Merck Makes GlycoFi Center of its Biogenerics Strategy, Biogen Says Tysabri Might Promote Remyelination, Stemgent Teams with Fate, & More Boston-Area Life Sciences News

4/30/09

Stem cells and RNAi were the subject of a couple of interesting alliances announced this week. More on those, and the rest of the week’s New England life sciences news, below.

—Alkermes (NASDAQ: ALKS), a maker of drugs for central nervous system disorders, addiction, and diabetes, signed a lease to move its headquarters from Cambridge, MA, to Waltham, MA. The move, which should be complete in early 2010, is supposed to save the company $8 million a year starting in fiscal 2011.

—Ryan gave an intriguing look inside Lebanon, NH-based GlycoFi nearly three years after its acquisition for $400 million by drug behemoth Merck. Where such transactions often result in the smaller company’s dismantling and absorption into the larger firm, GlycoFi and its yeast-based technology are now the focal point of Merck’s strategy for taking on the market for generic versions of biotech drugs.

—Stemgent of Cambridge, MA, and Fate Therapeutics of San Diego launched the joint “Catalyst” program to offer new developments in stem (iPS) cell technology to large pharmaceutical companies, big biotech firms, and academic labs for a fee. For Stemgent, the program is an extension of its strategy of selling stem cell technologies from leading academic labs to the research market.

—Luke talked to Al Sandrock, senior vice president of neurology R&D at Cambridge, MA-based Biogen Idec (NASDAQ:BIIB), ahead of the annual meeting of the American Academy of Neurology. Biogen planned to highlight its multiple sclerosis products and pipeline at the meeting; yesterday, for instance, it presented a small study indicating that natalizumab (Tysabri) might help the body actually repair damage done by MS to nerves’ myelin coating.

—Cambridge, MA-based Vertex (NASDAQ: VRTX) reported more positive data on its experimental hepatitis C drug, telaprevir, at a scientific meeting in Denmark. If the results hold up in ongoing pivotal trials and Vertex wins … Next Page »

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