Biogen Idec Still Pursuing Facet Acquisition, Helicos Gets $10M Reprieve, Seaside Collects $30M for Autism Drug Development, & More Boston-Area Life Sciences News

9/23/09

New England’s diagnostics developers provided more than their fair share of life sciences news this week.

Rick Jones, CEO of Cambridge, MA-based Ascent Therapeutics, talked with Ryan about his startup’s progress developing new cancer drugs using so-called pepducin technology. Ascent’s lead candidate is emerging in recent tests as a potential rival to Genzyme’s plerixafor (Mozobil), which is used to aid the process of stem-cell transplantation in patients with certain types of blood cancer.

3PrimiR, a Yale University spinoff based in Westport, CT, raised $2.1 million of a proposed $4 million round of equity financing from unnamed investors, according to an SEC filing. The startup is developing new cancer diagnostics based on research into mutations in a type of molecule called micro RNA.

—Genetic analysis instrument maker Helicos Biosciences (NASDAQ: HLCS) of Cambridge raised $10 million from new and existing investors, after announcing earlier this month that it was running low on cash and exploring “strategic alternatives.” Atlas Ventures, Flagship Ventures, Highland Capital Partners, Versant Ventures, and CEO Ron Lowy contributed to the financing.

—A private family investment firm poured $30 million into Seaside Therapeutics, a Cambridge-based startup aiming to translate research from the lab of MIT neuroscientist Mark Bear into treatments that address the underlying neurological causes of Fragile X syndrome and autism. Founded in 2005, Seaside has never needed venture capital, according to CEO Randy Carpenter, having raised a total of $66 million from the family, the National Institutes of Health, and disease foundations like Autism Speaks and the Fragile X Research Foundation.

—New Haven, CT-based Optherion collected $5 million of a planned $9.5 million convertible notes and warrants offering, according to an SEC filing. The startup is developing a treatment for age-related macular degeneration as well as other drugs and diagnostics for eye and kidney diseases.

—Mansfield, MA-based PrimeraDx raised $20 million in a Series C financing round led by new investor CHL Medical Partners and joined by existing investors Abingworth, Burrill & Company, InterWest Partners, the Invus Group, Malaysian Technology Development Corporation, and MPM Capital. A spinoff of Providence, RI-based Sention, PrimeraDx is developing technology it says can speed up a host of medical tests.

—Having been turned down by the board of Redwood City, CA-based Facet Biotech (NASDAQ: FACT), Cambridge-based Biogen Idec (NASDAQ: BIIB) went straight to the California firm’s shareholders, commencing a $14.50-per-share tender offer for Facet. The offer, which expires October 19, could be worth $355 million in total.

—Diagnostics behemoth Inverness Medical Innovations (NYSE: IMA) of Waltham, MA, acquired Seattle-based Free & Clear for $100 million in cash, plus up to $30 million in potential follow-on payments, depending on the Seattle firm’s 2010 revenues.

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