Vertex Stays Put, Hydra Handed $22M, Sequenom Still Pursuing Exact Sciences Acquisition, & More Boston-Area Life Sciences News

1/21/09

[Corrected 1/21/09, see the item on Cynosure] The New England biomedical industry was on the quiet side this past week, but there are still a few tidbits to report.

—California-based Sequenom (NASDAQ:SQNM) said it would press ahead with its effort to acquire Exact Sciences (NASDAQ:EXAS) even though the board of the Marlborough, MA-based diagnostics maker rejected the $41 million offer.

—Luke took an informal pool of the Boston-area life sciences leaders gathered at last week’s JP Morgan Healthcare Conference in San Francisco, asking about lessons learned from the biotech bust of 2001/2002, the companies and technologies best poised to survive the current downturn, their predictions for biotech-pharma partnership activity, and more. Part 1 features the responses of Alnylam Pharmaceuticals CEO John Maraganore and Vertex Pharmaceuticals CEO Josh Boger; Part 2 focuses on those from Alkermes Chairman Richard Pops and CFO Jim Frates and Sirtris CEO Christoph Westphal.

—Medical laser maker Cynosure of Westford, MA, revealed it had laid off 60 people, or 17 percent of its staff, at the end of last year. The staff reductions and other cuts should save approximately $8 million to $10 million in 2009. [Correction, 1/21/09, 10:15 a.m.: We originally reported that Cynosure had laid off 285 people, but 285 is actually the number of workers remaining at the company. We regret the error.]

—Vertex Pharmaceuticals (NASDAQ: VRTX) extended its lease on two main buildings in Cambridge, MA, until 2015. The company plans in the long term to consolidate its local employees—of which there are currently about 1,300 spread among nine buildings—in one campus.

—Cambridge, MA-based Hydra Biosciences raised $22 million in a Series D round of venture capital led by MedImmune Ventures and joined by existing investors Advanced Technology Ventures, Abingworth, Polaris Venture Partners, BioVenture Investors, Biogen Idec Ventures, and Lilly Ventures. Hydra is developing pain medications designed to be as powerful as morphine, without the narcotic side effects.

—Axon Labs, a startup in Newton, MA, developing a system to help people with sleep disorders monitor their sleep patterns, raised $8.3 million in a Series C financing round led by Trident Capital and joined by existing investor iD Ventures America. The startup also changed its name to Zeo.

—Shares of Cambridge, MA-based Alnylam Pharmaceuticals (NASDAQ: ALNY) fell on the news that the firm had lost an oral argument that it should be granted a particular patent on RNA interference technology. The final decision on the patent, known as ‘945, is still subject to further appeal.

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