The Year in Seattle Medical Devices, Diagnostics, Health IT

12/23/11Follow @xconomy

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for genomic analysis has long been ahead of its time, but now biomedical researchers are starting to demand more powerful software to crunch all the genomes they can now get from high-speed/low-cost instruments. Geospiza, founded in 1997, amassed enough sales and market penetration to get acquired for an undisclosed sum this year by PerkinElmer (NYSE: PKI), the giant life sciences toolmaker.

Microsoft/GE Health. Microsoft and GE announced earlier this month they are forming a joint venture to capitalize on some of their health IT products. The new company, which doesn’t yet have a name, will be run by a GE exec, while Peter Neupert, the former head of Microsoft Health Solutions, is retiring. The new company will have 750 employees, which sounds like a lot, but not really when you understand that Microsoft’s health group alone had that many people for years. The companies didn’t disclose any layoffs, but you can be sure that cost-cutting of overlapping functions was part of the recipe for making this joint venture a success.

Pathway Medical Technologies. The Kirkland, WA-based company, which makes a device to clear out blockages in blood vessels of the legs, reached the end of the road this year. It agreed to be acquired by Bayer’s Medrad unit for $125 million, in a deal that paid off Pathway’s most recent venture investors and senior managers, but didn’t reward employees or early angel investors. That obviously made many longtime Pathway supporters unhappy, and now the company’s future in Seattle is in doubt, as it has let a lease option expire on its Kirkland headquarters.

Physio-Control. The storied Redmond, WA-based maker of heart defibrillators won back its independence this year, through a $487 million deal in which Bain Capital acquired and spun the company out of Medtronic, the medical device giant. Physio-Control is now free to get back to doing what it does best, which is develop innovative new emergency medicine products, says Kirby Cramer, a prominent local life sciences investor.

Calypso Medical Technologies. The Seattle-based company, which makes technology to deliver radiation therapy for prostate cancer patients with pinpoint precision, also had an unhappy ending. The company was acquired by Varian Medical Systems for the puny sum of $10 million, plus some unspecified milestone payments. It was a painful write-off for a company that raised more than $175 million since its founding in 1999.

Adaptive TCR. This spinoff company from the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center raised another $5.8 million back in June to expand its immune system profiling service for researchers, and to explore how it might be useful in the diagnostics industry.

Sage Bionetworks. The Seattle-based nonprofit, co-founded by Rosetta/Merck alumni Stephen Friend and Eric Schadt, did a lot of behind the scenes work that’s necessary if their vision for an open-source biology movement is going to catch on. Schadt ended up moving into a new position at Mt. Sinai School of Medicine in New York, while retaining a dual role as chief scientific officer of Menlo Park, CA-based Pacific Biosciences (NASDAQ: PACB). That position provides him and his network biology team with access to a big, diverse patient population that could be a key partner in this effort to make genomic information useful for medicine.

Mobisante. This Redmond, WA-based company started the year with a bang, by winning FDA approval for the first diagnostic ultrasound technology that works on a smartphone. The potential to get low-cost basic medical images that can be transmitted via wireless networks to hospitals generated a fair bit of attention for this startup. But there is a difference between getting FDA clearance to sell a device, and being really ready to manufacture, distribute, and market such a device, which is the task now in front of Mobisante.

Mirador Biomedical. The Seattle company has been on the market for a while now with its digital pressure sensor that helps hospital staff tell the difference between when a catheter is being inserted into a vein or an artery. The idea is that by selling a relatively cheap piece of technology, Mirador can reduce the fear that hospitals will make a potentially disastrous medical error. The company raised an additional $1.5 million in its Series B financing in April to help with the commercial push.

Impel Neuropharma. This University of Washington spinoff pulled together more than $2 million of support from local angel investors, the U.S. military, and the state Life Sciences Discovery Fund. Impel also formed a couple of partnerships with Big Pharma companies—which it didn’t name—that are looking to see whether Impel has figured out a truly efficient way to deliver drugs more efficiently to the brain, via the nasal passages.

Cadence Biomedical. This Seattle startup led by Brian Glaister made some more headway with its mechanical-assist system that helps disabled people to walk. The company pulled in a $254,000 federal grant in September, around the same time it attracted local investors to pump in another $255,000 in bridge financing. One of the big selling points here is that Cadence’s system doesn’t need to navigate the FDA approval process before getting clearance to sell its product, a barrier … Next Page »

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  • Paul Buckman is a carpetbagger

    Regarding Pathway, it was not only the early angel investors who got coal in their stockings. All common stockholders got ZERO out of the deal. Employees’ stock options are worthless. CEO Buckman got away with several million in “retention bonus” and the like. Bah humbug.