Theraclone Nabs Big Pfizer Deal, Dendreon Pockets $540M, Seattle Genetics’ Close-Up, & More Seattle-Area Life Sciences News

1/20/11Follow @xconomy

One of the Accelerator graduates made news last week (Allozyne) and this week another alumnus from the Seattle biotech startup propeller took its turn making headlines.

—Seattle-based Theraclone Sciences (an Accelerator grad) said it has formed an alliance with the world’s largest drugmaker, New York-based Pfizer (NYSE: PFE). Pfizer will get access to Theraclone’s antibody discovery platform to develop new drugs against certain targets for cancer and infectious diseases. The total value of this deal is $632 million over time, and as much as 30 to 40 percent of the cash could come from “near-term” milestones, says acting president Steve Gillis.

—Seattle-based Dendreon (NASDAQ: DNDN) continued to seize its momentum by snapping up a debt financing worth $540 million, which it plans to use as part of its strategy to take its immune-booster for prostate cancer into Europe. If Dendreon stock continues its bull run of 2010 throughout 2011, it’s possible that much of the debt could be wiped off the books and converted into stock.

—The other public biotech company in town that’s on a hot streak, Seattle Genetics (NASDAQ: SGEN), took its turn in front of the national TV cameras of CNBC last week. CEO Clay Siegall talked about the clinical trial results that support its “empowered antibody” for certain lymphomas. He also shed a little light on how he’s thinking about pricing this drug if it wins FDA approval, which many investors are expecting to happen this year.

Ekos, the Bothell, WA-based developer of ultrasound technology for treating blockages in blood vessels, said this week it has won clearance to start marketing its Ekosonic product in the European Union for patients with clots in the lungs. As the FDA approval process looks ever more uncertain for med device makers, we are seeing more and more announcements like this, where new medical devices here get introduced first in Europe.

—We have wrapped up our series of Xconomist editorials that look ahead at the big trends to watch in infotech, biotech, and cleantech. I compiled the list of editorials we’ve run across our 5-city national network, and I’m pretty sure a few of these are of interest to folks in the Seattle biotech community.

Arzeda, the University of Washington spinoff that uses computers to make custom-built enzymes, has achieved a technical milestone as part of its collaboration with DuPont’s Pioneer Hi-Bred business unit. Arzeda has developed a novel enzyme that is “showing activity toward a trait of interest” in corn and soybeans, Pioneer says.

—We’ve already hit the theme “Biotech’s Back in Seattle” through one of our Xconomy events from November, but I came back to this theme during a talk at the University of Washington‘s South Lake Union campus. Here’s the link to (most of) the archived webcast of the talk for those who couldn’t be there in person.

—Seattle-based Cell Therapeutics (NASDAQ: CTIC) said this week it raised $25 million from a single investor, whose name wasn’t disclosed.

—We had an intriguing guest post from Stewart Lyman, who posed the question on whether biotech suffers from information overload, or underload. Essentially, biotech startups can’t afford to have access to a lot of the high-priced peer-reviewed journals they might have been able to read in yesteryear, so Lyman wonders what kind of impact that might have on their ability to innovate. As always, you are welcome to add your comments. Believe me, I read them, and sometimes get good ideas for follow-up stories from our readers, so keep them coming.

—On Friday, I banged out a quick wrapup of my whirlwind trip to the JP Morgan Healthcare Conference in San Francisco. I gathered a ton of news from contacts around the country there, and also snapped a few pictures along the way of people well known to local biotechies. One of the shots was of Keith Crandell of Arch Venture Partners teasing his fellow partner Bob Nelsen.

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