Vertex, Ariad, Alnylam, & More Boston-Area Life Sciences Newsmakers

12/16/11Follow @xconomy

New England saw a flurry of life sciences news this week, from venture firms, new startups, and established biotechs.

—Boston-based Avila Therapeutics presented data at the American Society of Hematology from early human trials of its lead cancer drug, AVL-292, which is on track to enter more extensive Phase 2 trials next year. This compound, a so-called covalent drug that bonds tightly to disease-causing proteins to shut down their activity over time, is targeting cancers such as chronic lymphocytic leukemia.

—Alnylam Pharmaceuticals (NASDAQ: ALNY) could be onto something in the field of RNA interference, a technology that has fallen out of favor in the industry, my colleague Luke wrote. The Cambridge, MA-based biotech reported at a scientific meeting last month that one of its experimental RNAi drugs was able to shut down production of a protein that causes a rare and deadly disease called TTR amyloidosis.

ImmusanT, a new startup working on therapies for celiac disease, inked a $20 million Series A financing from Vatera Healthcare Partners. The Cambridge-based company is developing a vaccine and a diagnostic and monitoring test for the condition, which renders the protein gluten toxic in the body.

—Newton, MA-based AesRx kicked off human trials of its lead drug Aes-103, a treatment for sickle cell disease. A partnership formed with the National Institutes of Health helped the company get this far, after it struggled to raise venture funding.

—Boston-based Ember Therapeutics raised $34 million from Third Rock Ventures to develop drugs that fight obesity by burning off … Next Page »

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