Dendreon Shares Tank Again, Elias Joins Gates Foundation, Seattle Children’s Gets $50M, & More Seattle-Area Life Sciences News

11/3/11Follow @xconomy

This was a week of volatile ups and downs in Seattle biotech. Yeah, I know, what’s new?

—Seattle-based Dendreon (NASDAQ: DNDN), the cancer drug developer that so many people love to hate, gave its critics some more ammunition in its quarterly financial report. The company reported $64.3 million in third quarter sales, which slightly edged Wall Street expectations. But the company still only projects “modest” quarter-over-quarter sales growth for its prostate cancer drug—which isn’t what investors expected earlier this year when they gave Dendreon a market valuation of more than $5 billion. And the company is burning capital like a Ferrari goes through fuel. Dendreon vaporized $106 million of cash in the third quarter, and had $568 million left on the books at the end of September. Dendreon stock fell 20 percent in after-hours trading.

—Bellevue, WA-based Cardiac Insight is the latest University of Washington spinoff to leave the nest, with a technology license and $700,000 in a Series A financing. We had the inside scoop this week on how this company, led by CEO Tom Clement, seeks to detect a common cause of stroke with a low-cost, disposable adhesive device.

—Did you know that Al Gore came this close to being a VIP scientist for a day at Immunex? That was one of the fun bits of trivia I discovered as Immunoids have been coming forward with bits of memorabilia to display at our next big Xconomy event in Seattle on Dec. 1. If you’ve got some piece of Immunex swag, photos, papers, etc. that you think would be fun to share with the wider biotech community, please let me know at ltimmerman@xconomy.com. And please, tell me the backstory, which is always more fun than just looking at an old lab coat.

Seattle Children’s Hospital had some big news: a $50 million anonymous donation to support its research efforts. The hospital also got another $15 million donation from Jean Reid to support nursing education and clinical care.

—PATH CEO Chris Elias, the guy who led the global health nonprofit to prominence over the past decade, is moving on to a new challenge. Elias said this week he’s resigning from his job at PATH to become the new president of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation’s anti-poverty efforts. Elias starts the new job in February. PATH is now looking for a successor.

—”The Cancer Drug Dark Ages are Coming to an End.” That was the optimistic headline I slapped on this week’s BioBeat column, which talked about big leaps forward in personalized cancer medicine that all came in succession back in August. I think there’s strong evidence to support being optimistic, but for those of you out there who think I’m missing the boat, please post a comment at the end and let me know.

Emerald Biostructures, which I think is the first and only company from Bainbridge Island, WA to get covered in these pages, had some good news to report. Emerald got a three-year contract extension from UCB, its largest customer, to deliver 3-D structures of biological targets that UCB wants to develop drugs against.

—Last but not least, we had a guest post from Stewart Lyman about how “Biopharma Industry Meetings Could Use Some Fresh Voices.” Lyman points that if the pharma industry is in crisis, it’s odd that everybody still looks to the same old folks from Merck, Pfizer, Novartis et al. for answers on how to get out of the mess.

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  • jerzee

    …. ‘Ferrari/fuel burn’ …. just glad to see you didn’t go Tucker with the metaphor Luke!
    The so-called Tucker ’48 was a potent mix of technical innovation and dazzling style — a great example of squandered potential that could have altered the course of auto history. Named for entrepreneur-designer Preston Tucker, it was among the first breed of U.S. autos since 1941, when WWII halted most production. Unlike the competition, however, it featured a bevy of safety features that would take decades to become standard, like seat belts, safety pop-out windshields, a structural roll bar and a crash box. It also premiered the now-iconic “Cyclops Eye” headlight that lit up and swiveled to spotlight dark corners when the driver turned a corner. The Tucker was gorgeously sleek — thus its working title, “The Torpedo” — with an incredible .27 drag coefficient, or better than most production cars in history to date. Alas, Tucker became embroiled in an SEC investigation, and was walloped by the press. As a result, with just a few dozen cars built, Tucker’s operations ceased before the year was over. For the full, depressing look at his life, check out the 1988 film, ‘Tucker: The Man and His Dream,’ and weep for what might have been.