A123 Files For “Lucky” IPO, BP Shells out $90M for Verenium’s Biofuel Tech, Alnylam Ventures into New RNA Realm, & More Deals News

8/11/08

New England tech firms ended last week right where the Beijing Olympics began—with a much-anticipated event timed to the lucky number eight. That, and the rest of the week’s biz-tech dealings below.

—Observers have been waiting for some time now for A123 Systems—the Watertown, MA-based maker of advanced batteries whose customers include GM and Black & Decker—to take to the public markets. And on August 8, 2008, the firm made its move, filing for an IPO worth up to $175 million. We guessed that the timing was not a coincidence; eight is considered lucky in China because it is similar to the Mandarin word for wealth.

—Biofuel maker Verenium (NASDAQ: VRNM) of Cambridge, MA, forged a strategic partnership worth up to $90 million with BP, the United States’ largest oil and gas producer. Under the terms of the agreement, BP will pay Verenium $45 million in three installments over the next year, plus $2.5 million per month over the next 18 months, for access to the Massachusetts firm’s technology for converting high-cellulose materials such as sugar cane, elephant grass, and wood chips into ethanol.

—Alnylam Pharmaceuticals (NASDAQ: ALNY) of Cambridge, MA, inked licensing deals with the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center, the University of California, San Francisco, and the Salk Institute for Biological Studies, giving it exclusive access to technology for boosting the activity of targeted genes. This new technique, dubbed RNAa, essentially does the opposite of RNAi, the gene-silencing technique around which Alnylam was originally built.

—Stamford, CT-based software maker InstallFree raised $8.5 million in a Series B financing round from Ignition Partners and Trilogy Equity Partners. The startup’s software helps deliver virtualized applications to Windows desktops.

—DynaTrace Software of Waltham, MA, which makes tools to spot performance problems in large enterprise systems, raised $12.9 million in a Series B round from the likes of Bay Partners and Bain Capital Ventures.

—Epix Pharmaceuticals (NASDAQ: EPIX) of Lexington, MA, announced it will raise as much as $50 million over the next three years in a sale of up to 8.3 million new shares shares to Kingsbridge Capital.

—Newton, MA-based diagnostics maker Clinical Data (NASDAQ: CLDA) acquired Charlottesville, VA-based Adenosine Therapeutics in a deal worth up to $66 million, depending on regulatory and commercial milestones.

—Antibiotic developer Tetraphase Pharmaceuticals of Watertown, MA, closed a $15 million second tranche of its $25 million Series A financing. Mediphase Venture Partners, CMEA Ventures, Fidelity Biosciences, Flagship Ventures, and Skyline Ventures participated in the deal.

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