Genzyme Shrinks Gene Therapy Effort, Expands Oncology; BioVex Raises $40M For Cancer-Fighting Viruses; Biogen Looks to Future of MS Franchise; & More Boston-Area Life Sciences News

4/1/09

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early warning signs of heart attack and stroke. On the strength of the study, Molecular Insight decided to gear up for a pivotal trial of the agent, which it hopes to market under the name Zemiva.

—Cambridge, MA-based Millennium Pharmaceuticals gave investors and reporters a run-down on its cancer-drug pipeline—a suite of 13 drug candidates that, combined with Millennium’s marketed drug bortezomib (Velcade) and its in-house drug development expertise, helped the Cambridge firm fetch $8.8 billion in an acquisition by Tokyo-based Takeda Pharmaceuticals.

—Luke chatted with Biogen Idec’s (NASDAQ:BIIB) president of research and development, Cecil Pickett, about the Cambridge, MA-based firm’s effort to protect its $2.2 billion-a-year multiple sclerosis franchise in the face of dwindling patent protection for its biggest-selling drug, interferon-beta1a (Avonex). The idea: a modified version of the compounds that lasts longer in the bloodstream, requires fewer shots, and might even work better.

—The FDA said that Cambridge, MA-based Dyax (NASDAQ: DYAX) must answer more questions about its lead drug in development, a treatment for hereditary angioedema called DX-88, before the drug can be approved. The company then announced it would cut 60 jobs to focus on bringing DX-88 to market.

—Ryan took a look at TargAnox, a Boston-area startup launched with $5.1 in Series A funding from Ascent Biomedical Ventures (which led the round) and Partners Innovation Fund. TargAnox is out to develop drugs for the likes of cardiovascular disease, diabetes, and Alzheimer’s disease by curbing a biochemical process called oxidative stress.

—Woburn, MA-based cancer drug developer BioVex raised a whopping $40 million in venture capital to help move its genetically modified cancer-fighting virus through late-stage clinical testing. The round was led by Amsterdam-based Forbion Capital Partners and joined by Credit Agricole Private Equity, Innoven Partners, New Science Ventures, Triathlon Medical Venture Partners, Scottish Equity Partners, and others.

–Aushon BioSystems, a Billerica, MA-based provider of microarray tools and services, raised $6.5 million in new financing from North Bridge Venture Partners.

—Marlborough, MA-based Sepracor (NASDAQ: SEPR) applied for FDA approval of the epilepsy drug eslicarbazepine acetate, which Sepracor licensed from the Portuguese pharmaceutical company BIAL-Portela in 2007. Sepracor hopes to market the drug as Stedesa.

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