New RNAi Drugs, Major Cutbacks at Targanta, Big Partnerships for Arqule and Archemix, & More Boston-Area Life Sciences News

12/24/08Follow @wroush

There was quite a bit of news this week relating to RNA-interference drugs, and to FDA approval (or non-approval, as the case may be) of drugs under development by local biotechs. Without further ado:

—It was sports week for Ryan. First, he interviewed biotech hedge fund founder Rich Aldrich, part of the group that owns the Boston Celtics, who said why he’s excited about Alnylam, Alnara, and the future of his fund. Then he talked with David Lucchino, CEO of Cambridge, MA-based Semprus Biosciences and nephew of Red Sox CEO Larry Lucchino, about Semprus’s $8 million Series A round and its plans to develop longer-lasting polymer-based surface materials for plastic and metal medical implants.

—Yet another new pharmaceutical company focusing on RNA-interference, Norwood, MA-based AiRNA, emerged from stealth mode, with a focus on so-called asymmetrical interfering RNA molecules 15 base pairs in length, which are shorter (and may therefore have fewer side effects) than the RNAi molecules being developed by Alnylam and others. Alnylam, meanwhile, announced it has filed an application with the FDA to start the first clinical trials of its systemic RNAi anti-cancer drug, ALN-VSP.

—In Waltham, MA, Entra Pharmaceuticals collected the first $4.2 million of what could end up being a $12.5 million Series A venture round, with Flybridge Capital Partners and North Bridge Venture Partners participating.

—BioTrove of Woburn, MA, changed its mind about going public in the current market, canceling the planned $75 million IPO for which it first filed eight months ago.

—Weeks after news that the FDA had declined to approve its lead drug candidate, an antibiotic intended to treat the MRSA infection, Cambridge, MA-based Targanta Therapeutics laid off 86 employees, about three-quarters of its staff.

—In a private offering of its stock, genetic analysis tools maker Helicos Biosciences … Next Page »

Wade Roush is a contributing editor at Xconomy. Follow @wroush

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