Ironwood Nabs $75M in Deal With Japanese Firm, Gloucester Drug Gets FDA Approval, Alnylam Branches Into Biomanufacturing Tech, & More Boston-Area Life Sciences News

11/13/09

Several of New England’s life sciences firms had good news to report this week.

—Ryan gave a run-down of the key insights to emerge from our Xconomy Forum on pharma innovation. Sirtris CEO Christoph Westphal, for example, offered insight into one of the biggest biological mysteries around the Xconomy office: how Luke manages to eat so much and stay so thin.

—Cambridge, MA-based Gloucester Pharmaceuticals won FDA approval for romidepsin (Istodax), a treatment for a rare cancer called cutaneous T-cell lymphoma. Gloucester expects to begin marketing the drug in January.

Noah Beerman took the reins of RXi Pharmaceuticals (NASDAQ: RXII), a developer of RNA interference drugs. Previous president and CEO Tod Woolf will remain on the Worcester, MA-based company’s scientific advisory board.

—Lexington, MA-based Concert Pharmaceuticals started human testing of an anti-HIV drug called CTP-518. Reaching the milestone will trigger a $12 million payment from Concert’s partner, GlaxoSmithKline.

—After announcing earlier this year that it was considering strategic options, including a sale, Cambridge-based Helicos Biosciences (NASDAQ: HLCS) took itself off the block, citing “improving standalone prospects and its current market valuation.”

—Cambridge-based Ironwood Pharmaceuticals inked a $75 million-plus deal with Japan-based Astellas Pharma. The agreement gives Astellas rights to market Ironwood’s lead drug candidate, the constipation treatment linaclotide, in Japan, Indonesia, the Philippines, Korea, Taiwan, and Thailand.

—Aileron Therapeutics, also of Cambridge, published research in the journal Nature indicating that its “stapled peptide” technology can be used to block the production of a protein called Notch that’s implicated in uncontrolled growth of cancer cells. Luke put the news in the context of Aileron’s efforts to develop drugs that hit previously unreachable targets.

—Ryan checked in with Cambridge-based electronic health records provider Dossia. After launching to much fanfare in December 2006, the non-profit is making slow progress in getting its system adopted, but it has recently solidified its leadership team and made other changes it hopes will help.

—Cambridge-based Alnylam Pharmaceuticals (NASDAQ:ALNY) announced the formation of an internal group called Alnylam Biotherapeutics focused on applying the company’s RNAi technology to increase the output of biomanufacturing processes.

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