Seattle Genetics’ Home Run, NanoString’s Diagnostics Foray, PATH’s 50-Cent Vaccine, & More Seattle-Area Life Sciences News

12/9/10Follow @xconomy

Seattle biotech was popping up on this site all over the weekend—when we don’t usually publish—so here’s the place to catch up on some significant news you may have missed.

Seattle Genetics (NASDAQ: SGEN) was one of the belles of the ball at the American Society of Hematology (ASH) meeting in Orlando, FL over the weekend. The company showed off some truly remarkable results for its “empowered antibody” against both Hodgkin’s disease, and anaplastic large cell lymphoma. Wall Street has been bidding up Seattle Genetics shares for months in anticipation, so there was a predictable buy-on-the-rumor-sell-on-the-news phenomenon. There is some reasonable debate going on now about how much sales potential this drug really has. But don’t be fooled into thinking that some red on a stock chart means something bad just happened. Doctors are buzzing about this potent new cancer drug, and eager to get their hands on it.

NanoString Technologies, the Seattle-based maker of a digital genetic analysis instrument, said this week it has obtained some key intellectual property that will pave the way for the company’s first serious commercial push into the molecular diagnostics business. The company hopes to use its instrument to look for a 50-gene signature which is thought to help doctors classify the severity of certain forms of breast cancer, and help them make better individualized treatment decisions.

PATH, the Seattle-based global health nonprofit, has been getting a lot of attention this week for its push to deliver to some of the poorest countries in Africa a new meningitis vaccine, which it developed along with its partners at the World Health Organization and private companies in the Netherlands and India. PATH president Chris Elias helped explain the long and creative journey his organization took, with about $70 million of support from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, to create a vaccine without help from any of the classic Big Pharma players.

—Seattle Genetics may have taken the starring role at the ASH meeting, but Seattle-based Calistoga Pharmaceuticals turned some heads as well. Calistoga released some more follow-up data to show that its CAL-101 compound is standing up to the test of time as a potent new agent against chronic lymphocytic leukemia and slow-growing “indolent” non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma. This study has laid the foundation for a pivotal trial Calistoga plans to start late this year or early next year, which could clear the way for FDA approval. Sally Church, the prolific cancer consultant and blogger who goes by the MaverickNY handle on Twitter, singled this drug out as one of her favorite compounds to watch at ASH.

—Instead of flying to ASH over the weekend, I hopped a shorter flight down to San Francisco for an exclusive event for life science leaders called Convergence. There were a number of thoughtful panels and chats about the state of biotech, and I summed up one of the panels which focused on how to raise money for an honest-to-god innovative biotech startup. There were a number of great insights, and a few zingers to pass along.

—Lastly, we had a guest op-ed from Diane Bieri, the executive vice president and general counsel for the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America (PhRMA). She weighed in with her view on how potential changes to patent litigation could harm innovative biotech companies like those in Seattle.

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