Dendreon Wins Medicare Coverage, Clarisonic Tops $100M in Sales, Sage Partners Up, & More Seattle-Area Life Sciences News

3/31/11Follow @xconomy

This was a pretty quiet news week for Seattle biotech except for one big decision that affects the hot cancer drug company in town.

—Seattle-based Dendreon (NASDAQ: DNDN) has produced enough evidence to win full reimbursement from Medicare for its $93,000 prostate cancer drug, sipuleucel-T (Provenge). This move was widely expected since Dendreon passed muster at a public hearing in November, but it’s still a pretty big win.

Sage Bionetworks, the Seattle-based nonprofit seeking to spark an open-source movement for biology, said this week it has started working on projects for a couple of supporters—Japan-based Takeda Pharmaceutical and the CHDI Foundation. Both projects are about creating computational models for neurological disorders, which might help researchers do a better job of developing treatments. Sage also recently struck a deal with AstraZeneca to help with its cancer research.

—You’d never know it by driving by this nondescript warehouse in Bellevue’s Factoria neighborhood, but Clarisonic is fast becoming one of the biggest tech startup hits of the past few years in Seattle. The company, which makes a sonic wave brush that helps women get rid of dirt, oils, and makeup, surpassed $100 million in sales last year, its fifth year on the market, according to president Jack Gallagher. Who’s buying this device, which costs between $149 and $225? Pop sensation Lady Gaga and her mom, for starters.

—Seattle-based Frazier Healthcare Ventures completed its acquisition this week of a medical instrument repair and management company, OnSite Services, from San Diego-based Carefusion (NYSE: CFN). Terms weren’t disclosed.

AVI Biopharma (NASDAQ: AVII), the Bothell, WA-based developer of RNA-based therapies, hired Peter Linsley as its new chief scientific officer. Most recently, Linsley was the chief scientist at San Diego-based Regulus Therapeutics, but he’s a familiar name in these parts, from his past experience with Merck/Rosetta Inpharmatics and Bristol-Myers Squibb.

—This week in BioBeat, I took aim at Big Pharma, saying it has grown too big and bureaucratic to develop innovative new drugs, and that it would be better off breaking up into nimbler, more manageable companies. I’d like to hear your comments on this, whether you think this is spot-on, dead wrong, or somehow beside the point.

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