Biogen Idec Buys MS Drug Rights, Immuneering Models Cancer Drug Responses, Hologic Wins Contraceptive Device Approval, & More Boston-Area Life Sciences News

7/8/09

Perhaps New England’s life sciences companies were busy building arks this past week, because the news flow was a heck of a lot lighter than the rainfall. There are still a few interesting developments to report, though.

—Cambridge, MA-based Biogen Idec (NASDAQ:BIIB) agreed to pay $110 million up front, plus up to $400 million in additional fees, for the rights to develop and commercialize the multiple sclerosis drug Fampridine-SR overseas. The drug’s developer, Hawthorne, NY-based Acorda Therapeutics (NASDAQ:ACOR), will retain U.S. marketing rights.

—Ryan caught up with Xconomist Alexis Borisy, who last week left his post as the CEO of CombinatoRx (NASDAQ:CRXX), the Cambridge, MA-based firm he launched in 2000 to develop novel treatments based on combinations of existing drugs. Borisy spoke candidly about the “miserable” experience of having to lay off about 100 workers after his company’s lead drug failed in a mid-stage clinical trial last October, and about his hopes for the firm’s future, which includes a planned merger with Vancouver’s Neuromed Pharmaceuticals.

—Luke profiled Boston-based Immuneering, the brainchild of 27-year-old CEO Ben Zeskind and 30-year biotech veteran Bob Carpenter who, among other accomplishments, sold one of his companies to Genzyme (NASDAQ: GENZ) for $1 billion. The startup wants to use its proprietary mathematical modeling tools, based on research from the MIT lab of Doug Lauffenburger, to help figure out from blood and biopsy samples which cancer patients will respond to which drugs. This could spare patients the side effects of drugs that won’t work for them and could spare insurance companies the expense of those drugs.

—Hologic (NASDAQ: HOLX), a women’s health-focused firm in Bedford, MA, won FDA approval for a device called Adiana designed to provide a less-invasive alternative to tubal ligation. The permanent contraceptive device was approved for the European market in January.

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