Novartis Deal Could Boost Ascent by $200M, Ariad’s Boardroom Drama Comes to Light, Targanta Takes Another Hit, & More Boston-Area Life Sciences News

12/10/08

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from Cambridge, MA-based Targanta Therapeutics (NASDAQ:TARG) for its antibiotic oritavancin as a treatment for complicated skin and skin structure infections. Targanta will need to conduct additional clinical studies to demonstrate safety and effectiveness of the drug, the agency said.

—Luke got a chemistry-class refresher from the kind folks at Waltham, MA-based startup Avila Therapeutics. With backing from Polaris Venture Partners, Atlas Venture, Abingworth Management, and Advent Venture Partners, Avila is trying to develop a new class of small-molecule drugs that form stronger bonds with their targets (covalent bonds, to be precise) than do typical small-molecule drugs.

—Korean biotech firm Osteogenic Core Technologies reportedly plans to open a 30-scientist-strong outpost in Cambridge, MA, via its OCT USA unit. OCT develops treatments for osteoporosis and arthritis, and plans to spend $8 million to $10 million over the next three years on the new Massachusetts office.

—Cambridge, MA-based genetic-analysis toolmaker Helicos Biosciences revealed it will cut some 30 jobs, or about 30 percent of its staff, by the end of the year.

—Just weeks after announcing plans to merge with privately held Cambridge, MA-based biotech firm Archemix, Lexington, MA-based NitroMed (NASDAQ:NTMD) revealed it has received an unsolicited acquisition bid from investment group Deerfield Management. The latest deal would bring NitroMed for 50 cents per share in cash, a 40 percent premium on its closing price on the day the offer was announced of 30 cents per share.

—Luke followed the unfolding boardroom drama at Cambridge, MA-based Ariad Pharmaceuticals (NASDAQ:ARIA). First, four of the biotech company’s nine directors quit, accusing CEO Harvey Berger of “grossly inappropriate” and “manipulative” conduct related to a merger with an Ariad subsidiary. Then Berger defended himself in a conference call with investors, firing back at the directors who had resigned and what he called their “false and misleading statements.” You can expect round three in next week’s roundup, I’m sure.

—Millennium Pharmaceuticals, a Cambridge-Ma based unit of Japan’s Takeda Pharmaceuticals, unveiled another year’s worth of follow-up data supporting the claim that its cancer drug bortezomib (Velcade) can prolong the lives of patients with the bone-marrow cancer multiple myeloma. The latest data, reported at the American Society of Hematology (ASH) meeting, buttresses findings reported last year, to a standing ovation, at the same event.

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