Alkermes Drops on FDA Rejection, Glaxo’s SR One Backs Dicerna, Biogen Reworks Genentech Alliance, & More Boston-Are Life Sciences News

10/22/10Follow @xconomy

It was a busy New England area life sciences news week, with headlines of drug collaborations, failed applications with the FDA, clinical trial results, plus some lengthier profile stories.

—Providence, RI-based Shape Up The Nation is using social networking to invite people’s friends to encourage them to eat better and make healthier choices, Ryan wrote. The four-year-old startup raised $5 million earlier this year from Excel Venture Management and Cue Ball Group, landed CVS Caremark (NYSE: CVS) as its first big customer, and is adding other Fortune 500 companies to the list.

—The diabetes drug developed in a collaboration by San Diego-based Amylin Pharmaceuticals (NASDAQ: AMLN), Waltham, MA-based Alkermes (NASDAQ: ALKS), and drug giant Eli Lilly (NYSE: LLY) failed to garner FDA approval, the companies announced on Tuesday. The regulatory agency is requiring a new study looking at whether the drug—the once-weekly injectable version of exenatide (Bydureon)—is connected to irregular heartbeat in trial patients. The application for FDA approval of the drug was delayed earlier this year, due to manufacturing questions and the agency’s request for a risk mitigation strategy of the drug. By Wednesday morning Amylin’s and Alkermes’ share prices had fallen 50 percent and 29 percent, respectively. Lilly, with a more diversified drug pipeline, saw its shares drop by about 5 percent.

—Cubist Pharmaceuticals (NASDAQ: CBST), a Lexington, MA-based maker of acute care drugs, announced it had priced a $400 million offering of convertible notes, which have an annual interest rate of 2.5 percent and mature on November 1, 2017. The deal underwriters have the option to purchase $50 million in additional notes. Cubist will put the proceeds toward repurchasing about $191 million in notes that carry a 2.25 annual interest rate and are due June 15, 2013, as well as its investing in its pipeline products, corporate expenses, and acquisitions.

—Cambridge-based Genzyme (NASDAQ: GENZ) reported data from a late-stage clinical trial comparing its drug clofarabine (Clolar) in combination with chemotherpy to treatment with chemotherapy and a placebo. Those treated with the drug did not live longer than those only given the placebo, but the clofarabine group saw its remission rate double, to 47 percent, Genzyme said. The firm will continue to develop the drug for adult myeloid leukemia.

—Ryan took a look at Cambridge-based RNAi drug developer Alnylam Pharmaceuticals (NASDAQ: ALNY), a month after it laid off about 25 percent of its stuff in expectation that its five-year collaboration with Novartis would end. The Swiss drug giant has paid Alnylam $125 million since 2005 to access its gene-silencing technology and has declined to extend the agreement for another $100 million. Novartis will continue to pursue 31 drug targets with the technology, though.

—Watertown, MA-based Dicerna Pharmaceuticals said it wrapped up a $4 million investment from SR One, the venture investing unit of London-based drug company GlaxoSmithKline. The funding brings Dicerna’s Series B financing round from $25 million to $29 million. Dicerna is using RNA interferance-based technology to develop drugs that shut down the expression of disease genes, for the treatment of different types of cancers.

—Weston, MA-based Biogen Idec (NASDAQ: BIIB) and Genentech announced they would be revamping an agreement to develop new antibodies against against CD20, the same cellular target of the hit cancer drug rituximab (Rituxan).

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