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Q3 In Review: Microsoft, Life Sciences Roller Coaster, UW Startups

Xconomy Seattle — 

Before the summer sun becomes a memory, here’s a look back at Xconomy Seattle’s top stories from the third quarter:

Nathan Myhrvold’s May 1997 vision for expanding Microsoft Research helped set the foundation for “what has arguably become the world’s leading corporate research organization in software and computing—signaling its move from a one-off lab into the global organization it is today, boasting some 1,100 scientists and engineers in seven research labs and five other tech centers around the world.” That’s how Xconomy founder and editor in chief Bob Buderi introduced his analysis of the strategic plan, which helps provide the complex backdrop against which Microsoft today navigates unprecedented change, including significant layoffs and the closure of Microsoft Research Silicon Valley.

Meanwhile, Myhrvold’s Bellevue, WA-based Intellectual Ventures is also embarking on a new phase, as CTO Edward Jung explained in this Q&A.

The Seattle life sciences sector endured a roller-coaster summer. The industry’s anchor tenant, Amgen, delivered a blow with news that it was shuttering its Helix campus in Seattle and manufacturing site in nearby Bothell, laying off 660 people. But, as Xconomy national biotech editor Alex Lash wrote, “There are rays of sunnier news for Seattle.” These are emanating from Gilead Sciences and Celgene, both of which may provide refuge for talented Amgen employees looking to stay in Seattle. Juno Therapeutics, too, remains a bright spot with the eye-popping $310 million it raised in less than a year, as Ben Fidler reported.

One of Juno’s investors is life sciences-focused Arch Venture Partners, which closed its eighth fund with more than $400 million committed, as Lash reported in August.

Rounding out the top biotech stories was Lash’s exclusive report on the fate of Accelerator graduate Allozyne: Its assets and intellectual property were sold to MedImmune, a unit of AstraZeneca. Also, see Fidler’s in-depth Q&A with new Accelerator CEO Thong Le on expanding to New York.

I spent much of the summer getting deep into the University of Washington’s technology transfer operation as it goes through a major transition in funding, leadership, and goals. The Center for Commercialization still aims to drive new startup formation, but I found that the way it and other university technology transfer shops count their output falls well short of clearly communicating the economic impact of their work.

For example, startups that receive significant assistance from the UW, but aren’t based on university-licensed intellectual property, aren’t counted as UW startup companies. GraphLab, which was incubated in the UW’s New Ventures Facility and this summer moved to a larger office to accommodate its growing staff, is one such company. I took a look at GraphLab’s first commercial product—tools for developing scalable, data-centric, predictive applications.

Other top stories from the quarter include this in-depth profile of utility scale battery maker UniEnergy Technologies, and an introduction to the Techstars Seattle Fall 2014 class.