Vertex and Ironwood Drugs Fare Well in Clinical Trials, Pulmatrix Breathes in $30.2M, IRobot Launches Healthcare Unit, & More Boston-Area Life Sciences News

11/4/09

A number of New England’s life sciences companies had good news to report this week.

—Cambridge, MA-based Vertex Pharmaceuticals (NASDAQ: VRTX) reported results from clinical trials that indicate its experimental hepatitis C drug, telaprevir, could work well for patients who haven’t responded fully to standard treatments, and could be as effective taken twice a day as it is taken three times a day. Luke explains what the news means for Vertex’s efforts to capture a share of the potentially huge market for hepatitis treatments.

—Medical device maker Interlace Medical of Framingham, MA, won FDA clearance to market its minimally invasive device for removing uterine fibroids and polyps.

—Burlington, MA-based CorNova raised $2.5 million of a proposed $6 million in equity financing, according to regulatory filings. CorNova is developing coronary stents with platinum surfaces.

—Anti-inflammatory drug developer Virdante Pharmaceuticals completed a second closing of its Series A financing round, bringing the total collected so far to $30 million. Thomas, McNerney & Partners led the deal, which was joined by Osage Partners, Biogen Idec New Ventures, Clarus Ventures, MedImmune Ventures, and Venrock Associates.

—Bedford, MA-based iRobot (NASDAQ:IRBT) launched a new healthcare unit. Under the direction of technology veteran Tod Loofbourrow, the unit will focus on developing robots to help seniors live independently.

—Pharma giant Novartis declined an option to continue development of a hepatitis C drug from Cambridge-based Idenix Pharmaceuticals (NASDAQ: IDIX). Idenix, whose stock dropped on the news, will seek another partner to back development of the drug, IDX184.

—RNA-interference drug developer Cequent raised $3.35 million in the first tranche of a venture round that could be worth as much as $15 million. The Cambridge-based startup is engineering E. coli bacteria to deliver RNAi molecules designed to combat a certain type of polyp in the colon.

Pulmatrix raised $30.2 million in a Series B venture round led by Arch Venture Partners and Novartis Bioventures Fund and joined by Polaris Venture Partners and 5AM Ventures. The Lexington, MA-based startup is using technology from MIT and Harvard to prevent flu viruses and other pathogens from invading lung tissue.

—Cancer diagnostics developer On-Q-ity of Waltham, MA, reportedly raised $21 million in a Series A round of venture capital from Mohr Davidow, Bessemer Venture Partners, Physic Ventures and Northgate Capital. The firm was formed through the merger of CELLective Diagnostics and The DNA Repair Company, both Mohr Davidow Ventures portfolio companies.

—Ironwood Pharmaceuticals of Cambridge and its partner, New York-based Forest Laboratories (NYSE: FRX), said that Ironwood’s lead drug candidate, linaclotide, fared well in two pivotal clinical trials. The drug is designed to relieve chronic constipation; Luke has all (and I mean all) the details.

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