Gates Bets on Computer Drug Discovery, Tachi Yamada Joins Frazier, Dendreon’s LA OK, & More in Seattle-Area Life Sciences News

6/30/11Follow @xconomy

This week we had some global health news, some politics, and some personnel moves to keep things humming here on the local biotech desk as head into summer.

Bill Gates is spending most of his fortune on tackling the health woes of the world’s poorest people, but every once in a while he invests in a for-profit biotech company. This week, he joined a $24 million Series A round in Cambridge, MA-based Nimbus Discovery, which is developing drugs against a couple of new biological targets discovered through computerized screening.

Tachi Yamada, who formerly ran the Gates Foundation’s global health programs, has found a new job as a venture capitalist with Seattle-based Frazier Healthcare Ventures. It will be interesting to see if Yamada will help bring more of a global health flavor to Frazier’s portfolio through, say, investing in vaccines and diagnostics.

—Seattle-based Dendreon (NASDAQ: DNDN), as expected, won FDA clearance for its new Los Angeles factory to produce more sipuleucel-T (Provenge). The company now has factories in New Jersey, and LA, and a third one still under regulatory review in Atlanta, GA. As I noted in a quick post last night, getting all those factories running on time is key to Dendreon’s plan to meet its sales forecast of $350 million to $400 million in 2011.

—This week’s BioBeat was about the latest political gambit to watch for from the Biotechnology Industry Organization. BIO is looking to push a raft of pro-industry proposals through Congress that take square aim at the regulatory agency so many biotechies love to hate—the FDA. I picked up a positive vibe from biotech executives while I was attending BIO in Washington D.C., but I’m still skeptical the industry will get its way.

—Before I shuttled off to the BIO meeting, I sat down with the head of Merck’s vaccine division, Julie Gerberding, while she was in Seattle for the Pacific Health Summit. Gerberding, the former CDC director, talked about the company’s priorities in delivering the vaccines it already has to people around the world, and in developing new ones to keep growing revenues to offset some of the losses from drugs that are losing patent protection.

—Lastly, we reported on a couple of financings of small local companies. Seattle-based Atossa Genetics, the developer of a diagnostic test for breast cancer, raised $6.6 million in a private financing, after floating the idea of a $15 million IPO over the past year. And Seattle-based Impel Neuropharma, a University of Washington spinoff seeking to better deliver drugs to the brain, said it had raked in $750,000 through a grant from the U.S. Department of Defense.

By posting a comment, you agree to our terms and conditions.