The Greater Seattle Brain Science Cluster
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of leading pharmaceutical companies, according to CEO Michael Hite.
[Added: 9 am 3/16/12] Institute for Systems Biology. The Seattle-based nonprofit center is all about connecting the dots between genes and proteins so as to better understand the biology of whole organisms, which can lead in lots of different directions. Huntington’s disease, and brain cancer (glioblastoma) are a couple of particular areas of interest at the ISB.
[Added: 7:54 pm 3/16/12] NeuroVista. This Seattle-based company is developing an implantable device that captures data on electrical activity in the brain, which can provide an early warning sign before an epileptic seizure. The company raised $21.5 million in venture capital in August 2010. Earlier this month, the company said it shared a $7.5 million grant with partners at the University of Pennsylvania, University of Minnesota, and the Mayo Clinic.
Omeros. The Seattle-based biotech company (NASDAQ: OMER) received $25 million in October 2010 from Paul Allen’s Vulcan Capital and the Washington Life Science Discovery Fund for an ambitious effort to gain access to a wide range of molecular drug targets known as G-protein coupled receptors (GPCRs). An estimated 30 to 40 percent of all existing prescription drugs today are made to hit the more accessible forms of these targets, including big brand name therapies for allergies, pain, and mental illness, including Merck’s loratadine (Claritin), Bristol-Myers Squibb’s aripiprazole (Abilify), and Purdue Pharma’s oxycodone (Oxycontin). Aside from its GPCR discovery program, Omeros has treatments for addiction, schizophrenia, and movement disorders in development.
PhysioSonics. The company, another UW spinoff, is developing ultrasound technology that can provide automated monitoring of blood flow in the brain. The technology could be used to help look for signs of complications in stroke patients, or the kind of pressure buildup that often causes trouble after a traumatic brain injury. Medtronic and local angel investor Kirby Cramer have invested in the company.
Proteotech. This Kirkland, WA-based company keeps a pretty low profile, and traces its origin all the way back to 1996. But back in December, it announced a collaboration with pharma giant GlaxoSmithKline to develop drug candidates for Parkinson’s, and other diseases related to misfolded proteins, such as Lewy Body Dementia and Multiple System Atrophy. Before GSK came along, much of this early work was supported by the Michael J. Fox Foundation.
Swedish Medical Center/NeuroNext. Swedish Neuroscience Institute raised its game when it recruited John Henson, a prominent neurologist from Massachusetts General Hospital, a few years ago. Henson made some news back in November when he secured a seven-year, $2.2 million grant from the National Institutes of Health to lead a consortium of 25 neuroscience centers around the country. This program, called NeuroNext, is charged with conducting clinical trials on a variety of brain disorders, in collaboration with academia, foundations, and industry. Henson plans to discuss the program in greater detail at an upcoming event on March 28 organized by the Washington Biotechnology & Biomedical Association.
[Added: 3/19/12 3:40 pm PT] University of Washington. Much of the region’s neuroscience technology comes from research at the UW, and there are many groups to watch on campus. One of them is the Center for Sensorimotor Neural Engineering (CSNE). The center is supported through a five-year, $18.5 million grant. The mission there is to “connect a deep mathematical understanding of how biological systems acquire and process information with the design of effective devices that interact with and assist human beings,” says Rad Roberts, CSNE’s industry liaison officer. One of the early applications is the i-limb prosthetic hand that UW researchers have worked to develop with Touch Bionics.