Link Makes $40M Connection, Concert and Indevus Launch Clinicals, Genzyme’s Big Cholesterol Strategy, & More Boston-Area Life Sciences News

10/1/08

Hats off to Link Medicine, whose $40 million financing was a nice reminder that the economy still has a pulse. That, and the rest of the week’s Boston-area life sciences news, below.

—In case you missed our forum, How to Build a Life Sciences Company, Ryan did a great round up of the varied and creative strategies that some of the most interesting up-and-coming firms are employing in this difficult economic climate. Among them: The Ensemble Scientific Cast Model, The Big Pharma Checkbook Model, and The David (or Five Davids) Model.

—Natick, MA-based Boston Scientific (NYSE: BSX) won FDA clearance for its Taxus Express2 Atom Stent System, making it the only device approved for propping open clogged heart vessels as small as 2.25 millimeters in diameter.

—Concert Pharmaceuticals of Lexington, MA, launched its first clinical trial of a drug called CTP-347 that’s designed to prevent menopausal hot flashes without the dangerous side effects of hormone replacement therapy. The drug, like the others in Concert’s pipeline, is made by replacing a few hydrogen atoms on an existing drug with deuterium atoms.

—Luke took a quick look at EpiZyme, a stealthy year-old startup backed by MPM Capital and Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers. According to the firm’s founding CEO (MPM’s managing director) Kazumi Shiosaki, EpiZyme has hired a “dynamic duo” of executives from two big drugmakers to help lead its efforts to develop drugs based on epigenetics, biological system for turning genes on and off without altering their sequences.

—Lexington, MA-based GI Dynamics unveiled some promising results from a trial of its gut-lining sleeve device that’s designed to mimic the effect of gastric-bypass surgery but spare patients from actually going under the knife. Patients in the trial, which was presented at the International Federation for the Surgery of Obesity and Metabolic Disorders World Congress in Buenos Aires, lost an average of 30 pounds after three months, compared with about 10 pounds for those who dieting.

—Luke explored the strategy that Cambridge, MA-based Genzyme (NASDAQ: GENZ) is building around the cholesterol-lowering drug mipomersen, the co-marketing rights for which Genzyme paid $325 million to Carlsbad, CA-based Isis Pharmaceuticals (NASDAQ: ISIS). Genzyme typically goes after small patient populations (with very expensive drugs), and that’s where it’s starting with this one, seeking approval for mipomersen for people with an exceedingly rare genetic disorder that causes high cholesterol. But the firm also plans to tackle bigger and bigger markets with mipomersen, which raises a number of questions about how Genzyme will test and price the drug.

—Bermuda-based Covidien, a healthcare products company with a large presence in Massachusetts, announced a restructuring program that includes projects in all four of its business segments and in corporate. The firm says the program will save $50 million to $75 million a year.

—Clinical Data (NASDAQ:CLDA), a biotech firm in Newton, MA, said it will raise some $25 million in a private placement of stock and warrants.

—Luke painted a portrait of CombinatoRx (NASDAQ: CRXX), an eight-year-old firm in Cambridge, MA, that’s nearing an important juncture. CombinatoRx “will find out within the next four weeks whether its experimental combination drug for arthritis is likely to become a multi-billion dollar product, or a big, fat zero,” Luke wrote. If it makes it to market, the drug would be the first of CombinatoRx’s products, which are developed by putting existing drugs together in new combinations.

—Lexington, MA-based Indevus Pharmaceuticals (NASDAQ:IDEV) launched a Phase 3 clinical trial of an implant that delivers a drug to treat the rare condition acromegaly. If it makes it to market, the device could go head-to-head with Novartis’ injectable version of the drug, Sandostatin LAR, which had 2007 sales of $1.027 billion.

—Link Medicine, a Cambridge, MA-based startup developing treatments for Alzheimer’s Disease, ALS, and other neurodegenerative conditions, raised $40 million in a Series C venture round from Clarus Ventures and SV Life Sciences. The firm’s two earlier financing rounds brought in a combined $16.5 million.

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