Seattle Genetics Manager Accused of Insider Trading, Bristol Stays in Seattle, Amgen Buys BioVex, & More Seattle-Area Life Sciences News

1/27/11Follow @xconomy

We had news galore this week on the Seattle biotech beat, with a mondo acquisition, an accusation of insider trading, and a prominent report pronouncing the U.S. medical device industry in a state of decline. Take a gander at the flurry of headlines here.

Amgen (NASDAQ: AMGN), which has significant immunology R&D operations in Seattle, announced this week it has made a potential $1 billion bet on Woburn, MA-based BioVex, a company attempting to rev up the immune system to fight cancer in a new way. I caught up with Amgen R&D boss Roger Perlmutter in an exclusive interview the next day to find out why he’s become a believer in what’s known as the oncolytic virus approach.

Seattle Genetics (NASDAQ: SGEN) has had a lot to be excited about this past year, but now it has a real headache. The Securities and Exchange Commission has accused one of its employees of illegally tipping off a family member that really good news would be coming soon from the company’s cancer drug in development for Hodgkin’s disease. The SEC said the insider trading netted $800,000 in illegal profits. The agency said Seattle Genetics is cooperating with regulators.

Bristol-Myers Squibb (NYSE: BMY) has decided to stay in Seattle, and retain what’s left of the ZymoGenetics workforce, the company said this week. Local officials, including Gov. Chris Gregoire and Chris Rivera, the president of the Washington Biotechnology & Biomedical Association, thanked the company for providing a much-needed vote of confidence in the local biotech community. But Bristol has sound business reasons to hold onto its Zymo assets, beyond keeping local officials happy. Zymo’s lead asset in development for hepatitis C is now far more valuable than it was when Bristol acquired the company, because of a clinical stumble by a competitor last month.

—Seattle-based Calypso Medical Technologies had a couple of blurb-worthy items this week. The Seattle-based medical device company pulled in another $6.4 million through a securities offering, and named Ed Vertatschich as its new CEO, replacing Eric Meier.

—I reminded readers about our next big upcoming event at Xconomy Seattle, titled “Computing in the Age of the $1,000 Genome.” This is coming up fast, on February 7th, at Swedish Medical Center’s Cherry Hill Campus. It’s a rare opportunity to bring together Lee Hood of the Institute for Systems Biology, along with key leaders at Microsoft and Amazon, as well as leading entrepreneurs from the Bay Area—Complete Genomics and PacBio. If you’d like to register, click here.

—One of Seattle’s well-known medical device inventors, Clif Alferness, showed up in these pages this week when I had a chance to profile his latest startup, Redwood City, CA-based Calibra Medical. CEO Jeff Purvin talked about how Calibra has developed a cheap and easy way to deliver insulin to diabetics with one needlestick every three days, instead of once or more per day.

Venture capital financing stats flowed in this week, closing the book on 2010, and news flash—it’s still ugly out there for entrepreneurs seeking venture capital. You can see the decade-long trend in this piece, and read comments from OVP’s Carl Weissman on what has to happen to reverse the downward trajectory.

—Is the U.S. losing its mojo as the world leader in medical device innovation? A new report from PwC says yes, although I’m not so sure the folks in India and China are quite ready to start eating our lunch here in the States. I’m curious to hear what more of our readers have to say about this.

—Seattle-based Geospiza, a longtime maker of software for biological research, inked a new multi-year collaboration with one of the very big life sciences toolmakers—Waltham, MA-based PerkinElmer (NYSE: PKI).

—Lastly, we had an interesting guest post from Jim Posada, the CEO of Seattle-based Resolve Therapeutics, on “the new normal for biotech startups.” Anybody who’s ever wondered how you can build a business after spending a decade or more and a billion dollars to find out if you maybe have a product ought to read this. Posada is one of many entrepreneurs trying to find a way to develop drugs in a way in which investors can get reasonable returns without waiting 20 years.

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