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Join Us May 6 at the Hutch to Discuss Seattle Biotech’s Wild Ride

Xconomy Seattle — 

Fresh off Xconomy’s most successful biotech forum ever last week in Boston, we’re getting ready to meet that challenge on May 6 in Seattle for Seattle Biotech Seizes the Momentum, a half-day of discussion, debate, and interviews with the local community’s top biotech and life science leaders. There’s so much to talk about.

You can get your tickets and see the full list of speakers here. Let’s dig into some of the details.

Seattle is a center of cancer immunotherapy research and development. We’ll kick off the event with a one-on-one talk with Gary Gilliland, the new president and director of the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center, the site of some of that cutting edge cancer immunotherapy work.

Gilliland will then join a panel to discuss the role of Seattle’s nonprofit and academic research groups in building a vital local sector. He’ll be joined by Charlotte Hubbert, who works on venture investment at the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, and Vikram Jandhyala, recently anointed to run the University of Washington’s “CoMotion” licensing office, a key source of local biotechnology.

Also from the nonprofit sector comes Leroy “Lee” Hood, president of the Institute for System Biology. A biotech pioneer, Hood’s latest vision is a giant, long-term study called the “100K Wellness Project” that aims for head-to-toe health information.

It’s one of the studies around the country that could eventually become part of the national database imagined by President Obama’s Precision Medicine Initiative. I’ll talk to Hood about the first year’s results from 100K Wellness and much more.

Top of mind in Seattle is the need to build local companies with a sense of permanence, a tricky proposition in a region that doesn’t have the same biomedical population as San Francisco and Boston. The community was shaken up last summer when Amgen said it would leave the area, taking 600 jobs with it and throwing open the “Helix” biotech campus north of downtown. A second blow came earlier this month when online travel firm Expedia was announced as the new Helix tenant.

Mike Gallatin, former president of Seattle’s Calistoga Pharmaceuticals and scientific director at Icos, will lead a discussion with local executives, including Heather Franklin, CEO of Blaze Bioscience, Randy Schatzman, CEO of Alder Biopharmaceuticals, and Eric Dobmeier, COO of Seattle Genetics, on building for the long term.

The Expedia news was the latest front in the tech vs. biotech struggle for people and resources in Seattle, which was exacerbated when Amazon moved its headquarters to the traditionally biotech-centric South Lake Union neighborhood three years ago.

You’ll have ringside seats at our forum when two top Seattle VCs duke it out over this general topic. Robert Nelsen of Arch Venture Partners, who has a bone to pick about tech patent practices, will be in the biotech corner; and Matt McIlwain of Madrona Venture Group will be in the tech corner. (Winner gets a year’s worth of food truck vouchers.) But seriously, Nelsen and McIlwain will also talk convergence, and the ways tech and biotech are coming together in Seattle and beyond.

We couldn’t have a biotech gathering in Seattle without a deep dive into cancer immunotherapy, of course. In addition to the Hutch’s Gilliland, we’ll get company updates from Juno Therapeutics CEO Hans Bishop and Adaptive Biotechnologies CEO Chad Robins. Both have had whirlwind years since last spring’s Xconomy forum in Seattle.

We’re gathering at the Hutch on May 6 from 2:30 to 6pm. Please join us.