinking skills. Nothing on the market today really works. But this week, we had an in-depth feature on the team at Vancouver, BC-based Allon Therapeutics who are testing peptide drugs that are designed to work unlike anything on the market today.

Frazier Healthcare Ventures and Arch Venture Partners, the two deepest sets of pockets in Seattle biotech venture capital, placed a big bet this week on San Francisco-based Achaogen. The company, a developer of antibiotics that are supposed to fight multi-drug resistant bacterial infections, raised $56 million in a Series C venture round that included Frazier, Arch, and some of their best-known friends on the national VC scene.

—The biotech lab and office are usually not the place to find astute political commentary, but the newly passed healthcare reform law matters for biotech in a number of ways. Richard Pops, the CEO of Waltham, MA-based Alkermes, argues in this national guest editorial that the time for political engagement is far from over, as industry leaders need to start paying attention to the next round of negotiations to renew the Prescription Drug User Fee Act, which governs how companies do business with the FDA.

Ken Stuart of Seattle Biomedical Research Institute, one of the Northwest’s pioneers in global health, pointed out in a guest editorial that while World Health Day was celebrated this week, it was really a reminder that global health awareness has become deeply interwoven into everyday life in Seattle’s South Lake Union neighborhood.

—Bothell, WA-based MDRNA (NASDAQ: MRNA) made a couple of moves to help boost its dwindling cash reserves. The company formed a research deal with Pfizer, and acquired Cambridge, MA-based Cequent Pharmaceuticals, another RNA interference drug developer.

Stratos Genomics, a Seattle-based developer of low-cost gene sequencing technology, has been pretty stealthy about what it’s up to, but this week it attracted the former CEO of Roche Molecular Diagnostics to its board of directors.

—Last but not least, we have launched a new channel at Xconomy to showcase all the Health IT news we dig up around here. For the Seattle biotechies out there who are watching the big trends in genomics, you may want to check out the first and second installments of a two-part interview I did with Illumina CEO Jay Flatley that ran on our San Diego and Health IT channels this week.

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