AVI Biopharma Ousts CEO, CombiMatrix Drops Seattle Wing, Cell Therapeutics Cans 36 Workers, & More Seattle-Area Life Sciences News

4/22/10Follow @xconomy

There was more than the usual amount of carnage this week on the Seattle biotech beat.

AVI Biopharma (NASDAQ: AVII) ousted CEO Les Hudson as part of a boardroom coup. The board installed chief financial officer David Boyle as the interim CEO, and a company spokesman says Boyle has the board’s confidence and is a candidate for the top job on a permanent basis. AVI is eagerly awaiting data this year on a novel drug for Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy, and is also developing specific RNA-based therapies for Ebola and Marburg virus.

CombiMatrix (NASDAQ: CBMX), the Mukilteo, WA-based maker of genetic analysis instruments, said it is making a deep round of cuts at its local facility and betting the future of the company on its diagnostics unit in Irvine, CA. CEO Amit Kumar will stay at the helm until a replacement can be found sometime before the end of June.

—Seattle-based Targeted Genetics said it was eliminating three people from its board of directors as part of its ongoing efforts to conserve cash.

Cell Therapeutics (NASDAQ: CTIC) said it is handing out pink slips to 36 workers in order to save money now that its lymphoma drug, pixantrone, has been rejected by the FDA.

—But not all the local biotech news was so grim. Seattle-based HemaQuest Pharmaceuticals said it nailed down the second half of a Series B venture capital round that totals $12 million.

Seattle Genetics, the developer of “empowered antibodies” to fight cancer, said the Genentech unit of Roche has extended a partnership to continue using the smaller company’s antibody technology. Seattle Genetics (NASDAQ: SGEN) will get a $9.5 million payment as part of the extension.

Mirabilis Medica, the Bothell, WA-based developer of ultrasound technology for treating uterine fibroids, has received $1 million in debt and options financing out of a round that could be worth as much as $2 million.

—We also reminded readers earlier in the week of a big event we are planning about the future opportunities in health IT on May 12. This event will bring together a stellar list of speakers, including Swedish Medical Center CEO Rod Hochman; Stephen Friend of Sage Bionetworks; Don Listwin of the Canary Foundation; and David Cerino, who oversees Microsoft’s HealthVault platform.

—I’m also happy to say Xconomy’s life sciences team just got a little bigger this week with the addition of new columnist Sylvia Pagan Westphal. Her first column raises some provocative issues about how things might be different if the world of finance were regulated to the same degree that the FDA oversees new medicines. She is based in Boston, but Sylvia’s column will discuss national issues and run regularly on the Seattle site. You can reach her at swestphal@xconomy.com

—Last, but not least around here, Xconomy made a little news of our own. Xconomy founder Bob Buderi announced the addition of our next new bureau, in Detroit. I will contribute occasional life sciences stories to the mix of stories that are percolating in the state of Michigan. Want to know one obvious Seattle to Michigan connection I’ve already found? Steve Gillis of Arch Venture Partners is a board observer at Lycera, a company founded by University of Michigan professor Gary Glick to treat autoimmune disease. I’m sure we’ll find more interesting connections like these over time.

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