Joule Debuts Biofuel Technology, Genzyme Cleans House, Avila Banks $30M, & More Boston-Area Life Sciences News

7/29/09

New England’s life sciences companies gave us a number of cool new technologies and interesting deals to talk about this week.

—Cambridge, MA-based Genzyme (NASDAQ: GENZ) finished cleaning up its Allston, MA-based plant after a viral contamination which caused 6-to-8 week supply shortages of two of its best-selling drugs.

-Archemix, also of Cambridge, forged an alliance with Boulder, CO-based miRagen Therapeutics to develop drugs that combine the Massachusetts firm’s “aptamer” technology with the Colorado company’s microRNA technology. Specific financial terms of the arrangement weren’t disclosed.

—Waltham, MA-based medical device company Augmenix revealed in an SEC filing that it had collected $4.7 million out of an equity round potentially worth $7.5 million. Augmenix is developing a synthetic material to protect healthy tissue during radiation treatments for prostate cancer.

Joule Biotechnologies, a heretofore stealthy startup in Cambridge stepped into the sunlight to show off its technology, which aims to produce fuels and chemicals using engineered microbes capable of photosynthesis—no plant material or algae required. Founded in 2007 by partners at Flagship Ventures, Joule believes its technology is capable of producing more than 20,000 gallons of ethanol or hydrocarbons per acre on an annual basis, and yielding transportation fuels at prices that rival those of petroleum-based fuels.

—Waltham-based Avila Therapeutics raised $30 million in a Series B financing round led by the Novartis Option Fund and joined by return investors Abingworth, Advent Venture Partners, Atlas Venture, and Polaris Venture Partners. Avila and Novartis Option Fund also reached an agreement worth as much as $200 million in upfront and future milestone payments to co-develop Avila’s drugs, which are designed to bind more tightly to their targets that traditional drugs.

—Clinical trials management software maker Phase Forward (NASDAQ: PFWD), also of Waltham, shelled out $11 million to acquire Indianapolis, IN-based Maaguzi. The Indiana firm runs an online service for collecting data from patients.

Cerulean Pharma of Cambridge raised $10 million in a Series B financing round from return investors Polaris Venture Partners, Venrock Associates, Lux Capital, and Bessemer Venture Partners. The startup is developing nanoparticle-based treatments and plants to use some of the new funding to push it’s lead drug candidate, a cancer drug, through clinical trials.

—Shares of Cambridge-based Ariad Pharmaceuticals (NASDAQ: ARIA) surged after the company released promising preliminary data from a mid-stage trial of its lead drug candidate, ridaforolimus, as a treatment for breast cancer. More complete data on the drug should be available later this year.

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