South Lake Union. Shutterstock

Alexan­dria seals $143M deal in Seat­tle's 'heart of the heart,' grab­bing cov­et­ed land to build its biotech clus­ter

In the lat­est push to be­come the pre­mier land­lord in Seat­tle’s grow­ing biotech hub, Alexan­dria has se­cured rights to a new plot sur­round­ed by tech gi­ants.

The life sci­ences re­al es­tate de­vel­op­er — renowned in part for its start­up in­cu­ba­tors and ven­ture in­vest­ments — has agreed to pay the city gov­ern­ment $138.5 mil­lion for a 2.86-acre site in the boom­ing South Lake Union neigh­bor­hood. Pend­ing coun­cil ap­proval, con­struc­tion will be­gin as ear­ly as next year.

“We feel it’s re­al­ly the heart of the heart, and this is the last large block of land left to de­vel­op,” Joel Mar­cus, ex­ec­u­tive chair­man and founder of Alexan­dria, told Geek­Wire.

Cred­it: JLL

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That par­tic­u­lar stretch along Mer­cer is just across the street from sev­er­al Uni­ver­si­ty of Wash­ing­ton Med­ical School fa­cil­i­ties and a few min­utes walk from Juno Ther­a­peu­tics, an Alexan­dria ten­ant. To the east sits the Allen In­sti­tute for Brain Sci­ence while the Bill & Melin­da Gates Foun­da­tion would be a neigh­bor on the west. Ama­zon, Mi­crosoft and Face­book all have cam­pus­es near­by.

Alexan­dria beat five oth­er bid­ders to the deal af­ter sweet­en­ing its of­fer by around 40%, Geek­Wire re­port­ed, while al­so con­tribut­ing $5 mil­lion to­ward home­less­ness and com­mit­ting to build a com­mu­ni­ty cen­ter in ad­di­tion to an af­ford­able hous­ing tow­er com­pris­ing at least 175 units on one of the sites.

Mar­cus first be­gan en­vi­sion­ing a life sci­ences clus­ter — his word for a com­mu­ni­ty of in­ter­con­nect­ed com­pa­nies and in­sti­tu­tions — for Seat­tle in 1996, when he struck a pur­chase-lease­back deal with Fred Hutchin­son Can­cer Re­search Cen­ter around its orig­i­nal cam­pus. He has since built 1.5 mil­lion square feet of space and pen­ciled in an­oth­er half a mil­lion square feet for con­struc­tion.

“With Seat­tle com­pa­nies tack­ling am­bi­tious new ap­proach­es to dis­ease treat­ment in re­cent years, the city has emerged as a leader in im­munol­o­gy, cell ther­a­py, in­fec­tious dis­eases and the in­ter­sec­tion of sci­ence and tech­nol­o­gy,” he re­marked ear­li­er this year while an­nounc­ing oth­er de­vel­op­ment projects in the city.

Just this week, Alexan­dria un­veiled that the new­ly pub­lic biotech uni­corn Adap­tive Biotech­nolo­gies has signed a 12-year lease at an­oth­er de­vel­op­ment at 1165 East­lake Av­enue East, north­east of the Mer­cer Mega Block. The move-in date is set for 2022.

Seat­tle may­or Jen­ny Durkan called the new land sale “one of the most con­se­quen­tial prop­er­ty deals the city of Seat­tle has ever done” giv­en the po­ten­tial to cre­ate both new jobs and af­ford­able hous­ing.

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Vas Narasimhan. Getty Images

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David Liu, Liu Group

David Liu un­veils newest ad­vance­ment in CRISPR tech: Prime edit­ing

The researcher behind base-editing is out with what some scientists are hailing as the biggest advancement in CRISPR technology since that 2016 breakthrough: “prime editing.” The new molecular gadget is capable of erasing any base pair and stenciling in another and cutting or adding long segments of DNA without breaking both strands of the helix.

David Liu, base editing pioneer and founder of Beam Therapeutics, published the findings in Nature alongside Andrew Anzalone. They estimated that the breakthrough “in principle” puts 89% of human diseases in purview — although experts cautioned that human therapies were a long way off.

UP­DAT­ED: The FDA sets a reg­u­la­to­ry speed record, pro­vid­ing a snap OK for Ver­tex's break­through triplet for cys­tic fi­bro­sis

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Bhaskar Chaudhuri. Frazier Healthcare Partners

Fra­zier Health­care Part­ner­s' der­ma­tol­ogy up­start at­tracts a mar­quee syn­di­cate, $94M+ for 'in-be­tween' top­i­cal drug

For the past three years Frazier Healthcare Partners’ Bhaskar Chaudhuri has been carefully and quietly grooming Arcutis Therapeutics, a new dermatology play he co-founded to deliver topical formulations of well-known drugs. Now that the biotech is poised to enter Phase III, he’s being joined by a marquee syndicate for its $94.5 million Series C.

HBM Healthcare Investments, Vivo Capital, BlackRock, Omega Funds, Pivotal BioVentures, and Goldman Sachs jumped on board, joining Bain Capital Life Sciences, OrbiMed and RA Capital Management in backing Arcutis’ lead topical cream for plaque psoriasis.

A new com­pa­ny en­ters the Tec­fidera fight, of­fer­ing to kill two birds

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Sometime in the 1st century AD, a patient presented to Arataeus looking like a varicose ghost. He was “emaciated and atrophied, pale, feeble and incapable of performing any of his accustomed works,” the Greek physician wrote, with hollow temples and huge veins running all over his body.

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Given their breakthrough and Big Pharma status as well as the use of two approved drugs, FDA approval may well prove to be something of a formality. And the Chinese have been clear that they want new drugs for liver cancer, where lethal disease rates are particularly high.
Researchers at their big biotech sub, Genentech, say that the combo beat Bayer’s Nexavar on both progression-free survival as well as overall survival — the first advance in this field in more than a decade. We won’t get the breakdown in months of life gained, but it’s a big win for Roche, which has lagged far, far behind Keytruda and Opdivo, the dominant PD-1s that have captured the bulk of the checkpoint market so far.
Researchers recruited hepatocellular carcinoma — the most common form of liver cancer — patients for the IMbrave150 study who weren’t eligible for surgery ahead of any systemic treatment of the disease.
Roche has a fairly low bar to beat, with modest survival benefit for Nexavar, approved for this indication 12 years ago. But they also plan to offer a combo therapy that could have significantly less toxicity, offering patients a much easier treatment regimen.
Cowen’s Steven Scala recently sized up the importance of IMbrave150, noting:

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