GSK Cuts Deal with Concert to the Tune of a Potential $1B, Celldex Inks $94.5M CuraGen Acquisition, Aveo Touts Kidney Cancer Drug Data, & More Boston-Area Life Sciences News

6/3/09

Many of New England’s drug developers were down in Florida this week for the big annual meeting of the American Society of Clinical Oncology. Here’s what they had to report, as well as the news from the firms that didn’t make the trek south.

—Ryan profiled the efforts of Alnara Pharmaceuticals to develop an enzyme-replacement treatment for patients with cystic fibrosis. The Cambridge, MA-based startup recently completed a late-stage clinical trial of the drug, called liprotamase, and calls the results “extremely encouraging.” The company didn’t disclose details, although it says it hopes to gain FDA approval for the drug and begin marketing it in the U.S. next year.

—Proteon Therapeutics of Waltham, MA, added $12 million onto its Series B financing round, bringing the total for the round to $50 million. New investors Bessemer Venture Partners and Devon Park Bioventures contributed the bulk of the new capital.

—Needham, MA-based Celldex Therapeutics (NASDAQ:CLDX) forged an agreement to acquire Branford, CT-based CuraGen (NASDAQ:CRGN) in an all-stock transaction that values CuraGen at $94.5 million and gives Celldex multiple CuraGen assets, including 11 antibody drugs for cancer and at least $54.5 million in banked cash.

—Aveo Pharmaceuticals of Cambridge, MA, presented data from a 272-patient clinical trial of its cancer drug candidate, tivozanib, indicating that the drug may help shrink kidney tumors and prevent their spread with minimal side effects. Aveo plans to initiate a pivotal clinical trial of the drug later this year

—Lexington, MA-based Antigenics (NASDAQ: AGEN) unveiled preliminary data culled from a failed clinical trial that ended in 2005 that indicate that vitespen (Oncophage), the company’s immune-boosting treatment for cancer, may help certain kidney cancer patients live longer. Luke explored the treatment’s history and its prospects for finally reaching the market.

—Data from another failed clinical trial, conducted by Cambridge, MA-based Infinity Pharmaceuticals (NASDAQ: INFI), indicate that the company’s experimental lung cancer drug, IPI-504, might eventually prove to be safe and effective if given at a lower dose, and only to patients with a particular genetic makeup.

—Mansfield, MA-based medical device maker Innovative Spinal Technologies filed for Chapter 7 bankruptcy protection after shuttering operations earlier this year. What’s left for the creditors? Between $1 million and $10 million of assets, which include nine frozen human cadavers.

—Ryan got a good look at Avedro, a Waltham, MA-based startup out to develop a less-invasive alternative to Lasik vision-correction technology. Avedro’s 10-minute procedure, called Keraflex, uses microwave energy to shrink corneal tissue, providing vision correction that lasts for about two years.

—Results from second Phase III trial of an antidepressant being developed by Clinical Data (NASDAQ:CLDA) were positive. The Newton, MA-based firm plans to file for FDA approval of the drug, vilazodone, by the end of this year.

—Lexington, MA-based Concert Pharmaceuticals inked a deal with London-based GlaxoSmithKline (NYSE:GSK) potentially worth more than $1 billion. Glaxo will pay $35 million in upfront payments and equity investments for access to Concert’s technology for swapping some of the hydrogen atoms in existing drug molecules with a deuterium in order to improve their performance. The drug giant will also have rights to three programs in Concert’s R&D pipeline, including a deuterium-modified version of the anti-HIV drug atazanavir.

—Waltham, MA-based ImmunoGen captured some of the attention at the big ASCO meeting in Florida, as the maker of critical technology to increase the potency of Genentech and Roche’s trastuzumab-DM1 for breast cancer. This drug showed an ability to shrink tumors in patients who failed multiple prior therapies, and is currently moving along in a pivotal clinical trial.

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