Vertex Drug Gets Speedy FDA Review, BSX Buys Atritech, Ironwood Strikes Another Deal, & More Boston-Area Life Sciences News

1/21/11Follow @xconomy

We saw some meaty stories on FDA drug approval processes, new collaborations, acquisitions, and hires for Boston’s life sciences firms.

—Pfizer’s former chief of licensing Ed Harrigan started a new gig as CEO of stealthy Boston biotech Karuna Pharmaceuticals, a PureTech Ventures-incubated startup that is quietly working on schizophrenia drugs.

—Vertex Pharmaceuticals (NASDAQ: VRTX) of Cambridge, MA, announced that the FDA granted its request for a speedier review of its drug telaprevir as a new treatment for hepatitis C. The agency, which will take six months to review the drug instead of the usual 10, often grants such requests when a potentially groundbreaking or lifesaving drug is involved.

—Last week an advisory panel to the FDA suggested the agency not approve liprotamase, a pancreatic enzyme replacement therapy that Eli Lilly (NYSE: LLY) took on when it acquired Cambridge-based Alnara Pharmaceuticals last summer. This week Ryan took a look at the potential impact of that decision, with perspective from a Needham, MA-based mother of two children with cystic fibrosis, a genetic disease that typically requires patients to take enzyme replacement therapies like liprotamase. The drug is intended to produce pancreatic enzymes that patients with cystic fibrosis and other diseases lack.

Boston Scientific, a Natick, MA-based medical devices firm, announced it had bought Atritech, which makes a device alternative to treating patients with atrial fibrillation who are at risk of stroke. Boston Scientific (NYSE: BSX) will shell out $100 million upfront for the Plymouth, MN-based firm, and as much as another $275 million in regulatory and commercial milestone fees through 2015.

—I took a look at Boston-based Sproxil, which won IBM’s SmartCamp competition last summer for its mobile product authentication technology for detecting counterfeit medicine abroad. The startup has nabbed awards at other business plan competitions and has enlisted some big-name pharmaceutical companies as customers for its service in Nigeria. Consumers can use the service to verify whether a medication they’re about to buy is the real thing.

—Cambridge-based Ironwood Pharmaceuticals (NASDAQ: IRWD) announced a new drug discovery collaboration with Redwood City, CA-based Protagonist Therapeutics. The California company will use its proprietary technology for developing peptide drugs against biological targets picked by Ironwood.

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