Biogen Idec Seeks Science-Savvy CEO, LifeImage Partners With EMC, GenomeQuest Aims to be Genetic Google, & More Boston-Area Life Sciences News

2/26/10

Another eventful week for New England’s life sciences companies, with big changes potentially in store for two of the biggest firms.

—Biogen Idec’s new board chairman, Bill Young, told Luke that the committee tasked with finding a replacement for outgoing CEO Jim Mullen is first and foremost looking for somebody “who has managed and understands the role of science in a biotech company, and how that needs to be bridged to the commercial side of things.” Mullen, who announced last month that he would step down after a decade at the helm of Cambridge, MA-based Biogen (NASDAQ: BIIB), has a business background rather than a scientific one

—Billionaire investor Carl Icahn nominated four candidates, including himself, for election to the board of Cambridge-based drugmaker Genzyme (NASDAQ:GENZ), which has been under fire following manufacturing problems, supply shortages, and other troubles. Genzyme indicated that it would evaluate Icahn’s nominees and announce its own slate; all nine seats on the company’s board are up for re-election this spring.

Hamid Tabatabaie, the CEO of LifeImage, told Ryan that the Newton, MA-based health IT startup is partnering with Hopkinton, MA-based storage giant EMC (NYSE:EMC) on a cloud-based service for sharing medical images over the Internet. Dubbed “Time,” for Trauma Image Management and Exchange, the system is set to be unveiled early next month and has built to run on the EMC “Atmos” cloud storage and computing platform.

—Luke chatted with Celldex Therapeutics CEO Anthony Marucci about what it takes to run the small public company (NASDAQ: CLDX), which began as a spinoff from a Medarex division near Phillipsburg, NJ and grew through the recent acquisitions of Needham, MA-based Avant Immunotherapeutics, and Branford, CT-based Curagen. Chief among his tactics for building up the firm’s antibody drug business: an every-other-week commute by car between New Jersey and Needham.

Sermo CEO and founder Daniel Palestrant told Ryan about his Cambridge-based firm’s plans to revamp its social networking website for doctors, shifting from the Java-based approach it has always used to the Ruby on Rails open source Web programming language. The move, aimed in part at helping Sermo cut its operational costs, combined with layoffs that Sermo made in December, should help the startup become profitable “very soon,” Palestrant said.

—Ryan profiled the efforts of Westborough, MA-based GenomeQuest to become the Google of DNA data searches. CEO Ron Ranauro explained how the unprecedented rate at which researchers are generating genetic data and life science companies’ growing reliance on cloud computing are coming together to boost demand for GenomeQuest’s technology, which researchers use to analyze and manage the genetic information during drug development and other biomedical research.

—Ra Pharmaceuticals, a stealthy startup in Boston, reported in an SEC filing that it had raised $10.3 million of a planned $27.6 million round of equity financing. The firm’s CEO, Transkaryotic Therapies co-founder Doug Treco, is an Entrepreneur-in-residence at Morgenthaler Ventures, where Ra is being incubated, according to the venture firm’s website.

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