Genzyme Expects to Pay $175M to FDA, Westphal Leaves Sirtris to Run GSK Venture Arm, Gelesis Obesity Treatment Passes First Human Trial, & More Boston-Area Life Sciences News

4/23/10Follow @xconomy

Headlines from both long-established pharma companies and stealthy biotech startups made it a busy life sciences news week for us.

—It was a life sciences-focused week for us, with the introduction of our new life sciences columnist, Sylvia Pagán Westphal, a journalist who’s covered biotech for big-name publications. Her inaugural post likened the lack of disclosure behind the recent Goldman Sachs scandal to the self-interest that’s fueled myriad missteps in life sciences companies.

Hygeia Therapeutics, a Holden, MA-based maker of topical medicine, raised $1 million in Series A funding to go toward testing a topical synthetic estrogen drug to treat age-related skin thinning, and developing an anti-androgen.

—Cambridge-based Javelin Pharmaceuticals (AMEX: JAV), a developer of pain treatments, accepted a $145 million buyout offer from specialty drugmaker Hospira, nixing a previous merger agreement with Myriad Pharmaceuticals (NASDAQ: MYRX). Lake Forest, IL-based Hospira (NYSE:HSP) plans to pay $2.20 per share for Javelin common stock, and will also loan the company money to repay loans from Myriad and cover expenses related to breaking the agreement.

Dyax, a Cambridge drug developer, will collect as much as $12 million from Paul Capital Healthcare for selling the rights to royalties and fees from its hemophilia treatment, with $10 million upfront and up to $2 million in milestone payments related to the drug’s sales.

—Luke took a closer look at Catabasis Pharmaceuticals, a seven-person Cambridge startup that’s developing drugs to treat inflammation diseases, particularly diabetes. He first broke the news last week that the stealthy company had pulled in $7.7 million of a planned $39.6 million Series A round from SV Life Sciences, Clarus Ventures, and MedImmune Ventures; the company said it will get the remaining funding if it meets certain development goals.

—HemaQuest Pharmaceuticals, a biotech founded in Newton, MA that moved to Seattle sometime last year, announced it completed a $12 million Series B funding round. New investors Aberdare Ventures, of San Francisco, led the round, which also included a slew of returning backers and will go to developing the company’s treatments for life-threatening blood disorders such as sickle cell anemia and lymphoma.

Knome, a Cambridge genomics sequencing and analysis service provider, has received $5 million from France-based bioMérieux, as part of a partnership deal in which bioMérieux will use Knome’s technology to develop in vitro diagnostics for cancer and infectious diseases. The deal gives bioMérieux an equity stake in Knome and allows it to appoint a director seat on the company’s board.

—Genzyme (NASDAQ: GENZ) announced it expects to pay $175 million to the FDA due to manufacturing problems discovered at its Allston, MA-based plant. In November, the government agency warned doctors that it found foreign particles in medicine filled at the plant. The drugmaker could also pay 18.5 percent of revenues on products shipped from the Allston site if it fails to meet deadlines for moving its operation of filling medicine vials from the facility.

Christoph Westphal revealed he was leaving his position as CEO of Sirtris Pharmaceuticals, a Cambridge-based developer of drugs targeting genes linked to aging that was acquired by GlaxoSmithKline (NYSE: GSK) in 2008. He’s moving to take the lead of SR One, Glaxo’s venture investing arm. He’ll also be leaving his position as senior vice president of Glaxo’s Center of Excellence for External Drug Discovery, a role that will be assumed by Michelle Dipp, who has been working at the center as Westphal’s deputy. That makes her, at 33, the youngest senior vice president at one of the top 10 largest pharmaceutical companies in the world.

—Boston-based Gelesis revealed its capsule for treating obesity had passed its first human trial. The capsule uses a superabsorbent food polymer that swells in the stomach to make patients feel full—and therefore eat less. The trial showed those who took the pill felt less hungry by dinnertime, but future studies will have to demonstrate that the treatment promotes weight loss over a yearlong period, according to FDA guidelines for obesity drugmakers.

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