Clinical Data Sheds Cogenics, Codon Devices Codes, Mass Medical Angels Revs Up, & More Boston-Area Life Sciences News

4/8/09

The news this week from New England’s life sciences sector is all across the spectrum, with a new angel group forming to launch new companies and several firms struggling (and in one case, failing) to survive.

—Bob hosted a panel at the Massachusetts Technology Transfer Center’s fifth annual Early-Stage Life Sciences Technology Conference and came away with the sense that while innovation is always messy, it’s even messier today. His write-up of the event encapsulates some of the chaos, and highlights the nascent companies that presented at the conference.

—Newton, MA-based Clinical Data (NASDAQ:CLDA) announced it will sell its Cogenics genomics research business to Orange County, CA-based Beckman Coulter (NYSE:BEC). The roughly $17 million Clinical Data expects to get in the deal will help fund late-stage clinical development of its antidepressant vilazodone and its cardiac imaging agent apadenoson (Stedivaze).

—Ryan spoke with veteran entrepreneur and investor Richard Anders about his new angel investment group, Mass Medical Angels. MA2, as it’s also called, held its first meeting in December and, as far as Anders knows, is the only Massachusetts angel group focused entirely on investing in life sciences.

—Alnylam Pharmaceuticals (NASDAQ: ALNY) launched an early-phase clinical trial of its RNAi-based treatment for liver cancer. The trial marks the Cambridge, MA-based firm’s first attempt to make an RNAi drug that can circulate throughout the body.

—Waltham, MA-based Magen BioSciences, a startup developer of dermatologic products, was acquired by Wilmington, N.C.-based contract research firm PPD (NASDAQ:PPDI) for $14.5 million. Magen’s backers include Highland Capital, Flybridge Venture Partners, and Lux Capital.

—The Boston Globe reported that Codon Devices is shutting down. The Cambridge, MA-based firm was founded by Harvard, MIT, and University of California, Berkeley, researchers to commercialize synthetic DNA technologies, and backed by Flagship Ventures, Highland Capital Partners, Khosla Ventures, and Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers, among others.

—Luke talked with David Broecker, CEO of Cambridge, MA-based Alkermes (NASDAQ: ALKS). The company, a long-time partner of firms like Johnson & Johnson, is focusing now on developing novel drugs on its own. First up, a once-daily pill for people trying to kick an addiction to alcohol.

—In a bid to shore up its balance sheet and avoid bankruptcy, Lexington, MA-based Epix Pharmaceuticals (NASDAQ:EPIX) sold certain marketing rights to its imaging agent, gadofosveset trisodium, to North Billerica, MA,-based Lantheus Medical Imaging for $28 million and launched a major offering to exchange $100 million in debt notes for cash and common stock.

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