March 14, 2008 in Business

Cancer treatment gets venture funds

By The Spokesman-Review

A method for identifying proteins instrumental in the spread of cancer has become the first Washington State University technology to attract venture funding.

Accelerator Corp. will invest $2 million to $5 million in Recodagen Corp. and move the new company into its research and administration facility in Seattle.

J. Suzanne Lindsey, the WSU researcher who developed the new methodology, becomes Recodagen’s vice president for discovery.

Lindsey said her research indicates that what had been considered “junk DNA” in gene sequences in fact expresses itself in proteins found in the solid tumors characteristic of breast, prostate, lung and other cancers.

In pre-clinical trials, antibodies developed using her results have slowed the progression of cancer in mice, said Lindsey, who formed Recodagen in a bid to attract more resources to expand her research.

She said the investment by Accelerator, together with its managerial and laboratory resources, will move her research through clinical trials, and to market, much faster.

Accelerator President Carl Weissman said the initial investment should sustain Recodagen through a two-year process of establishing the validity of Lindsey’s methodology. A second stage of financing could take the research up to human clinical trials.

Three of the seven companies in Accelerator’s portfolio have reached that stage, Weissman said, attracting additional investments of $29 million to $55 million as a result.

He said Recodagen has the potential to become one of the Northwest’s most important biotechnology companies.

“We are strictly here to build great companies,” Weissman said.

Accelerator, founded in 2004, is a syndicate of five venture capital funds and the Institute for Systems Biology.

The Accelerator investment is a breakthrough for WSU, which has spent the last five years reviving a moribund technology transfer program.

Keith Jones, executive director of the Washington State University Research Foundation, said he and Lindsey spent a year networking the Seattle-area biotechnology community before Accelerator stepped up. The effort not only increased the visibility of Recodagen, he said, but all WSU research efforts. Future proposals will be much easier to sell, he said.

WSU owns the Recodagen intellectual property, Jones said, and will receive a small equity share in the company as well as royalties if its technology enters the marketplace.

“It’s a big deal for us at the university,” he said.

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