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Genocea Announces New CEO, Pfizer to Add Jobs In MA, Ocular Raises $14M, and More Boston-Area Life Sciences News

Xconomy Boston — 

We saw a mix of meaty pieces on company strategies and outlooks, as well as breaking news on funding for Boston’s life sciences companies.

—Ryan took a look at Cambridge, MA-based drug developer Molecular Insight Pharmaceuticals (and neighbor to Xconomy) as it navigates Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection, which it filed for in December. The firm, which has four oncology products and one cardiac imaging drug at various stages of human clinical development, has accrued debts of nearly $200 million largely related to bonds it issued in 2007.

—Pervasis Therapeutics, a Cambridge-based developer of cellular therapeutics, got the regulatory nod roughly a year ago to kick off an important clinical trial for its lead candidate for improving improving blood vessel access in hemodialysis patients, but hasn’t taken action yet, Ryan wrote. It’s looking for a partner to help finance the Phase III clinical trial, and the CEO is hopeful regarding discussions Pervasis has had with potential partners for financing.

—Genzyme budged enough to let French drug company Sanofi-Aventis take a look at its books and conduct due diligence, as part of Sanofi’s pursuit to take Cambridge-based Genzyme. Various media reports this week noted that the deal could happen in the next week or so, and that Sanofi is willing to significantly raise its $18.5 billion ($69 per share) offer to buy Genzyme (NASDAQ: GENZ).

—Cambridge-based vaccine developer Genocea Biosciences promoted its chief business officer Chip Clark to the role of CEO. Previous Genocea CEO Staph Bakali left his position in September.

—BG Medicine, a Waltham, MA-based diagnostics firm, revealed that it was aiming to price a 4.75-million-share initial public offering at $7 per share, after withdrawing a proposal for an IPO in December that was looking to price between $13 and $15 per share. The firm had previously withdrawn a proposal for an initial public offering in 2008 as well.

—Vertex Pharmaceuticals (NASDAQ: VRTX) of Cambridge is nudging the U.S. Centers for Disease Control to recommend routine screenings of hepatitis C. If the CDC follows through, the policy could result in another 1 million patients who didn’t realize they had the disease to start seeking treatment, which includes Vertex’s drug telaprevir.

—As Pfizer (NYSE: PFE) restructures its global R&D work to cut $1.5 billion in spending, Massachusetts could see 350 jobs added, according to reports in the Boston Globe. The firm will be cutting 100 jobs in the Boston area while adding 450 through the relocation of its neuroscience and cardiovascular metabolic research groups from Groton, CT.

Cambridge-based Vitality, a maker of Internet-connected pill bottle caps to remind patients to take their meds as scheduled, was bought by Dr. Patrick Soon-Shiong, former executive chairman of Los Angeles biotech firm Abraxis BioScience, which sold to Celgene last summer. Soon-Shiong, an early investor in Vitality, is working on improving healthcare with patient-centered health initiatives and wellness-focused technologies through a venture called the All About Advanced Health (AAAH) Project. The Vitality brand name will be retained and its management team will remain in Cambridge.

—Our new Detroit and national med tech editor Tom Lee took at look at Natick, MA-based Boston Scientific (NYSE: BSX) in light of its fiscal 2010 earnings, which were released early this week. The med device firm’s overall sales dipped 5 percent from 2009. Boston Scientific has acquired several companies over the past few months and retains a bright outlook on its future, saying it can generate 11 to 12 percent compound annual earnings growth over the next four years.

—Ocular Therapeutix, a Bedford, MA-based developer of hydrogel treatments for the eye, said it raised $14 million in a Series D round of funding, which included new investor Ascension Health Ventures, the investment arm of the country’s largest chain of Catholic hospitals Ascension Health. Previous Ocular investors Polaris Venture Partners, SV Life Sciences, and Versant Ventures also participated in the round. The company has now raised $41.2 million since its founding.