Biogen CEO Retires, Genzyme Board Nominates Amgen Vet and Strikes Deal with Icahn, Xconomy Spotlights Life Sciences XSITE Speakers, & More Boston-Area Life Sciences News
We were buzzing this week with news from the boardrooms at big pharma companies, introductions to the life sciences personalities presenting at our XSITE innovation forum, and profiles on emerging health IT companies.
—IBM declared medicine authentication company Sproxil the winner of its Boston SmartCamp, a day-long competition for companies working in “smart” technology, which uses IT to make things in the physical world more efficient. Somerville, MA-based Sproxil is working with manufacturers to produce scratch-off labels with unique product codes for medicine in developing countries like Nigeria, where the counterfeiting of drugs is a big problem. Consumers text the code to Sproxil, which confirms whether the product they’re about to buy is the real thing or not. (Sproxil will also be presenting at the Xpo segment of XSITE, so be sure to come and check it out.)
—Ryan took a look at Eldersync, a Boston startup developing a Web-based system for coordinating communication between home nursing agencies, doctors, patients, and their families. Healthcare workers can use the Eldersync technology to schedule visits, verify via text if they’ve seen a patient, and file patient notes using home Internet devices.
—We dished a bit about the biotech presence you can expect at the annual Xconomy Summit on Innovation, Technology & Entrepreneurship (XSITE) next week. Luke noted that Alkermes, Ironwood Pharmaceuticals, ImmunoGen, and Mersana Therapeutics are among the successful Boston-area life sciences companies that will be represented at panels and keynote chats throughout the day. Ryan discussed the mobile health panel, which will showcase how organizations from Healthrageous to the MIT Media Lab are innovating at the intersection of healthcare and technology.
—Cambridge, MA-based drugmaker Genzyme (NASDAQ: GENZ) announced its board of directors had nominated Dennis Fenton, who spent 25 years at Thousand Oaks, CA-based Amgen (NASDAQ: AMGN), to a seat on the board. Genzyme’s 10 board members are all up for reelection at the company’s annual meeting on June 16. Later in the week, the company announced it had reached an agreement with Carl Icahn, the investor who has been loudly lobbying to get four spots on the Genzyme board. Genzyme will appoint two of Icahn’s choices in exchange for his support of the company’s 10 nominees, including president and CEO Henri Termeer, whose removal Icahn had previously called for. The additions of Fenton and Icahn’s picks, Steven Burakoff and Eric Ende, will come after the annual meeting and will swell the company’s board from 10 to 13.
—James Mullen retired from his 10-year post as CEO of Biogen Idec (NASDAQ: BIIB), which hasn’t yet named a successor. In the meantime, top executives at Cambridge, MA-based Biogen, which also has a big presence in San Diego and is the world’s largest maker of multiple sclerosis drugs, will report to chairman William Young, who talked to Xconomy in the winter about the company’s search for a new chief executive.
—Waltham, MA-based Syndax Pharmaceuticals revealed in a 26-patient clinical trial that its drug could better enable hormone therapies to kill breast cancer cells. The company, which was founded by scientists from the Salk Institute for Biological Studies in La Jolla, CA, and has raised $49 million in venture capital, aims to treat cancer by targeting tumor cells that epigenetic switches have made resistant to hormone therapies.
—Healthrageous wrapped up $6 million in Series A money to target the everyday behaviors that are making people unhealthy, through software designed to give them personalized medical advice. The startup, previously named HopSkipConnect, currently operates out of the Waltham office of North Bridge Venture Partners, the lead investor for its first round, and is out to design health programs for customers such as self-insured companies and disease-management firms.
–Our life sciences columnist Sylvia Pagàn Westphal took a look at how genomics is playing a behind-the-scenes role in drug development. About a decade ago, genomics was seen as a field that would revolutionize medicine, but hasn’t yet turned out to be a blockbuster as predicted. Sylvia talked about the strides made in the field since the FDA established a program in 2004 that allows companies to voluntarily submit genomic data, to enable discussions on how the information can be used in approval for drugs and diagnostic tests.