Seattle biotech upstart advances molecular "paint" for cancer cells

No matter how brilliant an academic drug program is, it won't become a commercial reality until a biopharma comes along, picks it up and proves it works in the clinic. Today Xconomy's Luke Timmerman tells the tale of a Seattle start-up called Blaze Bioscience, which has rounded up $725,000 in seed money to start work on new technology that promises to guide surgeons removing cancerous tissue from a patient.

Blaze's big idea, writes Timmerman, is to tie a peptide molecule to a fluorescent molecule to clearly highlight the targeted tissue. And an infrared camera is used to look for stray cancer cells once a tumor is surgically removed. By making sure more of the tissue is taken out, physicians can improve a patient's chances of avoiding a recurrence of the disease.

Jim Olson at the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center has assembled a stellar team to complete the preclinical work over the next two years or so. Heather Franklin, a senior VP at ZymoGenetics when it was bought out by Bristol-Myers Squibb ($BMY), is taking the lead as CEO. And she's brought some familiar faces from ZymoGenetics along with her for the ride: Julia Novak, vice president of research and project management, and Mila Lobanova, vice president of finance and operations, reports Xconomy.

Of course, other companies are at work on the same big idea. But Blaze is confident that they can stand out.

"The major difference is that extensive pre-clinical studies indicate that Tumor Paint works for many types of solid tumors, not just one or two," Olson tells Xconomy. "Furthermore, we observed that Tumor Paint could detect as few as a few hundred cancer cells traveling from one lymph node to another, indicating the level of sensitivity that is desired by surgeons and patients."

- here's the article from Xconomy