ZymoGenetics CEO Exits Stage, Resolve’s Recession-Era Biotech Plan, Ikaria Pulls IPO, & More Seattle-Area Life Sciences News

11/11/10Follow @xconomy

Two of the Seattle area’s venture capitalists watched the IPO market with bated breath this week, and while one looks like it will get a cherished liquidity event, another saw its hopes dashed at the 11th hour.

Ikaria, the hibernation-on-demand company with technology from the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center, slashed its IPO asking price by 38 percent yesterday and then withdrew the offering altogether by the end of the day, according to Dow Jones. It’s a big disappointment for Arch Venture Partners, which was in line to have its stake valued at $56 million if Ikaria had been able to close  the deal at the mid-point of its projected IPO price range.

—The team at Kirkland, WA-based OVP Venture Partners had to have a better feeling yesterday than Arch, but it didn’t see the home run it was hoping for, either. One of OVP’s portfolio companies, Mountain View, CA-based Complete Genomics, scaled back its IPO price, settling on a price of $9 a share, after setting a prior range of $12 to $14. OVP’s stake in company, a provider of low-cost gene sequencing services, will now be worth about $26 million, based on the latest disclosure with the Securities and Exchange Commission.

—We broke the news—no big surprise, really—that ZymoGenetics CEO Doug Williams has left Bristol-Myers Squibb now that the $885 million takeover has been completed. I took this opportunity to take stock of Williams’ tumultuous 22-month run as a first-time CEO, and I asked him about what he plans to do next in a follow-up Q&A. A few of you wrote to me that I should have been harder on Williams, because even though most people consider him a good guy, he and the board screwed up this opportunity big time when people’s livelihoods were on the line. This reminded me of a peculiar phenomenon in the biotech industry. If this story happened in a tech company, there would probably be an outright brawl in the comments section at the bottom of the article. While I could do without a lot of the spam and garbage that passes for online commentary on most sites, maybe it would be healthy for us oh-so-polite Seattleites to air these grievances in public every once in a while. Maybe we’d learn something along the way.

—Despite all the legitimate angst that’s out there, it’s also clear to me that there are actually legit signs of rebirth in Seattle biotech for the first time in years. Xconomy is bringing together a few of these key players—Mitch Gold, Clay Siegall, Carol Gallagher, Randy Schatzman—for what I guarantee will be a provocative event at PATH on Nov. 29. There are not many seats left.

—One interesting story of renewal in the Seattle biotech community popped up on my radar this week. Resolve Therapeutics, a company co-founded by a proven scientist in Jeff Ledbetter, has spun off from the University of Washington and attracted a former Eli Lilly dealmaker as CEO. This startup, which aims to make an injectable protein drug for lupus, has crafted a business plan unlike most biotechs, in which it seeks to give investors a realistic chance at getting a return on their money in less than three years.

—Seattle-based Dendreon (NASDAQ: DNDN) said this week that it has now applied for FDA approval to essentially quadruple the capacity of its first factory in New Jersey that makes sipuleucel-T (Provenge) for men with prostate cancer. It usually takes regulators about four months to complete their review, so that means Dendreon should be able to start ramping up production in the first quarter of next year. But it’s really just an incremental step, because the company has said it needs to win FDA authorization for two other factories in the Atlanta and Los Angeles areas before it can start to meet demand from patients in the U.S.

Marina Biotech (NASDAQ: MRNA), the Bothell, WA-based developer of RNA interference drug technology, raised $3.3 million in a stock offering.

—Across town in Bothell, OncoGenex Pharmaceuticals (NASDAQ: OGXI) said it hired veteran biotech executive Michelle Burris to be its new executive vice president of operations and chief financial officer. Burris had been at Seattle-based Trubion Pharmaceuticals, which was acquired by Rockville, MD-based Emergent Biosolutions (NYSE: EBS).

—Lastly, I wrote about some of things former Corbis CEO Steve Davis has learned through his latest foray in global health, as the interim director of PATH’s programs in India. Things don’t look quite the same in the boardroom or on a PowerPoint as they do on the ground in New Dehli, Davis discovered.

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