Pickett to Relinquish Biogen Idec Board Seat, New Financing for iWalk, Genocea Goes After Vaccine Market, & More Boston-Area Life Sciences News

9/2/09

New England’s life sciences startups gave us a lot to write about last week.

—Luke talked with Genocea Biosciences CEO Staph Bakali about his Cambridge, MA-based startup’s strategy for developing new vaccines. The approach, based on research at Harvard Medical School, helped Genocea garner $23 million in venture capital earlier this year and has drawn interest from George Siber, the former chief scientific officer of Wyeth Vaccines and Adel Mahmoud, who was president of Merck Vaccines while it was developing the cervical cancer vaccine Gardasil.

—Cambridge-based Biogen Idec (NASDAQ: BIIB) indicated in a regulatory filing that Cecil Pickett will relinquish his seat on the company’s board on October 5. Pickett, who was among the Biogen executives criticized by investor Carl Icahn earlier this year, will also retire from his post as the company’s president of research and development, as Biogen indicated in March.

Daktari Diagnostics of Arlington, MA, raised $2.5 million of a proposed $3 million financing round from investors including Norwich Ventures, Partners Innovation Fund, and Mass Medical Angels. The startup is using technology licensed from Massachusetts General Hospital and Purdue University to develop a handheld device for counting so-called CD4 cells in blood samples, a standard way to track the progression of HIV disease.

BL Healthcare raised $2.9 million of a planned $5 million round. The Foxboro, MA-based startup makes a TV set-top box for the remote healthcare market; the device has been cleared by the FDA.

—Cambridge-based iWalk, maker of a powered prosthetic ankle and foot, raised an undisclosed amount of new venture financing. General Catalyst led deal.

—Ryan caught up with Mark Goldsmith, CEO of Cambridge-based Constellation Pharmaceuticals, who dished about his young firm’s efforts to develop new treatments for cancer, and eventually other diseases, using the science of epigenetics. That field, which explores mechanisms for activating or muting certain genes without changing the underlying DNA, is also the province of fellow Cambridge startup EpiZyme, whose CEO also recently chatted with Ryan.

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