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“The lone entrepreneur in a garage, driven to change the world, is one of the most powerful archetypical characters of American capitalism.”                                    Luke Timmerman, Xconomy http://www.xconomy.com/seattle/2009/02/06/sticking-it-to-the-vc-man-johnny-stine-builds-biotech-startup-on-a-shoestring/shapeimage_3_link_0

The crazy ones:

2016:  New and bold moves ahead for NCB
North Coast Bio was founded in the fall of 2008 in a small garage in the Seattle neighborhood of Wallingford.  While starting a biotech company in a garage seems a bit unorthodox, the business model adapted from the beginning was even more so.  The idea was to create a biotech company where the technology is allowed to be more fluid to fill as many areas of need as possible all while keeping the lights on.  You can do this if you have a technology that you believe in, that can rapidly generate high value antibodies, and if you don’t take in venture dollars right away or at all.  By not taking in venture money, we have been able to succeed in ways that no other company with similar or lesser technology could.  In 4.5 years, we succeeded in taking the core technology into multiple species, multiple areas of the industry (vet. med, research, therapeutics, diagnostics), improved the process by adding new tools of the day, and something that was always thought about but never near the top of our immediate to-do list - personalized medicine with antibodies.  

Due to personal circumstances, we were forced early into pioneering personalized/compassionate use of BLAST to attempt to treat a friend with an aggressive metastatic tumor - one that seemed like it should be easily targeted since the primary tissue from which it originated was no longer present.  While we took this on, we had to stumble through in a panic since we started the process before having the downstream ducks in the proverbial row.  We had to start because time is the factor when someone is told that they only have six months to live and we had a process that could treat him by 3 months.  Nevertheless, while we aimed for 3 months to treat the patient, the actual effort took about 5 months given the new nature of the concept and dealing with incompetent, unimaginative individuals along the way.  Due to our later time frame and the rapid decline in the health of the patient, it was likely that our antibodies would not have been effective...perhaps at month 3, but month 5 saw a major decline in health and in month 6 he died.  While it’s the worst case possible to have the first person you try this with be someone you know, we can at least say that we have learned that BLAST can be a solution to certain solid tumors where there is no other option.  We offered up multiple tissue-specific antibodies (albeit late) to attempt to treat these rogue tumors and the medical community offered up doxorubicin and/or paclitaxol - knowing that the latter two would have no effect on the tumor.  That is a sad reflection on our industry - we’ve given them NOTHING for which to administer.

Practically every aspect of North Coast was thought to be crazy and unorthodox.  How crazy would you have to be to think that you could start a biotech company in a 1000 sq. ft. garage using Ebay and Craigslist?  And that you could take a technology that, in another form, was run by about 22 people and run it with one - at most three?  And how crazy would you have to be to think that therapeutic candidates would emerge or that you would be entertaining and executing plans for personalized medicine in cancer?  Apparently we are just crazy enough because that is a sampling of exactly what we’ve done.  In the past 4.5 years, this small company has endured much pain from losing loved ones and friends to untimely deaths, we survived two adjacent fires, a mass emergence of carpenter ants (in the old garage), and worked extremely long hours so that we could show that the idea behind North Coast is possible.  And through all of this craziness, we have learned an enormous amount and ventured into areas that we never thought were possible.  We have made our share of mistakes along the way as a result.  But one would have to be crazy to stop moving forward when so much has been accomplished with so much now ahead of us.  

So if you’ve heard of North Coast, the answer is “yes” - we are the crazy ones.   James Watson was recently quoted, “The biggest obstacle to a true war against cancer may be the inherently conservative nature of today’s cancer research establishments.  As long as that’s so, curing cancer will always be 10 or 20 years away.”.  We are not waiting 10-20 years - we have the tools today and we are going to use them.  You have to be a little crazy to go against the establishment and that’s exactly the purpose of North Coast.

Excelsior!