Vertex, Ariad, and Infinity Reach Clinical Milestones; FDA Grants Dying Cancer Patient Access to Tysabri; Genzyme Exec Takes Pervasive Helm; & More Boston-Area Life Sciences News

10/22/08

There was a lot of activity related to biotech-pharma partnerships this week. That, and the rest of the Boston-area life sciences news, below.

—Lexington, MA-based Predictive Biosciences, a diagnostics startup build around research done at Children’s Hospital Boston, raised $21.75 million in Series B financing. New investor New Enterprise Associates led the deal, and Kaiser Permanente Ventures, Highland Capital Partners, and Flybridge Capital Partners also participated.

—Cambridge, MA’s Infinity Pharmaceuticals (NASDAQ: INFI) launched an early-stage clinical trial of its drug IPI-926 among 30 to 50 patients with advanced solid tumors. The orally administered drug works by blocking the so-called hedgehog pathway, which can play a key role in tumor growth when it becomes overactivated.

—The FDA and the Mayo Clinic found a legal basis to give a dying cancer patient Tysabri—a drug approved for multiple sclerosis and Crohn’s disease but not for cancer—after the drug’s maker, Cambridge, MA-based Biogen Idec refused to do so. Luke explained the complicated ethical and regulatory context in which the FDA and Biogen (NASDAQ: BIIB) made their decisions.

—T2 Biosystems, a startup in Cambridge, MA, developing portable diagnostics devices that use miniaturized magnetic resonance technology, raised $10.8 million in a Series B financing round. Flagship Ventures, Polaris Venture Partners, Flybridge Capital Partners, Partners Healthcare, and In-Q-Tel all contributed to the round.

—Cambridge, MA-based Archemix inked a licensing and options deal with Indianapolis-based drug giant Eli Lilly (NYSE:LLY). The agreement, financial terms of which weren’t revealed, focused in part on Archemix’s “aptamer” technology for developing drugs based on short pieces of DNA or RNA that bind to certain disease-related proteins.

—Vertex Pharmaceuticals (NASDAQ: VRTX) of Cambridge, MA, got some encouraging results from a mid-stage clinical trial of VX-770, its treatment for cystic fibrosis patients with a particular gene mutation. The firm plans to work with the FDA and regulators overseas on a design for a pivotal clinical trial to start next year.

—Cambridge, MA-based Ariad Pharmaceuticals earned a $12.5 million milestone payment from its partner, Merck, for beginning a mid-stage study of its drug deforolimus for patients with advanced prostate cancer.

—Dyax co-founder Henry Blair is set to step down as president and CEO of the Cambridge, MA-based drug developer on January 1, the company announced. Gustav Christensen, previously the firm’s chief business officer, will assume Blair’s post.

—Luke had a chat with Frederic Chereau, a former Genzyme executive who has taken the reins as CEO of Cambridge, MA-based Pervasis Therapeutics. Chereau described how Pervasis’ cell-based technology for promoting healing and blocking inflammation, as well as its initial target market—patients on kidney dialysis—drew him to the company.

—Waltham, MA-based ImmunoGen (NASDAQ:IMGN) inked a deal with Bayer worth $4 million upfront and up to $170 million in milestone payments; the deal gives Bayer an exclusive worldwide license on ImmunoGen’s Tumor-Activated Prodrug technology, which ushers cancer drugs safely through the bloodstream and into tumors, where they unleash their cell-killing abilities.

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  • Patrick

    Your BIIB report is false. Tysabri is NOT approved for multiple myeloma. It’s approved for multiple sclerosis.

  • http://www.xconomy.com/author/rzacks/ Rebecca Zacks

    Patrick,
    You’re absolutely correct–I meant to type “multiple sclerosis,” not “multiple myeloma.” The error is fixed now; thanks for pointing it out.
    Best,
    Rebecca