Former Dendreon CEO launches stealth next-gen immunotherapy startup in Seattle

February 1, 2015

Dendreon may be on its last legs, but former CEO Mitchell Gold is happily entrenched in other projects: He’s launching a next-generation immunotherapy startup called Alpine Immune Sciences, seeding about $1.3 million into the company through his investment firm, Alpine BioVentures.

It’ll be a recombinant protein-based therapeutic, Gold told MedCity News – and unrelated to the platform used by Dendreon. Beyond that, he’s keeping mum about the venture and will for a while, he said.

Two former Amgen scientists are also listed on an SEC filing announcing the fundraise: Michael Kornacker and Ryan Swanson, who both seem to have left their jobs in December. Kornacker’s work has been in antibody protein engineering, and Swanson’s on inflammation and T cell stimulation. Also heading up Alpine Immune Sciences – and the venture firm – is David Miller, a former analyst who now works as a portfolio manager.

Dendreon is known for launching Provenge, a prostate cancer drug that was the first-ever immunotherapy treatment to get regulatory approval. Dendreon’s also known for filing for bankruptcy this past November, because of the drug’s poor performance – it was too costly at $93,000 and required too much patient personalization. Also, importantly, the company couldn’t pay an enormous debt from 2011.

Gold left Dendreon in February 2012, after nine years as CEO – during which time he made some serious money, and gained some serious notoriety for some borderline bilking of investors. After Provenge got FDA approval, Gold made about $26.7 million – Dendreon’s stock was, after all, trading at more than $50 a share. These days, Dendreon’s below 20 cents a share – and is the target of a potential $400 million acquisition from Valeant.

Alpine BioVentures founded another biotech, called Alpine Biosciences, that was sold to Oncothyreon last August in a deal it said was valued at $27 million.