Vertex Puts up $375M for ViroChem, Nuance Finally Nabs Zi, Proteon Procures $38M, & More Boston-Area Deals News

3/6/09

This week saw news of two interesting acquisitions and a couple of huge venture financings, among other deals cut by New England tech and life sciences firms.

— Burlington, MA-based Nuance Communications (NASDAQ:NUAN), after a series of unsuccessful offers begun last summer, has finally convinced the board of the Canadian firm Zi (NASDAQ:ZICA) to accept Nuance’s $35 million buyout offer. Under the terms of the deal, shareholders of Zi, which competes with Nuance in the market for text messaging software, will get 34 cents in cash and 0.4 shares of Nuance stock for every share of Zi stock. Zi shareholders must still approve the deal, which is actually worth less than one Zi’s board rejected in August.

—Ariad Pharmaceuticals (NASDAQ: ARIA) of Cambridge, MA, earned a $10 million milestone payment from its partner, Merck, as part of an existing deal between the firms focused on Ariad’s experimental drug for lung cancer.

—Cambridge, MA-based Vertex Pharmaceuticals (NASDAQ:VRTX) inked a deal to acquire privately held ViroChem Pharma of Laval, Quebec, for some $375 million in cash and stock. The deal gives Vertex the rights to two promising drugs for hepatitis C that ViroChem is developing; Vertex hope the drugs will eventually work in combination with its own hep C drug, telaprevir, which if approved would be a first-in-class protease inhibitor drug for the liver disease.

—Waltham, MA-based ImmunoGen said it earned a $6.5 million milestone from Genentech for starting a late-stage clinical trial for breast cancer drug T-DM1, which incorporates ImmunoGen’s cancer cell-killing agent and a Genentech antibody, trastuzumab. Luke wrote a nice history of the project, ImmunoGen, and the field of “smart bomb” cancer drugs.

—Cambridge, MA-based Alnylam Pharmaceuticals (NASDAQ:ALNY) contributed $10 million to a Series A financing round for Carlsbad, CA-based Regulus Therapeutics. An additional $10 million came from Carlsbad’s Isis Pharmaceuticals (NASDAQ:ISIS), which launched Regulus jointly with Alnylam in September 2007 to develop drugs based on the nascent science of microRNA.

—Westford, MA-based Verivue, a maker of cross-platform video streaming technology, revealed it had raised $40 million in a Series B financing round closed last July. Comcast Interactive Capital led the round, and Matrix Partners, North Bridge Venture Partners, Accel Partners, and Arris participated as well.

—Waltham, MA-based Onset Technology, a provider of compliance software for smartphones, raised $3 million in a financing led by the Cedar Fund of Waltham, Israel, and Grand Cayman.

—Boston-area investors Spark Capital and Grandbanks Capital participated in a $12 million Series D funding of San Francisco’s SendMe Mobile, a provider of ringtones, games, wallpaper, and other content for mobile phones. Carmel, CA-based Triangle Peak Partners led the round.

—Waltham, MA-based Proteon Therapeutics raised $38 million in a Series B round of financing led by MPM Capital and joined by Vectis Healthcare & Life Sciences Fund, TVM Capital, Skyline Ventures, Prism VentureWorks, Intersouth Partners, and earlier angel investors. Proteon’s lead product candidate is a protein drug designed to improve the outcome of a surgery that prepares kidney disease patients’ blood vessels to be frequently hooked up to dialysis machines.

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