Dendreon’s Plan to Meet Demand, Arch Banks on Ikaria IPO, RF Surgical Leaves No Sponge Behind, & More Seattle-Area Life Sciences News

11/4/10Follow @xconomy

There was that minor election thing this week, but the biotech community didn’t have the good sense to stand down and let the politicians hog all the spotlight. Get caught up on your headlines here.

Dendreon (NASDAQ: DNDN) reported its third quarter financial results, and since this is just the second quarter of operations since the FDA approval of sipuleucel-T (Provenge), it was a biggie. I did a pre-game story about manufacturing and reimbursement issues the company is dealing with, and a recap mostly on what was said about how Dendreon hopes to start meeting full demand from patients in the fourth quarter of 2011.

—One of the big biotech IPOs on the calendar next week is for Clinton, NJ-based Ikaria. Seattle venture capitalist Bob Nelsen at Arch Venture Partners is holding his breath on this one, since his early investment in the hibernation-on-demand technology from the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center could be worth more than $55 million if Ikaria can price its IPO at $16, the midpoint of the forecasted range. The Hutch stands to gain too, although regulatory filings I dug through aren’t as clear on how many shares it has left after a reverse stock split.

—Xconomy broke the news about a new $20 million startup investment fund at the University of Washington, which will have an impact on UW’s ability to spin out tech and biotech companies. The Husky Bridge Investment Fund, based on a model at the University of Utah, seeks to put business students to work on a lot of business fundamentals, and help entrepreneurial faculty with the first $250,000 or $500,000 they need to get the kind of evidence they need to entice angels and VCs, according to UW vice provost Linden Rhoads.

—I took some time to profile RF Surgical Systems, a Bellevue, WA-based company that makes radio-frequency tags that get embedded in surgical sponges. This is supposed to make it so surgeons and nurses never have to worry about losing a surgical sponge (and potentially sewing up a patient with one left in the body). This adds extra cost to the usual commodity sponge, and co-founder Jeffrey Port talked about how RF hopes to persuade hospitals to shell out.

—This was a San Francisco feature story that has some strong Seattle angles. Hyperion Therapeutics, a company developing a new drug for rare urea cycle disorders, said this week that it reached its goal in a pivotal clinical trial and plans to seek FDA approval by the end of September. Hyperion raised $60 million a year ago from a syndicate that included Seattle-based WRF Capital. The company also used to be led by WBBA president Chris Rivera, a veteran of the rare-disease business from his days at Cambridge, MA-based Genzyme (NASDAQ: GENZ).

—Biotech companies got a lot of stuff they wanted out of healthcare reform, and some of the big prizes arrived in the mail this week. The IRS notified companies that won grants under a $1 billion program doled out in small chunks to a lot of startups with 250 employees or less. In Washington, I did a roundup of 83 companies that pulled in a combined $34 million. That’s why I couldn’t resist digging up a picture of Uncle Sam handing out some cash to illustrate this one. Stewart Lyman offered more insight into this program in a guest column.

—Vancouver, BC-based Allon Therapeutics raised $10 million this week to advance its lead drug candidate for neurological disorders.

—Veteran drug developer Bruce Montgomery, who stepped down from Gilead Sciences in August, said he was joining the board of Bothell, WA-based Alder Biopharmaceuticals this week.

—One last guest column I wanted to bring to your attention. Michael Gilman, the CEO of a Boston-area biotech startup called Stromedix, wrote a fun and interesting op-ed about how he’s discovered Twitter can be a valuable resource for him, not a waste of time like so many of his peers think. I’d personally like to see a few more biotechies take the Twitter plunge to see what’s there, but I’d also welcome any post from someone out there who thinks differently, that maybe this is all bunk.

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