Genzyme Reaches Agreement with Activist Investor, Charles River Closes Shrewsbury Lab, Lycera Comes to Cambridge, & More Boston-Area Life Sciences News

1/13/10

It was another crazy-busy week for New England’s life sciences firms, many of which closed small-to-medium sized venture financings. I’ll talk about those as part of Friday’s deals roundup, but in the meantime here are some of the other highlights:

Alnylam Pharmaceuticals CEO John Maraganore told Luke about his vision for the coming “RNA decade,” in which Maraganore believes RNA-based therapies like those his Cambridge, MA-based firm is developing will begin to reach their potential. Maraganore also discussed Alnylam’s (NASDAQ: ALNY) goals for this year, which included moving its lead drug candidate, a treatment for respiratory syncytial virus (RSV), into a Phase IIb trial; obtaining the first clinical trial results on its liver cancer drug; and launching clinical trials for a treatment for the rare condition TTR amyloidosis.

—Cambridge-based BIND Biosciences, a developer of nanoparticle-based drugs founded by MIT’s Robert Langer and Harvard Medical School’s Omid Farokhzad, named Scott Minick—previously a managing director of ARCH Venture Partners—as its president and CEO. BIND also reportedly raised $11 million in a Series C round of financing.

—Wilmington, MA-based Charles River Laboratories International (NYSE:CRL) announced it will close its Shrewsbury, MA-based preclinical testing facility by the middle of this year; the company will let go nearly 300 workers in the process.

—Biotech giant Genzyme (NASDAQ: GENZ) entered into a “mutual cooperation agreement” with Relational Investors, the San Diego-based investment fund, following fund co-founder Ralph Whitworth’s public calls for change at the Cambridge-based company. Whitworth’s firm, which owns about 4 percent of Genzyme’s stock, pledged to support Genzyme’s slate of board candidates and other proposals in 2010; in return, Genzyme has agreed to give Whitworth a seat on the board in November if he requests one.

—A promising University of Michigan spinoff called Lycera announced it’s moving its headquarters from Ann Arbor, MI, to Cambridge. The startup, which is pursuing a new approach to treating autoimmune diseases, also named Bill Sibold, the former senior vice president of U.S. commercial business at Biogen Idec, as its new CEO.

—Cancer drug developer Synta Pharmaceuticals (NASDAQ: SNTA) of Lexington, MA, raised $25 million in a sale of 5.5 million shares of stock at $4.50 apiece. Synta had just $51.7 million in cash and investments at the end of September, according to its most recent financial report, so the cash is a significant drop in the bucket for the company.

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