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Seattle brothers expand billion-dollar biotech company's focus to include COVID

Akash Pasricha, The Seattle Times on

Published in Science & Technology News

In recent years, the cancer center has added reinforcements to the team that builds new startups of this kind and brings new discoveries to market. It recruited Niki Robinson and Hilary Hehman, both of whom built the commercial patent pipeline at Cincinnati Children's Hospital, and tasked them with marketing Fred Hutch's discoveries to outside investors.

Hehman said it was "astonishing" to her just how "entrepreneurially focused" the culture is at Fred Hutch. "I don't know what it is about The Hutch, but I feel like it attracts people that have that sensibility."

In the four years since 2017, the number of startups and licenses out of the center has nearly doubled compared to the four years prior.

Still, Seattle has a long history of building biotech companies that are eventually acquired by larger juggernauts. Years after Amgen acquired Seattle-built Immunex in 2002 for $16 billion, the California-based drugmaker decided to close its Puget Sound campus, leaving many of Seattle's biotech brains soul-searching.

"It's so much excitement around each company and then a little bit of heartbreak when they're acquired," said Leslie Alexandre, president and CEO of Life Science Washington. "The next thing you know, the company has been moved."

 

Adaptive's strategy to bring products to market in all three key life sciences segments — research, diagnostics and drug discovery — is evidence of its commitment to building a "stand-alone" company, Chad Robins said.

The goal is to "be an anchor tenant in the Seattle area," he said. "We weren't building the company to be acquired."

To that end, Adaptive opened a new office Tuesday in Eastlake. One other marker of that commitment: Karen Robins, the brothers' mom, has moved into a houseboat on Lake Union within eyeshot of the office, and often visits her sons for lunch.

"If she had her way, she'd be here every day," Chad Robins said.

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