Biogen Idec Reaches Deal With Icahn, Ironwood CEO Shares IPO Strategy, Luke Maps out the Genetics Institute Diaspora, & More Boston-Area Life Sciences News

3/26/10

This week saw new leadership at a couple of New England’s life sciences companies, some wisdom from one of its newly public companies, and a new truce in one of its long-running power struggles.

—Luke tracked down close to 200 alumni of legendary Boston-area biotech firm Genetics Institute, which was acquired in 1996 by Wyeth. The (still-growing) list includes many of the leaders of Boston’s current crop of biotechs, including Tuan Ha-Ngoc of Aveo Pharmaceuticals, Adelene Perkins of Infinity Pharmaceuticals, and John Knopf of Acceleron Pharma.

—Cambridge, MA-based Biogen Idec (NASDAQ:BIIB) staved off a proxy battle with billionaire investor Carl Icahn with a deal that gives a board seat to Eric Rowinsky, one of the people Icahn nominated for Biogen’s board back in January. For his part, Icahn has agreed to back Biogen’s slate of candidates for open board seats at the company’s upcoming annual meeting, and to drop any plans to wage a proxy battle with the company this year.

—Luke checked in with Mark Leuchtenberger on his first day as CEO of New Haven, CT-based antibiotic developer Rib-X Pharmaceuticals. Gearing up to shepherd Rib-X’s lead candidate through the final phase of clinical testing and onto the market, Leuchtenberger was candid about what he learned from the failure of his last firm, Cambridge, MA-based Targanta Therapeutics, to reach that same goal.

Peter Hecht, CEO of the newly public Ironwood Pharmaceuticals (NASDAQ:IRWD), talked to Ryan about how he pulled off one of the few biotech IPOs since the economic downturn. Having longstanding ties to institutional investors and a potential blockbuster drug in late-stage clinical trials helped the Cambridge-based firm raise $203 million last month and become one of the few biotechs in Massachusetts worth more than $1 billion.

—Cambridge-based Epizyme, a startup out to create new cancer drugs drawing on the field of epigenetics, recruited a new CEO from the Broad Institute of MIT and Harvard. Robert Gould, who took up the post just this week, replaces Epizyme’s founding CEO Kazumi Shiosaki, a managing director at MPM Capital, one of the investors who have put a total of $54 million into the startup.

—Diagnostics maker IntelligentMDx of Cambridge got a green light from the FDA to market its test for the H1N1 virus on an emergency basis. The approval will expire on April 26 of this year.

—The FDA had less happy news for Cambridge biotech giant Genzyme (NASDAQ:GENZ), whose Allston Landing manufacturing plant was the site of a viral contamination discovered last June. The agency said it will be reviewing operations at the plant for “an extended period” and may require to the company to make payments to the government.

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