The Immunex Impact, Calypso Gets Acquired, Women in Bio’s Kickoff, & More in Seattle-Area Life Sciences News

9/22/11Follow @xconomy

This week we had a so-small-it’s-scary acquisition of a local medical device company, along with some more encouraging news of a local biotech company entering its first clinical trial.

—Seattle-based Calypso Medical Technologies agreed to be acquired by Palo Alto, CA-based Varian Medical Systems this week for $10 million upfront, plus undisclosed future milestone payments. This will amount to a big write-off for Calypso investors, including Seattle-based Frazier Healthcare Ventures, who have poured more than $150 million into the company since its founding in 1999. The Calypso system, which enables medical pros to deliver prostate cancer radiation therapy with pinpoint accuracy, generates $15 million in annual sales, the company says.

Theraclone Sciences, a Seattle biotech company that has pulled in the more modest sum of $41 million since its founding in 2005, reached a key milestone. Theraclone said it has started its first clinical trial of an experimental antibody it believes has potential to treat or prevent a wide variety of types of influenza. This first trial will assess safety at a variety of doses, and future trials will have to sort out whether it’s more useful as a hospital-based treatment for severe flu patients, or whether it can help protect first-responders in the event of a flu pandemic.

—I announced our next big Seattle biotech event this past week, called “The Immunex Impact.” This event, timed for the 10th anniversary of Amgen’s acquisition of Immunex, will bring together a number of prominent Immunoids still doing their thing in Seattle. Steve Gillis, Chris Henney, Doug Williams, Stewart Parker, and Dave Urdal will all be there, among others. Tickets are going super-fast for this one, and I’m really looking forward to seeing a lot of readers there at the Institute for Systems Biology on December 1. For info on how to register, click here.

Cocrystal Discovery, the Bothell, WA-based startup led by Icos veterans Gary Wilcox and Sam Lee, pulled in $7.5 million last week through an investment from Israel-based Teva Pharmaceutical. Teva, the generics company seeking to invent new drugs, is betting on Cocrystal’s experimental polymerase inhibitor against hepatitis C, as well as other antiviral programs.

—This week in the BioBeat column, I chose to stir the pot about how more biotech industry leaders should stir the pot. Essentially, an industry like biotech that relies on broad support from the public and investors needs to work hard to keep people engaged. And being outspoken every once in a while about industry issues is definitely one way to do it.

—This week, I had the good fortune of being one of about five guys who attended a networking event with 200 professional biotech women. It was the kickoff event for the Seattle chapter of Women in Bio, which seeks to help women advance their careers in biotech. There was a lot of enthusiasm in the room, and for proof, check the handful of photos I snapped there.

—Lastly, I had some national news about how pharma giant Merck has decided to join the long list of Big Pharma companies that are now investing in biotech companies. Merck is getting its start with a $250 million fund for biotech startups, and another $250 million fund for global health innovations.

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