Regulus Strikes Out On Its Own, J&J Seeks “Enlight”-enment, Synta Awaits Melanoma Data, & More Boston-Area Life Sciences News

1/28/09

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the company’s lead antibiotic, delafloxacin, which is being tested as a treatment for skin and tissue infections caused by MRSA and other antibiotic-resistant bacteria.

—Forma Therapeutics of Cambridge, MA, inked a deal with Lexington, MA-based Cubist (NASDAQ:CBST) worth $14 million over the next three years and up to $54 million more in milestone payments. Under the agreement, Forma will use its combination of screening technology, computer modeling, and chemistry to discover new antibacterial compounds.

—Waltham, MA-based Altus Pharmaceuticals (NASDAQ: ALTU) revealed in a regulatory filing it is eliminating 107 jobs, or 75 percent of its workforce. It also plans to halt development of its cystic fibrosis drug, Trizytek, and return the rights to the drug to the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation.

—Luke profiled Lexington, MA-based Synta Pharmaceuticals’ efforts to develop a drug that can slow the spread of metastatic melanoma, a notoriously difficult cancer to treat. Synta (NASDAQ: SNTA) is awaiting results from a final-stage clinical trial of the drug, elesclomol, and could apply for FDA approval before the end of this year.

—Ryan examined the possible impact on the Massachusetts life sciences sector of Pfizer’s $68 billion proposed acquisition of Wyeth. On the one hand, sources told him, the completion of the deal would mean that local biotechs have one less big pharma company to partner with or be acquired by. On the other hand, predicts Susan Windham-Bannister, president and CEO of the Massachusetts Life Sciences Center, the merger could result in increased activity in Massachusetts of both firms—which would likely benefit the state.

—Shares of Cambridge, MA-based Genzyme (NASDAQ: GENZ) climbed on the news that Amgen (NASDAQ: AMGN) had discontinued development of an treatment that stood to challenge Genzyme’s kidney drug franchise. Genzyme’s sevelamer (marketed as Renagel and Renvela) is projected to generate $833 million in sales this year.

—Lexington, MA-based NitroMed (NASDAQ:NTMD) agreed to be acquired for 80 cents per share in cash by investment firm Deerfield Management—rather than completing previously announced deals to sell BiDil, its treatment for heart failure in African Americans, to specialty drugmaker JHP Pharmaceuticals and to merge with Cambridge, MA-based biotech firm Archemix. The buyout offer, which must still be approved by NitroMed shareholders, values the Lexington firm at about $36.8 million.

—Wade got the inside scoop on the demise of medical-implant maker Innovative Spinal Technologies of Mansfield, MA. Citing management decisions rather than the market as a cause of the company’s woes, a former IST employee said that the company shuttered operations and filed for bankruptcy after a proposed sale of the company fell through. IST had raised almost $75 million in venture and private equity funding since its founding as a spinoff of the Texas Back Institute in 2002.

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