Resolvyx Closes in on Clinical Trials, Radius Health Reels in $15M, Luke Zeros in on Public Biotechs’ Bottom Line, & More Boston-Area Life Sciences News

11/26/08

All was far from quiet on the Boston-area life sciences front this past week. Behold…

—Luke did a massive analysis of the finances of public Boston-area life sciences firms, looking at how much money each one has in the bank—and how fast that cash is going up the chimney. Bottom line: Boston companies are overall better positioned than their San Diego and Seattle counterparts to weather the current economic storm, but many of them are hurting nonetheless.

Sylvie Gregoire, the president of Shire Human Genetic Therapies (HGT), filled Ryan in on the rapid expansion of the Lexington, MA-based division of Irish specialty drug company Shire. Formed through Shire’s $1.6 billion acquisition of Cambridge, MA-based biotech firm Transkaryotic Therapies in 2005, the division is in the midst of adding 680 workers and has become one of Shire’s fastest-growing businesses.

Resolvyx Pharmaceuticals unveiled plans for the first human clinical tests of its “resolvins.” The Bedford, MA-based startup will test one of the compounds, which are designed to mimic fish oil’s anti-inflammatory effects, as a treatment for dry eye.

—Cambridge, MA-based Idera Pharmaceuticals (NASDAQ:IDRA) extended its research collaboration with pharmaceutical behemoth Merck for another year. The collaboration is aimed at developing Idera’s drugs as treatments for cancer, infectious diseases, and Alzheimer’s.

—Radius Health, also of Cambridge, tacked another $15 million onto its Series C round of venture capital, bringing the total for the round—in which MPM Capital, the Wellcome Trust, HealthCare Ventures, Oxford Bioscience Partners, BB Biotech Ventures, and Scottish Widows Investment Partnership participated—to $82.5 million.

—Lebanon, NH-based antibody-based-drug developer Adimab completed a Series C round of financing from OrbiMed Advisors, Borealis Ventures, Polaris Venture Partners, and SV Live Sciences. No dollar figure for the deal was revealed.

—CombinatoRx (NASDAQ: CRXX) of Cambridge, MA, and the Andover, MA-based healthcare unit of Royal Philips NV both announced layoffs. CombinatoRx said it would let 30 people go, leaving just 55 employees in the firm. The Philips unit said it would cut 1,600 positions worldwide, including about 100 people at the Andover facility.

—Cancer drug developer Infinity Pharmaceuticals (NASDAQ: INFI) of Cambridge, MA, paired up with Stamford, CT-based Purdue Pharma in a deal potentially worth $75 million upfront. The co-development agreement, focused on several of Infinity’s drug candidates, could also give the Cambridge firm access to a $50 million line of credit.

—Luke had a chat with Ironwood Pharmaceuticals CEO Peter Hecht, who said his Cambridge, MA-based firm is pursuing the admittedly ludicrous-sounding goal of “trying to build the next great pharmaceutical company.” Founded as Microbia, the 10-year-old firm has raised a total of $231 million, the last $50 million of which came from a private round led by Morgan Stanley and announced on October 1 as Lehman Brothers and much of Wall Street crumbled.

—Lexington, MA-based Antigenics (NASDAQ: AGEN) announced that in a small study its experimental immune-system-stimulating treatment vitespen (Oncophage) helped patients with terminal brain cancer live about four months longer than their doctors expected.

—Luke got an update on Agios Pharmaceuticals, which launched last summer with $33 million from Third Rock Ventures, Flagship Ventures, and Arch Venture Partners with the idea of combating cancer by interfering with the jazzed-up metabolism of tumor cells. The company has moved into its 21,000-square-foot space in Cambridge, MA, and recruited five new scientific advisers from top-notch academic institutions, and is aiming to have its first drug in clinical trials by 2011.

—Private equity firm Yankee Equity Solution launched a $50 million fund to invest in Boston-area medtech outfits. The fund will target firms that have annual revenues of $10 million, earnings of $2 million, and the potential to be first or second in their market segment.

—Cambridge, MA-based Genzyme (NASDAQ: GENZ) announced it is seeking FDA approval to market clofarabine (Clolar) for patients over age 60 with acute myeloid leukemia. The drug, which is already approved for acute lymphoblastic leukemia, could generate annual sales of up to $600 million if it is cleared for multiple forms of leukemia, according to Genzyme.

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