Genzyme Faces More Setbacks, Humedica Creating a Healthcare “Census,” Pops Back as Alkermes CEO, & More Boston-Area Life Science News

9/30/09

There were a wide variety of developments in the Boston-area life sciences sector over the past week. Companies in the headlines included big ones like Genzyme and Covidien as well as smaller startups such as Humedica and Tetraphase Pharmaceuticals. Here are some highlights:

—We got an early look at Cambridge, MA-based Humedica’s strategy for developing next-generation clinical analytics systems, as well as some insights into why Bain Capital Ventures, General Catalyst Ventures, North Bridge Venture Partners, and Leerink Swann have pumped $30 million into the young company. Company CEO Michael Weintraub talked about how the firm could become a U.S. Census of sorts for healthcare.

Genzyme faced more setbacks due to previously tainted bioreactors at its Allston, MA, plant. The Cambridge -based biotech powerhouse (NASDAQ:GENZ) revealed that it’s going to take longer than expected to resume full production of its enzyme-replacement drug agalsidase beta (Fabrazyme) for Fabry disease. Also, the company is anticipating lower sales than previously estimated for both agalsidase beta and imiglucerase (Cerezyme).

Sirtris CEO Christoph Westphal gave Xconomy the first media interview about a new nonprofit group that he and his colleagues are launching in the Boston area to promote longer healthy lives. Can the red wine chemical resveratrol really help people live longer? Westphal talked about how his new group, the Healthy Lifespan Institute, plans to answer that big question and more.

—After a period of poor stock performance for Cambridge-based biotech Alkermes (NASDAQ:ALKS), company Chairman Richard Pops has jumped back into everyday operations as CEO—a post he left in 2007. Luke talked to Pops about his decision to return as the company’s chief executive, and wrote about how Pops’ return fits in with Alkermes’ goal of breaking into the “Big Biotech” club with companies such as Amgen and Biogen Idec.

Momenta Pharmaceuticals (NASDAQ:MNTA) announced that it’s conducting a stock sale that is expected to net the company $40.6 million. The Cambridge-based company didn’t reveal the exact use of the cash it’s raising, but we do know that the firm is still awaiting word from the FDA on whether it can sell its generic version of blood thinner enoxaparin, which French drug giant Sanofi-Aventis markets as Lovenox.

Tetraphase Pharmaceuticals continues to gain support from investors for its efforts to use synthetic chemistry techniques from Harvard to develop drugs for drug-resistant infections. The Watertown, MA-based firm raised $10 million of a planned $29.6 million financing round, according to documents filed with the SEC.

Aspect Medical Systems, a Norwood, MA-based developer of brain monitoring technology, found a buyer in Irish healthcare products giant Covidien (NYSE:COV). Covidien, which has its U.S. headquarters in Mansfield, MA, plans to buy Aspect (NASDAQ:ASPM) for $210 million in cash and make the firm part of its medical devices unit.

—I caught up with new Boston investment firm Candescent Partners, which recently raised $21.5 million through a newly formed company called Candescent Healing to acquire the Center for Wound Healing and Hyperbaric Medicine. The center has corporate offices on Long Island. Veteran venture investor Stephen Jenks told me that he and Sandy McGrath formed Candescent Partners early this year after working together as long-time colleagues at Capital Resource Partners in Boston.

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