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Jim Olson

Seattle biotechnology startup Blaze Bioscience has raised $8.5 million to continue developing technologies that  are designed to help surgeons more easily identify cancer cells in the body. Total funding in the company, with operations in the South Lake Union area of Seattle, now stands at $9.8 million. Blaze said that the money came from individual investors, including doctors and biotech execs.

That’s a fairly large series A deal for individual investors, but with capital sources drying up in the region (including the demise of biotech investor OVP Venture Partners) there aren’t as many institutional sources for life sciences companies as there used to be. The $8.5 million round also has come in via two tranches, and we reported on the $5 million portion of it last summer.

Blaze dubs its technology “Tumor Paint” in part because it is designed to help surgeons get real-time, high resolution visualizations of cancer cells, making it easier for them to remove the cells. The product candidate uses a targeting peptide and a fluorescent beacon to illuminate the cancer cells — allowing doctors to differentiate between healthy cells and cancerous cells.

“We have a dedicated group of investors who share our vision of bringing light into tumor cells so that surgeons can see them in real time,” said co-founder Jim Olson.

Olson is a pediatric neuro-oncologist at Seattle Children’s Hospital, a member of the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center and a Professor at the University of Washington’s School of Medicine. The company also recently hired Dennis Miller, the former Senior Vice President of Research and Preclinical Development at ZymoGenetics, and Claudia Jochheim, a former executive at Seattle Genetics.

The company is led by CEO Heather Franklin, a former executive at ZymoGenetics.

Blaze is currently entering Phase 1 clinical trials to explore the safety of the product in cancer patients with multiple types of tumors.

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