Funding Pool Deep for Still River, Cuts in the Offing for Epix and Synta, FDA Approvals Granted for Hologic, & More Boston-Area Life Sciences News

3/18/09

The past week saw substantial cuts at two of New England’s biotech firms, but a thorough analysis of the financial reporting for most companies in the sector shows the news isn’t all bad. That and more below.

—Luke delivered the second installment of his Biotech Survival Index, which assesses the financial health of more than 40 of Boston’s public life sciences companies. Things were predictably dire for many of them, but compared to the previous quarter more companies were in the enviable position of having over $100 million squirreled away.

—Cambridge, MA-based Biogen Idec (NASDAQ: BIIB) and partner Genentech were unable to show in a clinical trial that their drug rituximab (Rituxan) is effective as a treatment for lupus nephritis, an inflammatory disease of the kidneys. Rituximab is already approved as a treatment for non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma and rheumatoid arthritis.

Ryan profiled Aura Biosciences, a startup in Cambridge, MA, that’s out to commercialize drug-delivery technology licensed from European research institutions. Having recently raised over $3 million to fund its efforts, Aura hopes to develop nano-sized particles to ferry cancer drugs directly to tumor cells, say, or to carry RNA-interference-based treatments into the body.

—Epix Pharmaceuticals (NASDAQ:EPIX) of Lexington, MA, announced plans to reduce its staff by half to cut costs. The layoffs, which will affect 44 workers, combined with a reduction in CEO Elkan Gamzu’s base salary, should save Epix $4.4 million a year.

—Epix’s Lexington neighbor, Synta Pharmaceuticals (NASDAQ:SNTA), also announced a planned staff reduction. Cutting 90 workers, or about 41 percent of its staff, should allow the firm to operate for two more years without new funding.

—Wade took a look at a collaboration between IBM and Boston’s Brigham and Women’s Hospital that could give geographically dispersed teams of doctors … Next Page »

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