The Greater Seattle Brain Science Cluster

3/16/12Follow @xconomy

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of leading pharmaceutical companies, according to CEO Michael Hite.

[Added: 9 am 3/16/12Institute 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 3/16/12NeuroVista. 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.

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  • R. Jones

    You lost me at, “Seattle has a lot of biotech talent”. These are the people busy reinventing themselves. You don’t fix things that aren’t broken.

  • http://www.washbio.org Chris Rivera

    Great article Luke. You are correct, neuroscience R&D, as well as commercialization are emerging areas of expertise in our state. The WBBA’s Commercialization team is also seeing more IP in this space. The NeuroNext event on the 28th is a great place for everyone to realize the vast potential and critical mass that is in Washington.
    Chris

  • http://seattlechildrens.org/research/ Mary Guiden

    Nice article and overview, Luke. Great to see Dr. Jim Olson and Blaze Bioscience details, too.

    One additional brain science initiative to add is the Center for Integrative Brain Research at Seattle Children’s Research Institute. Led by Dr. Nino Ramirez, the Center brings together scientists and clinicians at the genetic, molecular, cellular, network and behavioral levels to better understand a wide spectrum of neuronal functions and brain-related diseases.

    Dr. Ramirez and members of his team are studying autism, sleep apnea (it’s not just for adults), epilepsy, sudden infant death syndrome, ADHD and other conditions and diseases. The center’s work on epilepsy, as one example, may have far-reaching effects for traumatic brain injury victims. Estimates show that between 48,000 and 169,000 soldiers serving in Iraq and Afghanistan are expected to develop post-traumatic epilepsy.

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  • http://www.feareygroup.com Aaron Blank

    Luke, so true! The neuroscience cluster is growing in Seattle. I’ve had the opportunity to come across some of these projects in my public relations work in the region. Here are a few to consider adding to the mix.

    The Swedish Neuroscience Institute, led by Drs. Marc Mayberg and David Newell, has a suite of research projects worth mentioning – from Dr. Newell’s work with EKOS in Bothell to review the Safety of Lysis with Ultrasound in the Treatment of Intracerebral and Intraventricular Hemorrhage to Dr. James Bowen’s 24 clinical research trials to advance Multiple Sclerosis treatments. Dr. Bowen just opened a comprehensive MS Center up on Cherry Hill. One of his studies specifically looks at the effect of pregnancy on patients living with MS. For an unknown reason, pregnant mothers experience almost no symptoms during the course of their pregnancy, but they experience a spike in symptoms almost immediately after the child is delivered. Why? He is looking into it.

    Dr. Greg Foltz at the Ivy Brain Tumor Center is collaborating with the Institute for Systems Biology to study the genetic makeup of brain tumors. Tumors from the Center are sent to the lab to become part of a brain tumor bank and a genomic database that is helping cancer researchers around the country. Dr. Foltz is also working with Northwest Biotherapeutics in Bothell to investigate a personalized vaccine for treating brain cancer.

    Keep the list going…. there are many others left uncovered.

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  • Diana Pozzi

    Luke: The Hydrocephalus Support Group, Inc. will be taking part in the 2014 UW Brain Awareness Open House in March. Part of our mission is doing outreach & making ourselves available to families, friends, caregivers and those (of all ages) living with all hydrocephalus. We also hold a monthly meeting at Swedish Hospital, in the Casey Room from 12:45 pm to 3:00 pm on the third Saturday of each month. Drop ins are welcome.