East Coast Life Sciences Roundup: Pfizer, Rhythm, NPS, More

10/26/12Follow @cathyarnst

It was a busy week for East Coast life sciences companies, with acquisitions, IPOs, and regulatory news topping the headlines.

—It was a big payday on Monday for NextWave Pharmaceuticals of Cupertino, CA, when New York-based Pfizer (NYSE: PFE) agreed to shell out up to $700 million for the company, all so it could get the rights to a liquid version of a popular drug for attention deficit hyperactivity disorder. Another winner in the deal is NextWave’s manufacturing partner, Tris Pharma of Monmouth Junction, NJ, which developed the liquid drug technology. Under the terms of the deal Tris will continue to manufacture the drug—methylphenidate hydrochloride (Quillivant XR), a liquid form of the off-patent drug Ritalin—for Pfizer.

—Meanwhile, Radius Health is hoping to have its own lucrative payday soon when it commences its initial public offering. On Tuesday the Cambridge, MA, company said it intends to offer 6.5 million shares at a price between $8.50 and $10.50 each. The offering would raise almost $62 million at the mid-range price. Radius is already a Boston-area star when it comes to attracting investors, having raised almost $200 million since its founding in 2003. The company can only hope that its IPO will follow the successful path blazed by the nine other biotech initial offerings this year—including three in the Boston area—as my colleague Luke Timmerman wrote about in August. Radius says it will use the money to help finance the Phase 3 clinical trial it is currently running for an osteoporosis drug,

—A couple of East Coast biotechs got some good news about their experimental drugs this week. On Monday, Boston’s Rhythm Pharmaceuticals reported positive results from two Phase 1 clinical trials of RM-131, its drug for treating a gastric side effect of diabetes, and said the FDA has granted the drug Fast Track review status. Then on Thursday Ariad Pharmaceuticals (NASDAQ: ARIA) reported that the FDA agreed to a priority review of its new drug application for ponatinib, a treatment for patients with treatment resistant chronic myeloid leukemia. The FDA said it would make a decision on the drug by March 27 of next year. That’s particularly good news for Ariad, since in June the FDA gave the thumbs down to a drug the company developed with Merck for soft tissue sarcoma, saying more clinical trials were needed.

—Rhythm and Ariad might want to pay attention to what Xconomist Francois Nader, CEO of NPS Pharmaceuticals, had to say in an interview this week, several days after an FDA advisory panel of outside experts voted to recommend approval of NPS’s drug for short bowel disease. Nader arrived at Bedminster, NJ-based NPS (NASDAQ: NPSP) six years ago to overhaul the struggling biotech, downsizing NPS from a fully integrated pharma company with some 400 employees to a virtual firm with just 20 staffers. Now NPS is poised to usher its first drug to an FDA approval. Nader says one of the keys to the restructuring’s success is happy, committed staffers, who are able to both develop strategy and execute it.

Quest Diagnostics (NYSE: DGX), based in Madison, NJ, agreed to spend more than $75 million creating a Northeast laboratory in a former Hewlett-Packard office complex in Marlborough, MA, according to a story on Boston.com on Thursday. Quest already operates labs in several locations in Massachusetts, and just last week agreed to buy the clinical outreach labs of UMass Memorial Medical Center in Worcester, MA, for an undisclosed sum. Quest said the UMass deal is the beginning of a long-term relationship that could end up with UMass Memorial taking a stake in a new company it would create that would operate a state-of-the art lab in Massachusetts.

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