Cubist and Alnylam Tackle RSV, Exact Sciences Fends Off Sequenom, An FDA Panel Backs GTC Biotherapeutics’ Goat-Milk Drug, & More Boston-Area Life Sciences News

1/14/09

New England’s life sciences firms unveiled some big deals and big plans this week.

Satori Pharmaceuticals raised $22 million from investors including InterWest Partners, Prospect Venture Partners, New Enterprise Associates, and PureTech Ventures (which launched the firm). The Cambridge, MA-based startup told Luke about its vision of becoming the first company to stop the progressive loss of memory and cognition caused by Alzheimer’s disease.

—Lexington, MA-based Cubist Pharmaceuticals (NASDAQ: CBST) agreed to pay Cambridge, MA-based Alnylam Pharmaceuticals (NASDAQ: ALNY) $20 million, plus up to $82.5 million down the road in milestone-based payments, for the right to market RNAi-based drugs that Alnylam is developing to treat respiratory syncytial virus, or RSV.

—New Haven, CT’s Kolltan Pharmaceuticals closed a Series A round of venture financing worth over $35 million; the funding will help the startup develop cancer treatments based on the work of Yale University Medical School’s Joseph Schlessinger, a cofounder and director of the firm and its chief scientist.

—Marlborough, MA-based Exact Sciences (NASDAQ: EXAS) received—and rejected—a takeover offer from San Diego-based Sequenom (NASDAQ: SQNM). The deal, in which Sequenom proposed to give $1.50 worth of its own stock in exchange for each share in the Massachusetts maker of cancer diagnostics, valued Exact at about $41 million.

An FDA advisory panel recommended that the agency approve what would be the first drug in the U.S. manufactured in genetically-modified animals: an anti-clotting drug marketed as ATryn by Framingham, MA-based GTC Biotherapeutics. The FDA isn’t required to follow such recommendations but it usually does.

—Cambridge, MA-based Alnylam Pharmaceuticals (NASDAQ: ALNY) unveiled its (quite ambitious) plans for the coming year. On the list: two new partnerships with big drugmakers focused on its proprietary RNA-interference technology and ending the year with about $435 million left in the bank.

—Cancer drug developer Forma Therapeutics of Cambridge, MA, inked a license and option agreement with Swiss drug giant Novartis, via the Novartis Option Fund, an investor in Forma. Under the terms of the deal, Novartis will pay Forma an upfront fee and potential payments totaling more than $200 million.

—Ryan had a chat with Susan Windham-Bannister, president and CEO of the Massachusetts Life Sciences Center, which is charged with running the state’s $1 billion life sciences stimulus plan. She shared how her agency is coping with budget cuts, how it’s encouraging corporate partners to match state investments, what types of projects it’s interested in funding, and more.

—Cambridge, MA-based Targanta Therapeutics (NASDAQ:TARG) accepted a $42 million buyout offer from The Medicines Company (NASDAQ:MDCO). The deal comes on the heels of a huge blow dealt to Targanta last month when the FDA decided not to approve its lead antibiotic, oritavancin, indicating that further clinical testing would be necessary. Targanta shareholders must approve the deal, which includes additional cash payments for regulatory and sales milestones.

—Biogen Idec (NASDAQ: BIIB), also of Cambridge, announced that its experimental drug for Parkinson’s disease reached its goal of demonstrating effectiveness in two mid-stage clinical trials. The drug, BIIB-014, aims to be one of the first in a new class of Parkinson’s treatments that minimize the secondary symptoms of the disease and keep standard therapies from losing their effectiveness over time.

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