PhaseRx Angles for a Deal, Tom Clement’s New Device Gig(s), InDi’s Alzheimer’s Plan, & More in the Life Science Innovation Northwest Wrap-Up

3/4/11Follow @xconomy

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long-term access to the Presage technology to help improve its drug discovery capabilities. It will be structured so Presage gets paid for performing the service, and so that Presage retains some percentage ownership of drugs the Big Pharma company discovers this way, Olson said.

Presage, which has raised $4 million, is using a multi-pronged probe to deliver various experimental drugs or combinations of them directly into human tumor tissue to see how well the drugs work. This is thought to be a more reliable tool for drug discovery than traditional cell culture based tests in petri dishes, which are a more artificial environment where tumors behave differently than in the body, Olson said.

One interesting nugget—Olson said that Bob Nelsen of Arch Venture Partners advised the company to pitch this technology to Big Pharma discovery groups, instead of trying to commercialize it as a diagnostic tool to help physicians decide which cancer drug to prescribe their patients. The FDA could easily derail such a business plan, Nelsen advised.

—David McElligott, the scientific leader of Seattle-based Mirina, talked about progress this startup has made in the fledgling world of microRNA therapies. The company is pursuing an undisclosed microRNA target for the treatment of cancer, and expects to begin IND-enabling studies (the animal tests you gotta do before starting a clinical trial) before the end of 2011. The company is completing biodistribution studies in mice, which show it can deliver its microRNA drug throughout the body—a key hurdle drugs in this class need to clear.

MicroRNA is one of the hot fields of biology at the moment, and San Diego-based Regulus Therapeutics has even been murmuring about the possibility of doing an IPO, even though it hasn’t yet entered clinical trials. Accelerator president David Schubert, when asked if Mirina is rooting for a Regulus IPO so that it, too, can cash in on microRNA frenzy, would only say, “we wish the folks at Regulus well.”

McElligott gets the prize for the best deadpan wisecrack of the meeting. “We have five employees, four of whom are very dedicated,” he said. After pausing for comic effect, he added: “I’m the other one.”

—This year, I also saw the re-emergence of one of the most successful (and low profile) biotech entrepreneurs in Seattle—Todd Patrick. He was the president of Bothell, WA and Vancouver, BC-based ID Biomedical when that company was sold to GlaxoSmithKline for $1.5 billion in 2005.

Patrick’s new venture is called C3 Jian, a Los Angeles-based company that is developing an antibacterial oral rinse for tooth decay.

The company has raised $40 million to date. The idea is to bring a pharmaceutical approach to the dentist’s office, directly challenging the “drill & fill” ethic that dominates in the $100 billion annual U.S. market for dental services.

Dentists already use broad-spectrum antibiotics to fight infections that lead to tooth decay, but it kills all the good and bad bacteria in the mouth for a while, then allows the bad bacteria to come back stronger, Patrick said. C3 Jian’s scientific founder, UCLA professor Wenyuan Shi, has been working on specifically targeted antimicrobial peptides that ought to kill the bad stuff. The hope is that C3 Jian will be able to develop a 30-second mouth rinse, taken once or twice a year, Patrick said. An application to start clinical trials should be ready by the end of 2011, and if all goes according to plan, the rinse could reach the market in 2016 or 2017, he said.

Patrick gets the prize for the funniest wardrobe malfunction of Life Science Innovation Northwest. Part of his collar flipped up in a dorky-looking way, out from under his sportcoat (which come to think of it, has afflicted Xconomy founder Bob Buderi once or twice, as I recall). Anyway, one of Patrick’s board members in the audience, H. Stewart Parker, quipped that part of her job on the board is to “make sure the CEO is presentable.” I’m pretty sure I saw her wince when that collar flipped back up.

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