Biogen Announces Restructuring, FDA Approves Sunovion Drug, Acceleron Cuts Workforce, & More Boston-Area Life Sciences News

11/5/10Follow @xconomy

There was good news and bad news in the Boston life sciences scene this past week. Some companies announced layoffs and restructuring, while others attracted funding and won regulatory approval.

Sunovion Pharmaceuticals of Marlborough, MA, nabbed FDA approval for Latuda (lurasidone HCl), its once-daily, oral tablet for treating schizophrenia. The drug is expected to hit the market in early 2011.

—Boston-area Energesis Pharmaceuticals is looking for ways to tap into brown fat cells, which are found in humans and animals and thought to boost human metabolic function, for developing drugs that fight obesity. The startup recently won $50,000 from the business competition MassChallenge, and is seeking funding to amp up its drug discovery efforts.

Major restructuring news came from Weston, MA-headquartered Biogen Idec (NASDAQ: BIIB), the world’s top maker of multiple sclerosis drugs. The drug developer’s plans include laying off most of the workers at its San Diego facility, consolidating its Waltham, MA, and Wellesley, MA, sites in Weston and Cambridge, MA, rearranging the management layers, and leaving sales and marketing efforts for its blockbuster drug rituximab (Rituxan) to its partner Genentech. All told, about 650 positions will be cut, about 300 of which will come at the San Diego site. Biogen CEO George Scangos is looking to shape the company into something more like a biotech, rather than a pharma giant, and remove its interest in cancer and cardiosvascular drugs to focus more closely on the field of neurology, Ryan wrote in a follow-up piece.

—Karyopharm Therapeutics, a Newton, MA-based biotech focusing on treatments for cancer, autoimmune disease, and HIV, announced it had brought in $20 million in Series A money. The startup, founded in 2009, plans to put the money towards developing its technology, which is designed to flag major tumor suppressor and growth regulatory proteins to kill cancer cells while sparing healthy cells, for a clinical trial against an unspecified cancer target.

—In more layoff news, Cambridge-based Acceleron Pharma revealed that it was shrinking its workforce by about 40 percent, or 57 positions, according to a report in the Boston Globe. The staff cuts came after a recently announced partnership with U.K.-based Shire. Acceleron trimmed jobs across all of its disciplines, in order to keep its edge in manufacturing, discovery research, protein engineering, and clinical development.

By posting a comment, you agree to our terms and conditions.

  • Tom Despres

    I am currently a displaced worker and am looking into retraining in the biotechnology field. This recent piece of news regarding layoffs in this industry has taken me somewhat by surprise, as I was lead to believe this was a growing industry and that this was a field that educational institutions were being approved for government grants. I’m wondering if this is just a limited, temporary setback to one aspect of this industry or if this will be affecting a broader spectrum of biotech.