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

Life sciences news in the past week has run the gamut, from stealthy companies emerging with funding to big name drug makers scoring FDA approval and successful drug trial results, not to mention a few headlines of partnerships and acquisitions.

Logical Therapeutics, a Waltham, MA-based developer of anti-inflammatory drugs designed to be safer on the stomach, closed a $16.9 million Series C round, led by SV Life Sciences. We broke the news last Friday that the company had pulled in the first $10 million of the financing, based on an SEC filing. Burrill & Co., Novo A/S, and Novitas Capital also participated in the funding round.

NormOxys, which is making drugs that incite red blood cells to release a controlled amount of oxygen to deprived tissues, raised $17.5 million. The funding, which was led by Care Capital and included Index Ventures, will go to testing the Wellesley, MA-based company’s drugs in patients with chronic heart failure and cancer.

—PatientKeeper, the Newton, MA-based maker of software that assists doctors in tasks such as viewing patient data, ordering prescriptions or lab tests, and recording service charges, has made its applications available on Apple’s iPad. Originally founded as Virtmed in 1996, PatientKeeper’s technology differs from traditional electronic healthcare software in that it specifically targets physicians, a group that has been slower in adopting healthcare IT products, Ryan wrote.

Cambridge, MA-based T2 Biosystems raised $15 million, led by Physic Ventures, to continue developing its portable diagnostic technology, which aims to identify proteins, molecules, viruses, and DNA using a handheld instrument. A slew of new and existing investors participated in the most recent financing for T2, which says its machine beats traditional diagnostic devices when it comes to speed, price, and the range of biological substances it can detect.

—Waltham-based Avila Therapeutics will get as much as $209 million from Clovis Oncology in a partnership deal for developing drugs for certain types of lung tumors. Clovis is using Avila’s drug technology, which is designed to form irreversible covalent bonds with their targets, as a way to fight lung cancer that has proven resistant to other treatments.

—Cambridge-based Genzyme (NASDAQ: GENZ) nabbed FDA approval to sell its drug for treating the genetic disorder Pompe disease in patients who are at least 8 years old. The drug, alglucosidase alpha (Lumizyme), is made in Genzyme’s Geel, Belgium-based plant, and functions by replacing the enzyme that Pompe patients are lacking, which breaks down sugars that build up and enlarge heart and muscle tissues. Its absence can 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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