Omeros Flunks Pivotal Trials, Dendreon’s Shareholder Hubbub, AVI Biopharma Nabs $30M, & More Seattle-Area Life Sciences News

4/7/11Follow @xconomy

Lots of little blurbs crossed the desk this week, along with one major blowup for a drug in the third and final stage of clinical trials.

—Seattle-based Omeros (NASDAQ: OMER) said it failed in a series of pivotal clinical trials with its anti-inflammatory drug to help patients undergoing arthroscopic knee surgery. The trials, which enrolled more than 1,000 patients from 2004 through 2010, were a big reason investors bought into the Omeros IPO of October 2009. The stock is down 39 percent since the news broke.

—An individual shareholder in Kansas kicked up a debate online after calling for a boardroom shakeup at Seattle-based Dendreon (NASDAQ: DNDN). Brad Loncar accused the company of failing to properly look out for the interests of small shareholders, and encouraged fellow readers of a popular stock message board, InvestorVillage.com, to urge the company to add one or two new board members to represent those interests. Loncar says he has received some support in his effort, along with plenty of vocal criticism.

—Bothell, WA-based Halosource, the maker of technology for purifying drinking water in the developing world, introduced three new products that consumers use at home. These are powered-water pitchers, or a gravity-based water container that use Halosource’s technology for killing viruses and bacteria. The company made its initial inroads into developing world markets by selling a replaceable cartridge with its technology that works with devices made by other companies.

—Vancouver, BC-based Tekmira Pharmaceuticals made headlines a few weeks ago when it accused its partner, Cambridge, MA-based Alnylam Pharmaceuticals (NASDAQ: ALNY) of misappropriating trade secrets related to the delivery of RNA interference drugs into cells. Now Alnylam has formally responded to the allegation in court, saying it plans to fully defend itself.

—Seattle-based Oncothyreon (NASDAQ: ONTY) said this week it has started a mid-stage clinical trial of drug for brain cancer, PX-866, which is designed to work against one of the high-profile molecular targets in cancer biology—the PI3 kinase. The study is enrolling 30 patients at seven sites in Canada.

—This week’s BioBeat column was about antibiotics, and why more biotech entrepreneurs should take this field seriously. I listed a few promising companies I’ve covered in this business all over the country, but couldn’t think of a single example of an antibiotics company from Seattle. If any readers out there have an idea why that is—or can alert me to some promising company I overlooked—please enlighten me at ltimmerman@xconomy.com.

—The University of Washington’s Center for Commercialization said last week it has added five new people to its roster of entrepreneurs-in-residence, who scout for university technologies with business potential. Ron Berenson, the former CEO of HemaQuest Pharmaceuticals, and Stephanie Amoss, formerly of Pathway Medical Technologies, are a couple of the new additions with expertise in biotech and medical devices, respectively.

—Bothell, WA-based AVI Biopharma (NASDAQ: AVII) said it has raised $30 million through a stock offering. The company followed up a few days later to say its underwriters exercised their options to buy extra shares, meaning that AVI netted about $32 million after paying expenses. AVI said previously that it entered this year with about $34 million of cash in the bank, and a plan to spend about $23 million to $28 million of its cash on operations.

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