Steven Gillis: In The Pink At Corixa

In the death-defying world of biotech startups, Steven Gillis is a true survivor. The founder and chief executive of Seattle's Corixa has seen it all: drug failures, hostile capital markets, and even the unexpected emergence of a rival during an initial public offering. "I have been dead many times," Gillis says.

Right now, though, he's very much in the pink. On Oct. 16, Corixa announced plans to buy South San Francisco's Coulter Pharmaceuticals for $900 million. The deal--one of the largest ever in biotech--will bring Corixa a beefed-up sales force and a promising new drug, Bexxar, that fights non-Hodgkin's lymphoma.

The Food & Drug Administration is expected to approve Bexxar in November, and the drug could reach the market next year. It would join a stable of Corixa products aimed at cancer, autoimmune disorders, and infectious diseases, making the company "a major force in the emerging field of immunotherapy," Gillis crows. Analysts say Coulter will give Corixa critical mass in a fiercely competitive industry. Or so Gillis hopes.