SeaGen Passes FDA Panel, Ken Stuart’s Journey to Seattle Biomed, the Latest M&A Obsession, & More Seattle-Area Life Sciences News

7/21/11Follow @xconomy

This was the week Seattle Genetics passed an important milestone on its way to bringing its first product to the U.S. market.

Seattle Genetics (NASDAQ: SGEN) won unanimous endorsement from an FDA advisory panel for its new drug for rare lymphomas, brentuximab vedotin (Adcetris). The FDA’s committee of cancer drug experts voted 10-0 in favor of approving the drug for Hodgkin’s disease, and voted 10-0 again later in the day for its use against anaplastic large cell lymphoma. The stock traded down after the votes, however, partly because of some hostile comments from the panel, and from FDA’s Richard Pazdur, who said an ongoing study known as Aethera isn’t designed properly to confirm the benefit seen in prior trials. The FDA, which will make the final decision, has a deadline of August 30 to complete its review of the Seattle Genetics applications.

Ken Stuart, the founder and president of Seattle Biomedical Research Institute, sat down for an extensive interview for a profile that ran here yesterday. Stuart’s life journey is a fascinating one. Growing up in a working class home in Boston, he wasn’t sure he was even college material in his senior year of high school. He got hooked on biology in college, and went on to build a mini-global health empire over 35 years at Seattle Biomed, which now has 365 employees and a $52 million annual budget.

—This week in the BioBeat column, I wrote about how people should stop obsessing about the next big biotech company to get acquired. A Reuters story featured Seattle-based Dendreon (NASDAQ: DNDN) and Seattle Genetics as a couple prime takeover candidates, and I took the occasion to point out that while this might benefit investment bankers and shareholders in the short term, it would hurt this region’s biotech cluster, just like other regions would be hurt if their leading companies were taken out.

—Lastly, we had a thought-provoking guest editorial from Thane Kreiner, who leads the Center for Science, Technology, and Society at Santa Clara University. Kreiner, the former CEO of Seattle-based Presage Biosciences, is urging investors to work on setting up a VC-style investment framework to tackle what he calls “stubborn social problems like food security, safe drinking water, or energy access.”

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