Adaptive TCR Seeks to Dominate New Industry, Ultrasound on an iPhone, AVI Names CEO, & More Seattle-Area Life Sciences News

12/16/10Follow @xconomy

The medical meeting season has passed, and pretty soon Seattle biotechs will go into hibernation for the holidays. But here are a few headlines to catch up on you may have missed in the last week.

—Washington’s Life Sciences Discovery Fund had never invested in a corporation until October, when it agreed to pump $5 million into a drug discovery project at Seattle-based Omeros (NASDAQ: OMER). Like many people, I was under the impression that the state couldn’t really do things like this because of a constitutional prohibition against investing in companies. But executive director Lee Huntsman explained in this follow up interview how this deal was structured in a way that passed legal muster, and which he says could provide a significant return on investment for the state, and a nonprofit entity that may someday replace the Life Sciences Discovery Fund.

—We had the exclusive feature this week on Seattle-based Adaptive TCR, a spinoff from the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center, that has made major strides as a business in its first full year of operations. The company, which is seeking to dominate a new industry in what it calls immune system profiling, has signed up more than 50 academic customers this year, CEO Chad Robins says.

—The future of ultrasound may be on an iPhone, if the folks at Redmond, WA-based Mobisante are correct. This was one of a couple of interesting life sciences startups that were featured last week at the Northwest Startup Demo conference, organized by the MIT Enterprise Forum of the Northwest.

—We announced the next big event on the calendar at Xconomy Seattle, a conference we are calling “Computing in the Age of the $1,000 Genome.” This event, set for February 7 at Swedish Medical Center’s James Tower Auditorium, will feature leading speakers at the nexus of computing and biology from around the West Coast. Today is the last day to get the “super saver” discounted rate, so if you plan on attending, this is the best time to get a ticket.

—Bothell, WA-based AVI Biopharma (NASDAQ: AVII), the developer of RNA-based therapies, named former Celgene executive Chris Garabedian as its new CEO this week. He steps in after former CEO Les Hudson was ousted in a shareholder revolt last April.

OVP Venture Partners hadn’t had an IPO in a long time until last month, when Mountain View, CA-based Complete Genomics (NASDAQ: GNOM) pulled off that daring feat. I caught up with CEO Cliff Reid last week, and asked him about his company’s business plan to sequence complete human genomes specifically for cancer researchers.

—The Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center has been on a major push to boost its immunotherapy programs, and it got an assist from the community with donations from its annual Hutch Holiday Gala. This year, the center pulled in $5.6 million in donations, which was enough over a two-year period to trigger a full $10 million matching grant from the family of Amazon founder Jeff Bezos.

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