Mullen to Relinquish Biogen Idec Reins, Joule to Test Ethanol Tech, Dicerna to Team with Kyowa Hakko Kirin, & More Boston-Area Life Sciences News

1/6/10

I’ve got a couple weeks’ worth of New England life sciences news to catch you up on, so let’s dive in.

—Shares of Watertown, MA-based pSivida (NASDAQ: PSDV) jumped more than 50 percent after the company reported its treatment for diabetic macular edema, an eye disorder, did well in a clinical trial. The treatment employs an implant that is placed in the back of the eye and releases a steady dose of the corticosteroid drug fluocinolone acetonide.

—Ryan caught up with Bill Sims, the CEO of Cambridge, MA-based Joule Biotechnologies, which is out to produce fuels and chemicals with a process that mimics photosynthesis. Sims shared his firm’s plans to build a pilot ethanol production operation in the American southwest and to advance its process for making diesel without using food crops as feedstock or expensive refining techniques.

—Boston Scientific (NYSE:BSX), the Natick, MA-based medical device giant, agreed to pay $22 million in a civil settlement with the U.S. Department of Justice. The settlement ends the DOJ’s investigation of post-marketing surveys conducted by a Boston Scientific subsidiary, Guidant, before it was acquired by the Natick firm.

—Watertown, MA-based drug developer Dicerna Pharmaceuticals inked a potentially mammoth deal with Japan-based Kyowa Hakko Kirin. The agreement gives the Japanese firm access to use Dicerna’s RNA-interference-based drug technology against one undisclosed target on cancer cells, in return for $4 million upfront cash, $120 million in potential milestone payments, and royalties. Over time, the partnership could be expanded to cover as many as 10 more drug targets, each with the same financial terms.

—Cambridge-based Biogen Idec (NASDAQ: BIIB) announced that its CEO, James Mullen, will step down in June after more than 20 years at the company. Mullen and the rest of the Biogen leadership have been the subject of blistering criticism from billionaire investor Carl Icahn, who launched a proxy battle for control of the company’s board last May. A spokesman said that pressure from shareholders was not a factor in Mullen’s decision to step down.

Ryan profiled the efforts of Newton, MA-based AesRx to bring its experimental treatment for sickle cell disease into clinical trials. The startup’s founder, Stephen Seiler—the former CEO of Cambridge -based Idera Pharmaceuticals (NASDAQ:IDRA) has used his own money to support the company so far, and is now looking to raise about $10 million in venture capital.

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