Millennium Enjoying New Era, Novartis Boosting Vaccine Effort, Living Proof Offering Frizz Fighters Online, & More Life Sciences News

9/17/08

This week it was insanely humid in the Boston area, so we were relieved to learn that Living Proof had begun selling its frizz-fighting hair products online. That, and the rest of the week’s (perhaps more weighty) life sciences news, below.

—Luke caught up with Millennium Pharmaceuticals CEO Deborah Dunsire four months after her Cambridge, MA-based firm was taken over by Japan-based Takeda Pharmaceutical. Dunsire reports that the $8.8 billion acquisition has been good to Millennium—Takeda has giving the Cambridge outfit a lot of autonomy and room to grow, and has entrusted it with the responsibility for not only the drugs in its own pipeline but also for overseeing clinical trials for 10 cancer drugs from the Japanese firm’s worldwide discovery operations.

—Cambridge, MA-based Living Proof, the super-secretive developer of super-scientific salon products, launched a one-month online sale of its anti-frizz hair sprays, creams, and the like. Still no word on exactly what new technology is in there, but the Polaris Venture Partners-backed startup has ties to some heavyweight inventors from MIT and Harvard.

—Swiss drug giant Novartis unveiled plans for a new vaccine-research facility in Cambridge, MA. By the end of next year Novartis expects to add an additional 150 employees in Cambridge, boosting its presence here to more than 1,800 workers.

—Dredging up some memories from eighth-grade biology (homeostasis ring any bells?) Luke took a closer look at the science behind Cambridge, MA-based Proteostasis Therapeutics, which recently raised an eye-popping $45 million first round of financing from HealthCare Ventures, Fidelity Biosciences, New Enterprise Associates, Novartis Option Fund, and Genzyme Ventures. The startup is working on drugs that promote or restore the balance of proteins in the body as a novel way of confronting ailments such as Alzheimer’s disease or Parkinson’s disease.

—Watertown, MA-based Enanta Pharmaceuticals launched an early stage clinical trial of EDP-322, an oral antibiotic for bacteria resistant to other potent antibiotics such as vancomycin, Pfizer’s Zyvox, and Cubist Pharmaceuticals’ Cubicin.

—Sirtris, a Cambridge, MA-based firm recently acquired by British drug giant GlaxoSmithKline (NYSE: GSK), nabbed two exclusive licenses to Harvard University patents related to SIRT3, an enzyme believed to protect against cellular damage. Much of Sirtris’ research focuses on the related enzyme SIRT1.

—At a scientific meeting, Lexington, MA-based GI Dynamics presented data showing that its sleeve-like gut-lining device helps patients with Type 2 diabetes lower their blood sugar and their weight. The device, which can be inserted and removed via the mouth, could eventually provide an alternative to gastric bypass surgery.

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