East Coast Life Sciences Roundup: Blend, Amicus, Vertex, & More

12/21/12Follow @cathyarnst

Christmas came early for a bunch of biotech startups in the form of new funds, while Amicus and Vertex got only coal in their stocking.

—- On Tuesday, Avaxia Biologics, based in Lexington, MA, pulled in $6.4 million in a Series B financing, which will help pay for its first clinical trial of AVX-70, a new drug that targets inflammation in the gastrointestinal tract, meant for such diseases as ulcerative colitis and Crohn’s disease. Blend Therapeutics of Watertown, MA, did even better the same day, securing $16 million in Series B financing to finance development of a new generation of platinum-based drugs for cancer treatment.

—Two other East Coast biotechs, Marinus Pharmaceuticals of Branford, CT, and Regado Biosciences of Basking Ridge, NJ, scored $21 million and $51 million respectively on Wednesday from an unusual partnership formed last spring between Domain Associates and Russia’s state-owned Rusnano. The arrangement calls for the latter two firms to jointly invest as much as $760 million in life sciences startups.

—Now for the bad news. Late Wednesday, Amicus (NASDAQ: FOLD), based in Cranbury, NJ, and Britain’s GlaxoSmithKline (NYSE: GSK) announced that their jointly developed drug for Fabry disease failed to score statistical significance in reducing a certain kind of dangerous fat in the kidneys. The data came from the midpoint of a one-year, Phase III trial that the companies are running to support their FDA application for the drug, so the news was bad indeed. Amicus’s stock price plummeted 47 percent on Thursday to close at $3.06.

—Thursday wasn’t such a good day for Vertex (NASDAQ: VRTX) either. The Cambridge, MA, company announced that its market-leading hepatitis C drug telaprevir (Incivek) can cause potentially fatal skin rashes. The FDA is adding a black box warning to the drug, the most serious type of safety warning. Telaprevir, given by injection, is already likely to face competition from several oral drugs for hepatitis C in various stages of development, so Vertex can ill afford any setbacks at this point.

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