Resolve Maps Out New Biotech Model, SeaGen Expands, Schadt Heads East, & More in Seattle-Area Life Sciences News

5/19/11Follow @xconomy

Local biotech people and companies were moving onward and upward this week.

Eric Schadt, the shorts-wearing, motorcycle-riding genomics brainiac, the guy who made his name at Seattle’s Rosetta Inpharmatics, is moving to the Big Apple to run a big new genomics institute at Mt. Sinai School of Medicine. Schadt, a co-founder of Seattle-based Sage Bionetworks, says this move should help him pour lots more data into Sage’s fledgling open source database for biologists.

—Should biology move away from its close-to-the-vest tradition, and embrace the whole open source culture to develop better drugs? I’m going to put this question up for a debate between Sage co-founder Stephen Friend and MIT’s legendary biologist, Phil Sharp, at Xconomy’s biggest event of the year, XSITE, in suburban Boston on June 16. A few other familiar faces to readers in Seattle—Charlotte Hubbert of Accelerator, Norm Wu of Qliance Medical Management, and Mike Martino of Carefusion—will also be part of the agenda at the XSITE conference. More to come on what that’s all about in the weeks ahead.

—First things first, I’m running another event for Xconomy here tonight in Seattle called “Separating Hype from Reality in Alternative Fuels.” Yesterday, I laid out the program highlights, which include big ideas being backed by Boeing, Bill Gates, Waste Management, and Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers, among others. Tickets are still available, and you can sign up here at the last minute.

PATH, the Seattle-based global health nonprofit, said its vice president of external relations, Scott Jackson, is leaving to become the CEO of Alexandria, VA-based Global Insight.

—Seattle-based Resolve Therapeutics raised its first $2 million in venture capital this week, which may not sound like much. But the real story was in how CEO Jim Posada plans to put that capital to work. Instead of relying on a future IPO or acquisition, Resolve is seeking to generate returns through striking a licensing deal in a few years with a Big Pharma company.

—Bothell, WA-based Marina Biotech (NASDAQ: MRNA), the RNA interference company that’s like a cat with nine lives, raised another $6.9 million through a stock offering this week.

Seattle Genetics (NASDAQ: SGEN) continued to gear up during this big year of growth, by taking a seven-year lease on a new building that will cost about $7.7 million. The company, which is vying for FDA approval of a new drug for Hodgkin’s disease and a related lymphoma, started the year with about 350 employees, and plans to end this year with about 500, according to company spokeswoman Peggy Pinkston.

Will biotech ever again captivate the public imagination like Facebook or LinkedIn? That was the question I posed in this week’s BioBeat column. Maybe I’m just being reflective now that I’ve been writing about this business for 10 years, and still haven’t seen a moment when this industry crossed over into mainstream public awareness like it once did. Commenters I’ve heard from aren’t very optimistic about whether this situation will change.

—We had a couple of strong guest op-eds this week that hit upon biotech-related themes, from very different perspectives. Barrie Carter, the president of the American Society of Gene and Cell Therapy and the former chief scientist of Targeted Genetics, offered an upbeat take on “The Resurgence of Gene & Cell Therapy” as a bit of a preview of his organization’s annual meeting, which is going on this week in downtown Seattle. Despite lots of encouraging advances like this in the local biotech and scientific community, Richard Gayle notes that the local job market in biotech is still pretty bleak for lots of people, and there has to be a better way to enable life scientists to remain gainfully employed.

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