Sanofi Buys Genzyme for $20B, Aveo Inks Deal with Astellas, Hologix Nabs FDA Approval, & More Boston-Area Life Sciences News

2/18/11Follow @xconomy

It was a historic week in the Boston biotech field with big acquisition news, but we also saw headlines on stealthier firms and startup financings.

—Ryan took a closer look at H3 Biomedicine, a cancer research house setting up shop in Cambridge, MA, with the support of Japanese drugmaker Eisai. He compared it to the research efforts of other big drugmakers like GlaxoSmithKline, which has also created a entrepreneurial startup in Cambridge, Tempero Pharmaceuticals, to fuel new drug discoveries. Eisai is providing $200 million, access to its scientists, and research and development support to H3.

—Bedford, MA-based Hologic nabbed FDA approval for its 3-D imaging system for breast cancer screening and diagnostics, which is designed to supplement existing scanning technology. The device is said to be the first of its kind to provide 3-D images of the breast.

—Biogen Idec (NASDAQ: BIIB) of Weston, MA, announced that its board of directors had given the drugmaker permission to repurchase 20 million shares of its common stock to offset stock issuances under its share-based compensation plans.

—Beverly, MA-based drug developer Cellceutix settled a compensation dispute with its former CEO George Evans. The company will buy 4.6 million shares of stock held by Evans and/or his sons over the past three years, for $1 million. Evan had previously sought $1.7 million in back salary and future compensation.

—Ryan tracked down a few more details from Tillman Gerngross, co-founder and CEO of Lebanon, NH-based Adimab, about his stealthy new spinout Arsanis. The startup is focused on using Adimab’s yeast-based antibody discovery system to find drugs that could serve as an alternative to antibiotics for infectious diseases.

Healthcare companies accounted for a 60 percent chunk of the funding raised by Massachusetts startups in January, according to data provided by CB Insights FundingFlash. Thirteen healthcare companies brought in $146.5 million, out of a total of $242.5 million for the month.

—Cambridge biotech Genzyme (NASDAQ: GENZ) sold to French drug giant Sanofi-Aventis for $20.1 billion, or $74 per share, making it the biggest biotech acquisition ever in Boston’s cluster. The transaction came after months of courting by Sanofi (NYSE: SNY) and also includes additional compensation to shareholders for milestones primarily related to Genzyme’s experimental drug for multiple sclerosis, alemtuzumab (Lemtrada), which is already on the market for treating leukemia. The purchase price was a boost from Sanofi’s original offer of $69 per share.

—Aveo Pharmaceuticals (NASDAQ: AVEO) of Cambridge landed its largest deal ever: Japan-based Astellas Pharma is paying the company $125 million initially and up to $1.3 billion in potential milestones related to Aveo’s lead cancer treatment, tivozanib. The company is currently completing a clinical trial of the drug in patients with an aggressive form of kidney cancer.

—Sermo, the Cambridge-based provider of the nation’s largest online community of doctors, nabbed a $3.5 million growth capital financing from MMV Financial. It’s putting the money toward beefing up its physician community, which pharma companies, healthcare institutions, government agencies, and financial services firms can tap into for market research.

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