ConforMIS Corrals $50M, Oscient Files for Bankruptcy, Vertex Peddles Rights to Milestone Payments, & More Boston-Area Life Sciences News

7/15/09

New England’s life sciences companies produced a couple of sizeable venture deals this past week, but they also faced some significant challenges.

Rapid Micro Biosystems closed a Series A financing round worth $18.6 million. Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers, TVM Capital, Quaker BioVentures, and VIMAC Milestone Medica Fund provided the backing for the Bedford, MA-based startup, which already has commercialized its technology for detecting microbes that can contaminate drug manufacturing facilities.

—Luke profiled the efforts of Swiss drugmaker Actelion to capture a larger share of the market for treating the inherited disorder Gaucher’s disease. That market is currently dominated by Cambridge, MA-based Genzyme (NASDAQ: GENZ), which sells more than $1.2 billion worth of its drug imiglucerase (Cerezyme) each year, but the firm is running low on supplies of the drug after having to shut down one of its manufacturing plants to clean up a viral contamination.

—Vertex Pharmaceuticals (NASDAQ:VRTX) of Cambridge, MA, said it was seeking a buyer for rights to the $250 million in milestone payments it could receive for successfully developing and launching its hepatitis C drug, telaprevir, in Europe. Vertex has a partnership with Janssen Pharmaceutica, a unit of Johnson & Johnson (NYSE:JNJ), that entitles it to $100 million if telaprevir garners European approval and another $150 million upon the launch of the drug in Europe.

—Burlington, MA-based ConforMIS raised $50 million in government and private funds to expand its business of making customized implants for knee replacement and repair surgeries. The Series D financing included contributions from the sovereign funds of Kuwait and Singapore, both new investors in the firm, and from private equity investors such as previous backer Aeris Capital of Zurich, Switzerland and Palo Alto, CA.

—Waltham, MA-based Oscient Pharmaceuticals (NASDAQ:OSCI) filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection after racking up $183.3 million in debt and slashing hundreds of jobs. The drug maker also agreed to sell the rights to its antibiotic drug gemifloxacin mesylate (Factive), to a subsidiary of Cary, NC-based Cornerstone Therapeutics (NASDAQ:CRTX) for more than $5 million, and is seeking a buyer for its top-selling drug, fenofibrate (Antara), which is prescribed for patients with above-normal cholesterol and triglyceride levels.

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