Dave Fanning Dies Suddenly, Pfizer Scraps Trubion Drug, MediQuest Tees Up Next Trial, & More Seattle-Area Biotech News

6/17/10Follow @xconomy

This was a sad week in Seattle biotech, as the region lost one of its prominent startup CEOs and all-around good guys.

David Fanning, the president and CEO of Seattle-based Theraclone Sciences, died suddenly on Monday morning. When I have more information on memorial services, I will update this story.

—Pfizer, the world’s largest drugmaker, halted development of TRU-015, the lead drug candidate in the pipeline for Seattle-based Trubion Pharmaceuticals. The drug, for rheumatoid arthritis, failed to show a big enough advantage over a placebo in a mid-stage clinical trial. Pfizer and Trubion (NASDAQ: TRBN) are continuing to work on a second-generation drug designed to hit the same target on inflammatory cells.

MediQuest Pharmaceuticals, the Bothell, WA-based developer of a treatment for Raynaud’s disease, has been pretty quiet the last year. But it is now eagerly awaiting results of a pivotal trial that the FDA required before it would consider allowing the drug on the U.S. market. If positive, MediQuest could file an amended application to the FDA by the end of this year.

Calistoga Pharmaceuticals, the Seattle-based developer of drugs for cancer and inflammation, released some new scientific information on how its lead drug candidate appears to be working against tumors, at a medical meeting in Barcelona. This was a follow-up to some data it presented early this month, which showed a high rate of tumor shrinkage in patients.

SonoSite (NASDAQ: SONO), the Bothell, WA-based maker of portable ultrasound machines, said it is planning to spend as much as $50 million to buy back shares of stock. This is the second share buyback for SonoSite this year.

—We had some pretty big personnel news for us in-house. My co-founder of this bureau and the editor of Xconomy Seattle, Greg Huang, is moving back to Boston to be the editor of Xconomy in that city. I will now take on the added responsibility of being Editor for Xconomy Seattle, in addition to keeping my regular position as National Biotechnology Editor for our growing five-city network of sites. While I’m taking on a new city of coverage in San Francisco, this won’t make any difference for Seattle biotech readers, because I’m going to continue to cover all the local news and features you’re used to.

Stewart Lyman, one of the more prolific and insightful contributors to the Xconomist Forum, was back again this week with a piece on the history of drug discovery in Seattle biotech. The odds of success here, as they are nationally, aren’t very good.

Rogers Weed, the director of the Washington Department of Commerce, offered up a guest editorial on how lawmakers need to invest more in a lot of fundamental things, like education, that life sciences needs to thrive. Read on for his full take. If you’d like to offer up a guest post, just shoot me a note anytime at ltimmerman@xconomy.com. The Forum is a place for your words, not mine.

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