Seattle Genetics’ Market Debut, Pathway Gets Bought, Theraclone’s Latest Trick Against HIV, & More Seattle-Area Life Sciences News

8/25/11Follow @xconomy

Seattle Genetics made waves both locally and nationally this week with an FDA approval that’s a historic step for the antibody drug business, and raises some interesting questions about the economics of cancer.

Seattle Genetics (NASDAQ: SGEN) nailed down FDA approval of its first product on Friday. The drug, brentuximab vedotin (Adcetris) is designed to treat people with a couple of rare diseases, Hodgkin’s lymphoma and anaplastic large cell lymphoma. After 14 years in business and more than $500 million of R&D investment, Wall Street was betting this highly effective drug would command a premium price of about $110,000 per patient. And sure enough, Seattle Genetics came out with a high price of $13,500 per dose. It could end up costing anywhere between $108,000 per patient or $216,000 per patient, depending on how many doses patients get in the real world. CEO Clay Siegall did his best to defend the price when he was interviewed on Monday by CNBC. I argued in the BioBeat column this week that Seattle Genetics is in the rare position where it can justify a six-figure price tag. But if it really ends up costing $216,000 per patient … that might be worth another column.

—Seattle-based Dendreon (NASDAQ: DNDN), another cancer drug developer that knows all about the consternation surrounding high-priced therapies, had a small but noteworthy personnel announcement. Dendreon added John H. Johnson, the CEO of Savient Pharmaceuticals (NASDAQ: SVNT) and the former CEO of ImClone Systems, to its board of directors. Johnson was the CEO who turned ImClone around in the late 2000s, as its cancer drug became a $1 billion hit, and the company was acquired by Eli Lilly for $6.5 billion.

—Before all that news hit, I dug up an Xconomy exclusive on how Bayer’s Medrad unit has bid $125 million to acquire Kirkland, WA-based Pathway Medical Technologies. The deal still needs shareholder and regulatory approval before it can be finalized.

—Seattle-based Theraclone Sciences has been toiling away the past few years on broadly neutralizing antibodies against the HIV virus, and last week we saw some fruits from that labor. Theraclone, with support from the International AIDS Vaccine Initiative, was part of a national scientific collaboration that discovered 17 new broadly neutralizing antibodies which could become important new tools for AIDS vaccine R&D. The research was published in Nature.

Seattle Children’s Hospital CEO Tom Hansen is deeply passionate about a simple, low-cost ventilator that he thinks can save the lives of premature infants around the world, and now he’s got some more support to take this idea through critical early tests. The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation agreed to pump $2.3 million into the ventilator program.

—Lastly, we had an Xconomist Forum guest post from Steve Dickman at CBT Advisors in Boston, who argues that the latest social networking platform, Google+, has the potential to transform healthcare in ways that Google Health couldn’t. As always, your own trenchant observations about various biotech topics are welcome here. If you have an idea you’d like to write about for the Xconomist Forum that’s either local or national in scope, ping me at ltimmerman@xconomy.com.

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