Infinity Halts Trial of Lead Cancer Drug, Tysabri Sales Short of Projections, Myomo Slashes Staff, & More Boston-Area Life Sciences News

4/22/09

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treatments for autoimmune diseases. InterWest Partners and Arch Venture Partners were among the other lead investors in the round; return backer EDF Ventures also participated.

—Ryan got the goods on the technology and strategy of Cambridge, MA-based Epizyme, a heretofore stealthy startup out to make “epigenetic” drugs to combat blood cancer and tumors. Conceived during a meeting at MPM Capital two years ago and backed by MPM and Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers, Epizyme is developing drugs that target a class of enzymes known as histone methyltransferases—manipulating these enzymes should allow the company to turn disease-related genes on and off without affecting the underlying genetic code.

—Cambridge, MA-based Alnylam Pharmaceuticals (NASDAQ:ALNY) announced that the European Patent Office will grant it the first patent in Alnylam’s “Tuschi I” patent series. The patent includes broad claims on the use of double-stranded RNA molecules for RNA interference.

—Boston’s Myomo, maker of a robotic elbow brace for rehabilitation after stroke, reduced its staff by 66 percent and adopted a more virtual business model in response to slower-than-expected initial sales of the device, Ryan learned. With just four full-time employees remaining, the company hopes break into the home market with its device, which is currently used in rehab clinics in the Boston and New York markets and may soon be used in Hartford, CT, as well.

—The University of Massachusetts Medical School’s Massachusetts Biologic Laboratories will share a $60 million upfront fee with Princeton, NJ-based biotech firm Medarex (NASDAQ:MEDX) as part of a licensing deal with Merck (NYSE:MRK). The drug giant will get exclusive worldwide rights to two monoclonal antibodies being developed for the treatment of clostridium diffficile infection; the UMass lab and Medarex will be eligible for up to $165 million in milestone fees and double-digit royalties on Merck’s potential sales of the products.

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