Ironwood Drug Passes Clinical Test, Genzyme Cuts Jobs and Sheds Business Unit, Third Rock Closes $426M Fund, & More Boston-Area Life Sciences News

9/17/10

All eyes continued to be on Genzyme this week, but other New England life sciences companies had interesting developments to report as well.

—Good Start Genetics, a three-year-old Boston startup built in part around technology from the Harvard lab of George Church, completed an $18 million Series A round of funding from OrbiMed Advisors, Safeguard Scientifics (NYSE:SFE), and SV Life Sciences. Good Start aims to use gene sequencing technology to help prospective parents assess their risk of conceiving a child with genetic defects.

—Ryan had a chat with Rob Friel, chairman and chief executive of PerkinElmer (NYSE: PKI), about how the Waltham, MA-based maker of lab tools is planning to grow its businesses in the diagnostics, biotech/pharma, and environmental health markets. Some of that growth will be organic, Friel said, and some will come through acquisitions, like PerkinElmer’s recent purchase of Bedford, MA-based VisEn Medical.

—Cambridge, MA-based Genzyme (NASDAQ: GENZ) announced it will cut 1,000 jobs over the next 15 months and sell its Genzyme Genetics unit to Burlington, NC-based Laboratory Corporation of America (NYSE:LH) for $925 million in cash. Both moves are part of an effort on Genzyme’s part to boost shareholder value at a time when it’s facing increasing investor scrutiny and an unsolicited acquisition offer from French drug maker Sanofi-Aventis.

Third Rock Ventures announced it has raised $426 million for its second fund. The healthcare-focused venture firm, which launched in 2007 in Boston and recently expanded to San Francisco, also announced several personnel changes, including promoting CombinatoRx founder Alexis Borisy from entrepreneur-in-residence to partner.

—Ironwood Pharmaceuticals (NASDAQ:IRWD) of Cambridge reported that linaclotide, its lead product candidate, had passed muster in a clinical trial as a treatment for irritable bowel syndrome with constipation. The trial is the third of four planned before Ironwood and its partners can file for approval of the drug; results from the final study are expected by year’s end.

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