Omeros Nabs $25M from Paul Allen and the State, Immune Design Strikes 1st Big Deal, & More Seattle-Area Life Sciences News

10/28/10Follow @xconomy

A couple of sizable deals crossed the Seattle biotech news desk this week, and one of the Northwest’s main venture firms eagerly awaited its first IPO in a long time.

Omeros (NASDAQ: OMER), the Seattle biotech company, pulled in $25 million through an unusual deal that pooled $20 million from billionaire Paul Allen’s Vulcan Capital along with $5 million from the state’s Life Sciences Discovery Fund. The money is to help Omeros continue its quest to make it possible for drug developers to make treatments against more than 100 currently inaccessible protein targets.

—Seattle-based Immune Design said this week it has struck its first Big Pharma partnership, by providing AstraZeneca’s MedImmune unit with the right to use an immune-boosting compound to boost the effectiveness of a vaccine candidate against respiratory syncytial virus. Full terms of the deal aren’t being disclosed, although Immune Design says it stands to get as much as $212 million in development and sales-based milestones.

—I profiled a new IT startup with an interesting idea for helping Big Pharma and biotech companies better engage with patients online. The company, Corengi, is seeking to build a Wikipedia-style site in which patients with Type 2 diabetes can share information about clinical trials, with an eye toward encouraging more people to participate and speed up the notoriously slow process. If Corengi can make this work in diabetes, it has its sights set on other helping pharma companies recruit patients with other diseases too.

—Kirkland, WA-based OVP Venture Partners is eagerly awaiting news from the IPO front on one of its portfolio companies, Mountain View, CA-based Complete Genomics. This company, which offers a low-cost genome sequencing service to researchers, said it hopes to price its shares at a range of $12 to $14. One of its rivals in the faster/cheaper gene sequencing field, Menlo Park, CA-based Pacific Biosciences (NASDAQ: PACB), completed its IPO this week at $16 a share, which showed that at least some investors want in on this new wave of genomic technology.

Mitch Gold, the CEO of Seattle-based Dendreon (NASDAQ: [[ticker:DNDN]) had some political statements to share at last week’s annual meeting of the Washington Biotechnology & Biomedical Association, which was combined with the Governor’s Life Sciences Summit. He talked about taxes, education, and a whole bunch of other things.

—One of the big things I’ve been getting ready for this week is Xconomy Seattle’s “VC Crossfire” event at Amazon. My colleague Greg Huang is in town to co-moderate this panel, which features Bob Nelsen, Tom Alberg, Andy Sack, and Chris Henney. These guys have a ton of experience in financing innovation in both tech and life sciences, so we’re eager to hear their thoughts on where this is going now that the venture capital model is under siege.

—And lastly, Ken Myer contributed a thoughtful editorial about how even in the downturn, when so many people are out of work, technology leaders often still find it hard to recruit top-notch people in technical fields of science and engineering. So, Myer contends, the state needs to stick to get more serious about inspiring young kids to pursue careers in these fields.

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