Pharmas Flock to Sermo, Biogen Idec Takes Another Tack with MS, $400M More for the Broad Institute, & More Life Sciences News

9/4/08

This week’s Boston-area life sciences news has a little bit of everything—venture deals, new drugs, lawsuits, and a big-time donation. And for the entrepreneurs among you looking for an alternative to the typical venture capital firm, check out Ryan’s directory of corporate VC operations.

—The ranks of New England life sciences companies with their own venture capital arms are growing, so Ryan put together a directory of such outfits, complete with some fascinating details on each one’s focus and personality.

—Luke profiled the efforts of Cambridge, MA-based Biogen Idec (NASDAQ: BIIB) to develop the first drug that might help the body repair the damage done to nerves’ myelin coatings by multiple sclerosis. Currently available MS drugs, such as Biogen’s own Avonex and Tysabri, tamp down flare-ups of the disease in an effort to prevent further damage, but don’t fix myelin defects; a repair drug might help restore walking and other functions affected by the disease.

—Ryan checked in with our Kendall Square neighbor Sermo, and found that the popular social networking site for physicians—which had in the past announced new corporate partnerships, such as one with Pfizer (NYSE:PFE), with great fanfare—had quietly inked deals with eight more of the world’s 12 largest drug companies. Sermo CEO Daniel Palestrant also had a bit of advice for his fellow Health 2.0 firms.

—Dover, NH-based Salient Surgical Technologies pulled its planned $86.25 million initial public offering, for which it originally filed back in March.

—Cambridge, MA-based Quanterix, a Tufts spinoff developing technology for early diagnosis of cancer, Alzheimer’s disease, and other illnesses, closed the second half of a $15 million financing round from Arch Venture Partners, Bain Capital Ventures, and Flagship Ventures.

—A U.S. District Court in Texas reduced the patent-suit damages owed by Boston Scientific (NYSE: BSX) of Natick, MA, to rival Medtronic (NYSE: MDT) from $250 million to $19 million, finding two of the involved patents to be unenforceable.

—Cancer-drug developer Ariad Pharmaceuticals (NASDAQ: ARIA) of Cambridge, MA, is moving quietly toward having its first approved product on the market, Luke discovered. And if its lead drug, developed in conjunction with Whitehouse Station, NJ-based Merck (NYSE: MRK), is a success, Ariad is lined up to hold on to an atypically large chunk of the profits.

—MIT spinoff Hepregen, reportedly raised $3 million out of a $5 million first round of venture capital from Battelle Ventures and Innovation Valley Partners. The startup is developing technology to screen drugs in development for liver toxicity.

—Our sources tipped us off yesterday that Eli and Edythe Broad, the founding benefactors of the Broad Institute of Harvard and MIT, are donating an additional $400 million endowment to the Cambridge, MA-based genomic medicine research powerhouse. The announcement of the donation and its implications is currently underway; we’ll post more when we know more.

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