Alder’s Long-Awaited Arthritis Data, Ikaria Plots $200M IPO, Emerald’s Resurrection, & More Seattle-Area Life Sciences News

5/20/10Follow @xconomy

Get ready for a double-dose of your usual Seattle biotech roundup, as I was too slammed to give you the regular weekly shot of news last Thursday.

—Six months after Bristol-Myers Squibb (NYSE: BMY) wrote a big check to Bothell, WA-based Alder Biopharmaceuticals, we can see why. Xconomy had the exclusive on how ALD518 generated “outstanding” results in a mid-stage trial of 124 patients with rheumatoid arthritis, in the words of the lead investigator. This story was based on an abstract posted online in advance of the European League Against Rheumatism conference next month in Barcelona.

—Rheumatoid arthritis may be the really big market on the horizon, but Alder didn’t give away the whole store in the Bristol deal. Alder has retained the full rights to ALD518 for cancer, and the company is getting ready to present some other important mid-stage trial data next month at the American Society of Clinical Oncology conference. The idea is that ALD518 can tamp down the excess inflammation that plagues cancer patients, making them vigorous enough to withstand more chemotherapy that kills tumors, which might help them live longer.

Leroy Hood coined the term “P4 Medicine” as the tagline for his vision of predictive, preventive, personalized, and participatory medicine about seven years ago. Now he has clinched the first partnership with a major U.S. medical school, Ohio State University, which is setting up a demonstration project to put this idea to the test. The deal is for two years, and calls for Ohio State and the Institute for Systems Biology to contribute $1 million each to make this work.

—One intriguing Seattle connection jumped on my radar during my last trip to San Diego, when I met with Nobel Prize-winning chemist K. Barry Sharpless of The Scripps Research Institute. Sharpless is well known as a proponent of “click chemistry,” in which scientists seek out the simplest, easiest, most reliable, irreversible reactions possible for industrial processes, rather than just trying to do what’s most cool or exotic to impress their peers. This technology is at the heart of a prototype device that Lee Hood’s Seattle-based Integrated Diagnostics is using to gather reliable measurements from a pinprick of blood.

Ikaria, the Clinton, NJ-based biotech company with an R&D operation in Seattle, is gearing up for a $200 million IPO to be underwritten by Goldman Sachs, Morgan Stanley, Credit Suisse and others. The company is profitable because of a drug that treats respiratory illness in infants, but its big swing for the fence is with technology licensed from Mark Roth’s lab at the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center that seeks to induce a reversible hibernation-like state that could someday buy more time for doctors to treat traumatic injuries, or perform heart surgeries. Arch Venture Partners has a 10 percent stake in Ikaria, so Bob Nelsen is rooting for this to be a big win.

—While all this news was breaking, we somehow found a way to organize an event on health IT innovation at the Frye Art Museum, with support from event host Swedish Medical Center and a number of sponsors. You can catch up on what happened by checking out this photo gallery, the speakers’ slides, and Greg’s roundup of some of the pithy insights we picked up.

Seattle Biomedical Research Institute has been itching to get going with its first clinical trial of a malaria vaccine, and last week, the trial officially got underway. The world will be watching these results closely, since a malaria vaccine doesn’t currently exist, and the mosquito-borne disease kills an estimated 1 million people a year.

—Just before our own health IT event, I picked up a fascinating tale about this field at the OVP Tech Summit from Internet pioneer Larry Smarr. He told me how his experience in becoming a “quantified self” with IT has helped him lose 20 pounds since New Year’s Day, and lower his resting heart to 45 beats a minute, which can’t be too far from Lance Armstrong territory.

Bio Architecture Lab, the University of Washington spinout developing seaweed into renewable biofuel, said it has brought in Shell veteran Daniel Trunfio as CEO to replace founding leader Nikesh Parekh. Parekh will remain involved with the company in another role.

—Will people bid online for a nose job just like an airline ticket? That’s the fundamental question that PriceDoc, a company in Solano Beach, CA and Seattle, is seeking to answer.

—Sometimes we dig up curious little gems from federal records that we don’t hear about through the grapevine, and one of those recent briefs was about Seattle-based Coronado Biosciences. This cancer developer has raised $7 million, according to an SEC filing.

Emerald BioStructures, the best little biotech company on Bainbridge Island, WA that few people have heard of, went through a Kafkaesque nightmare over the past year or so, when it was almost suffocated by the deCode Genetics bankruptcy. But Emerald survived with the help of some Boston-area venture capitalists, which you can read about here.

As Greg has pointed out, event season is in full bloom around Seattle. One of the more unusual ones I’ve seen is being spearheaded by Kristen Eddings of the Washington Global Health Alliance, who envisions creating a movement to get more young people involved in global health.

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