New Genzyme CEO, Biogen Scores in 2nd MS Pill Trial, Nanotech Drug Startups Nab Funds, & More Boston-Area Life Sciences News

10/28/11Follow @xconomy

It was a meaty New England life sciences week, with clinical advances, new funding, CEO hires, and acquisitions headlines.

—Sanofi hired David Meeker as the new CEO of its Cambridge, MA-based Genzyme unit. Meeker, who got started at the company in 1994, will move into his new role on November 1 and will lead the rare diseases and multiple sclerosis divisions. Other Genzyme units have already been integrated into Sanofi’s global operations.

—My colleague Arlene took a closer look at Cambridge-based Rhythm Pharmaceuticals, a startup developing diabetes and obesity drugs. Rhythm is navigating a crowded but struggling drug space with licensed compounds from the French biotech company Ipsen.

—Lexington, MA-based Cubist Pharmaceuticals (NASDAQ: CBST) will acquire Adolor for $4.25 per share in cash ($190 million total), plus milestones for Adolor’s experimental drug for treating chronic opioid-induced constipation, ADL5945. That pushes the total value of the deal to $415 million. The transaction was made possible, Cubist says, when pharma giant GlaxoSmithKline (NYSE: GSK) dropped out of a co-promotion deal with Adolor (NASDAQ: ADLR) after their drug for accelerating healing after bowel surgery ran into safety issues and was only cleared for in-hospital use.

—Weston, MA-based Biogen Idec (NASDAQ: BIIB) met its goals in a second clinical trial of its first pill for multiple sclerosis. In the study, Biogen’s pill reduced MS flareups by 44 percent when patients took it twice a day, and by 51 percent when they took it three times a day. The company’s stock shot up 7.6 percent to $115.07 per share at 10:06 Eastern time after the news. Biogen also announced it would pay $45 million upfront to South San Francisco-based Portola Pharmaceuticals to collaborate on autoimmune disease drugs.

Atreaon, a new Newton, MA-based biotech company, raised $8 million of a potential $20 million equity round, according to an SEC filing. And Watertown, MA-based Arsenal Medical, a developer of biomaterial-based treatments, said it was spinning out a new company called 480 Biomedical. It also announced it had raised $3 million and 480 had raised $15 million, from return Arsenal investors return investors Polaris Venture Partners, North Bridge Venture Partners, and Intersouth Partners. The new spinout will focus on developing scaffold and delivery technology for treating a form of peripheral vascular disease known as SFA occlusive disease.

—Cambridge-based BIND Biosciences and Watertown-based Selecta Biosciences each received $25 million from Rusnano, a $10 billion Russian federation fund focused on nanotechnology startups. Each company, which will establish Moscow subsidiaries, also took in another $22.25 million from new and existing investors.

—Cambridge-based Vertex Pharmaceuticals (NASDAQ: VRTX) announced revenues of $659 million for the quarter ended September 30, its first ever profitable quarter from its own product sales. (Vertex turned a profit once before due to a one-time milestone payment.) The $221 million ($1.02 a share) profit last quarter was drive in part by Vertex’s new FDA-approved drug telaprevir (Incivek) for patients with hepatitis C that was cleared by the FDA in May.

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