The Year in Seattle Biotech: Lots of Acquisitions, Few New Startups

12/22/11Follow @xconomy

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a project that it says has great potential to open up drug discovery programs against hot drug targets known as G-protein coupled receptors. No major pharma company has yet stepped up and written a big check to say it wants to pursue these targets with Omeros.

Theraclone Sciences. Theraclone had a big year, as it struck a partnership with Pfizer, raised another $10 million in venture capital, and got some important HIV work published in Nature. The company also hired a new CEO, former Icos business development veteran Cliff Stocks.

Groove Biopharma. This company offers a sign of the times for biotech startup financing. Groove, the maker of microRNA drugs, hit its scientific milestones laid out in front of it at the Accelerator. But instead of graduating like portfolio companies, the company is staying in the nest a while longer, with $6 million in additional financing, instead of the usual $20 million or more that might have been invested in the past.

Cocrystal Discovery. This Bothell, WA-based company, led by former Icos executive Gary Wilcox, struck a partnership with Israel-based generic drugmaker Teva Pharmaceutical. That deal provided another $7.5 million in support for Cocrystal’s experimental drug programs against hepatitis C and other infectious diseases.

Blaze Bioscience. This startup, from the Fred Hutch lab of Jim Olson, is led by former ZymoGenetics business development executive Heather Franklin. The company is seeking to “paint” tumors so that surgeons can see in real-time whether they are actually removing an entire brain tumor, or not.

Cardeas Pharma. The brainchild of entrepreneur Bruce Montgomery raised $5 million this week to go after a drug/device combo treatment that Montgomery is licensing from one of his past companies. Montgomery is not saying much more than that, for now anyway.

Oncofactor. The latest company to get started at Accelerator is looking to find ways to spark the immune system to fight cancer, through developing new antibody drugs.

Light Sciences Oncology. This Bellevue, WA-based company failed in pivotal stage clinical trials, and resorted to layoffs, according to sources close to the situation who spoke to Xconomy in October. The company, which raised well over $130 million in its day, still hasn’t issued any press release or formal public communication that I can see about what happened in studies of its light-activated drug/device combo regimen for cancer. Patients, and researchers, deserve better.

VentiRx Pharmaceuticals. This was a pretty quiet year for VentiRx Pharmaceuticals, although the company did make news by closing its San Diego operations, and naming Seattle-based chief medical officer Rob Hershberg as president. VentiRx now has a lot of behind-the-scenes work to do on clinical trials of its experimental immune-booster for cancer.

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  • krassen

    Allozyne/PARD merger is a no-go. Another write-off for OVP.
    http://www.benzinga.com/news/11/12/2224491/poniard-pharmaceuticals-and-allozyne-terminate-planned-merger

    They have also been taking loss on Complete Genomics, selling for ~$3, while average purchase price was $7.50
    http://finance.yahoo.com/q/it?s=GNOM+Insider+Transactions

    The common is that both companies were hyped on Xconomy, multiple times…

  • krassen

    to add for the record: @ldtimmerman is a very decent guy… I just hate it how he constantly gets played by the OVP “propaganda machine”, as was the case with Allozyne…

  • RIP Lightsciences

    Luke,

    Lightsciences Oncology is no longer a business entity. Most employees were let go in late Oct. It’s surprising it lasted so long considering the management knew the PDT did not work on solid tumors. LSO was literally kicked out of Taiwan after Ph II studies and most companies would not have gone to Ph III with the piss poor data. Of course ex-CEO Llew spun it all up for another 3 years. It was clear by end of Q1 in 2009 (1st peek) that HCC trial failed the survival endpoint.