Good Work Dendreon

Apr 15th, 2009 | By | Category: Economics, Featured Articles, Lead Article, Medicine

Dendreon, a Seattle-based biotech startup, just completed a successful phase III trial on an entirely new kind of cancer treatment. The idea: If cancer is difficult to treat because the mutated cells divide and crawl all over the place, and thus cannot be cut out in one chunk, why not send the immune system after ’em? The immune system loves crawling all over the body in a hunt for the unwelcome. If we could figure out a way of telling the immune system “cancer, bad” all would be well.

It’s a pretty clever idea. Nobody has been able to make it work. Tumor cells seem to know the trick, and have potent means of telling the immune cells “back off, guys. We’re cool.”

Dendreon, focusing on prostate cancer (very common in older men), figured it out. In this most recent trial, they demonstrated efficacy of this new treatment to the satisfaction of the FDA. Since this therapeutic method is so new, the trial and standards were more stringent than for a more typical chemotherapy drug.

Not only is this really good news for prostate cancer patients, it’s also good news for the local economy. The intellectual property generated by the company should be applicable to other forms of cancer. Prepare for billions of dollars to start flowing into the state, as we are now the global leaders in a new way of tackling cancer.

Let’s look at the bios of the CEO and scientific leadership team:
Dr. Mitchell Gold: President and CEO.
“Dr. Gold is a former urologist at the University of Washington and currently serves on the boards of the University of Washington/Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center Prostate Cancer Institute and the Washington Biotechnology and Biomedical Association.”

Dr. Urdal: Chief Scientific Officer.
“Dr. Urdal received a B.S. and an M.S. in public health and a Ph.D. in biochemical oncology from the University of Washington.

Huh. UW. You know, the highly productive public research University that brings in a billion dollars a year (or so) of out-of-state funding and is the largest employer in the city of Seattle. Also, the same University facing a 25-35% budget cut from the State and is planning to lay off 1000 people in a couple weeks, while jacking up tuition and cutting student rolls. After these cuts, Washington State will be 42nd out of 50 in State funding for higher education.

Who needs higher education? Taxes are baaad for the economy. The Republican superminority in State government tells us so. We already have a raging state economy. Raging! Sure, Boeing needed billions of dollars of state-funded life support during the boom years, has a commercial aviation division that can’t build aircraft and is facing cuts in orders to its most profitable aircraft, and a military division still reeling from the unexpected collapse of the Soviet Union twenty years ago. It’s not like China is going to figure out how to build aircraft! Never! And Microsoft’s monopoly is firmly entrenched, with no serious competitors on the horizon. Businesses are snapping up Vista and cannot wait for Windows 7. XP is long forgotten. Nobody wants that stuff. Nor is piracy of Microsoft products a serious problem, certainly not in the future markets of Brazil, Russia, India or China.

And our high tech economy has no need for well-trained employees. None at all. Sure, public universities are incredibly efficient at generating superbly trained and prepared staff for companies. But, why would Boing, Microsoft or other tech companies want to hire Washingtonians? If UW is gutted, all it’ll take is more H1B visas. With all the tax dollars we’ve saved, we can make our kids happy in the burger-flipping and car washing jobs that are the future.

Yes, our governor and democratic supermajority in the state legislature are faced with an impossible set of circumstances: a gaping budget hole caused by ill-advised earlier tax cuts and subsidies for failing industries, one of the world’s largest collections of idle wealth residing in the state, and an antiquated and ultra-regressive sales tax based revenue structure. What possible solution could be crafted from this raw material? Mysterious clues have been found in a yet-indecipherable code: aiseray axestay onay ichray. To help them in their quest of balancing the books, the governor has crafted a website where you can cut funding, and pick exactly which seed corn we should feast on now.

Should be a smashing success. Thanks, UW spinoff Dendreon, for showing us what we won’t miss at all.