SeaGen’s Big Day at the FDA, Hutch Nabs $20M HIV Grant, Allozyne’s Nasdaq Plan, & More Seattle-Area Life Sciences News

7/14/11Follow @xconomy

This week, all eyes in Seattle biotech are on Seattle Genetics. If you don’t know why, here’s a chance to catch up. If nothing else, this will provide plenty of fodder for conversation at today’s WBBA Summer Social, which I plan to attend this afternoon.

Seattle Genetics (NASDAQ: SGEN) is making its case today in front of an FDA advisory panel that’s reviewing the company’s lead drug candidate, brentuximab vedotin (Adcetris). If the FDA ends up clearing this drug for sale in the U.S., it will not only be Seattle Genetics’ first marketable product after 14 years in business, it also has a chance to be a trailblazer in a new category of therapy, as the world’s first commercially viable “smart bomb” for cancer. The FDA staff review, in documents posted online Thursday, was benign to say the least. I plan to listen to the proceedings via webcast, and report on the FDA panel’s vote and commentary later today.

—Seattle-based Allozyne is seeking to go public through the backdoor route, a reverse merger with a shell of a public company—Poniard Pharmaceuticals (NASDAQ: PARD). CEO Meenu Chhabra talked about all the steps that she’s taking to generate interest in Allozyne on Wall Street, and how this is different from the traditional IPO route.

—Not all the news this week from Seattle Genetics was of the happy variety. Zishen Fan, the brother of a former Seattle Genetics employee, pleaded guilty to federal charges that he traded on inside information about the company in order to pocket more than $700,000 in profits. Fan could face as much as 20 years in prison, according to a statement from the U.S. Attorney’s Office for Western Washington.

—The Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center said this week it has secured a $20 million grant from the National Institutes of Health to investigate a new HIV prevention strategy, along with collaborators at the University of Washington, and Richmond, CA-based Sangamo Biosciences (NASDAQ: SGMO), among others.

—The biotech industry today is facing lots of problems, and one them is a lack of guts. That’s the position I took in this week’s BioBeat column. So far, I can say the response has been overwhelmingly positive to this column—apparently biotechies still have thick skins, which I consider a good thing.

Fate Therapeutics, the San Diego-based company that was co-founded by University of Washington stem cell researcher Randy Moon, disclosed that it has cut back on its small-molecule discovery work and laid off a handful of employees, to concentrate on developing biotech drugs. John Mendlein, the executive chairman, explained the moves in this Xconomy exclusive report.

—Lastly, we had a couple of guest editorials of interest to the local life sciences scene. Stewart Parker, now the CEO of the Infectious Disease Research Institute, offered up some insights into what she saw during her time as a commercialization consultant at the WBBA. And Melinda Moree, the CEO of BIO Ventures for Global Health, provided a fascinating case study on how biotech and global health organizations can work together in really productive ways.

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