FDA Approves Genzyme Pompe Drug, Vertex Hepatitis C Drug Trial Succeeds, Thermo Fisher Acquires Fermentas, & More Boston-Area Life Sciences News

5/28/10Follow @xconomy

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lead to lung infections and respiratory failure.

Vertex announced that its drug for treating Hepatitis C succeeded in curing 75 percent of patients in the last stage of clinical testing needed to get FDA approval. The drug telaprevir, a protease inhibitor, wiped out the liver-damaging virus in three-fourths of patients when combined with the traditional course of treatment, compared to a 44 percent cure rate among patients who got the standard drugs alone. Vertex will need to confirm these results in two more upcoming trials this year to apply for FDA approval, which could get telaprevir on the market in 2011. Earlier this month, Luke chatted with Cambridge-based Vertex’s chief medical officer Bob Kauffman to explore the drug trial’s various stages more in depth.

Tesaro, a new Boston-based biotech firm out to acquire and develop cancer drugs and other oncology products, raised $20 million in Series A funding from New Enterprise Associates, who has also reserved another $40 million to pump into the company over time. Tesaro was founded by executives of Minnesota-based MGI Pharma, a drug company that had an R&D presence in Lexington, MA and was bought by Japanese pharmaceutical firm Eisai in 2008 for $3.9 billion.

Quanterix, a Cambridge developer of technology for detecting prostate cancer, published a study showing that its detection system found proteins marking the disease at a 1,700-times greater rate of efficiency than existing diagnostic tests. The science comes from David Walt, a Tufts University chemistry professor who founded San Diego-based Illumina (NASDAQ: ILMN), and could be used to spot early warnings signs of diseases that are marked by trace amounts of protein in the blood.

Thermo Fisher Scientific scooped up Fermentas International, a Canadian firm that makes and sells life sciences research materials and diagnostic tools, for about $260 million in cash. Waltham-based Thermo (NYSE: TMO) projected Fermentas, which had revenue of $54 million in 2009, will be come part of its analytical technologies unit.

—Our life sciences columnist Sylvia Pagán Westphal wrote about her burgeoning relationship with her Twitter account—and the absence of biotech companies on the social networking site. They’re held back by the inability to present a fair and balanced picture of their products—a requirement of the FDA for drug marketing materials—in the 140 characters Twitter limits posts to, Sylvia wrote.

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