AMAG Stock Rises, Ariad Drug Shows Improved Safety, Rhythm Adds Merck Veteran as CEO, & More Boston-Area Life Sciences News

11/11/11Follow @xconomy

New England area biotechs had news this week on stock price, clinical data, new financings, and more.

—AMAG Pharmaceuticals of Lexington, MA, saw its stock shoot up 18 percent to $16.21 on Monday after announcing its CEO Brian Pereira’s departure and its plans for reducing operating expenses. AMAG (NASDAQ: AMAG) has struggled in transitioning from a diagnostic-imaging product maker to a drug developer, with its shareholders recently voting down a plan to merge with Allos Therapeutics (NASDAQ: ALTH).

—An early analysis of a pivotal study of Cambridge, MA-based Ariad Pharmaceutical’s experimental drug ponatinib showed the treatment may be safer than it was originally thought to be. A previous trial of the drug showed that about 12 percent of patients developed an adverse event known as pancreatitis, but Ariad (NASDAQ: ARIA) lowered the dose for the second trial and the rate of pancreatitis decreased to 3.7 percent of patients.

—Lebabon, NH-based PharmaSecure inked a $3.9 million investment late last month to put towards its technology for more cheaply preventing the sale of counterfeit drugs in markets like India. The money came from Innovation Endeavors—the fund led by former Google CEO Eric Schmidt—as well as Gray Ghost Ventures, Healthtech Capital, and TEEC Angel Fund.

—Cambridge-based Vertex Pharmaceuticals (NASDAQ: VRTX) saw its stock drop 17 percent over two days after other biotechs developing rival hepatitis C drugs shared promising data at the American Association for the Study of Liver Disease (AASLD) annual meeting in San Francisco this week.

—Rhythm Pharmaceuticals, a Boston startup developing experimental obesity and diabetes treatments, hired Keith Gottesdiener, a veteran of the pharmaceutical giant Merck, as its new CEO.

—Dusa Pharmaceuticals plans to begin Phase 2 clinical testing later this month of its drug-device combination for preventing the recurrence of pre-cancerous skin growths known as actinic keratoses (AK). The company has sold the treatment, Levulan Kerastick, as a method for removing existing growths, but dermatologists have reported success preventing their recurrence by applying the product for longer than initially directed. Wilmington, Ma-based Dusa (NASDAQ: DUSA) is seeking FDA approval to market the product for that purpose.

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