East Coast Life Sciences Roundup: Optimer, Bind, Pfizer, and More

4/5/13Follow @Tansey_Xconomy

The life sciences clusters around New York and Boston may sometimes act like rivals, but they also have plenty of reasons to work together. This week was marked by deals and cross-fertilizations between big pharmaceutical companies in the wider New York metropolitan area and small biotechnology companies in Cambridge, MA.

As for the East Coast-West Coast rivalry: Well, we’re not saying that moving east will make the fortune of a California firm. But a company that recently moved its headquarters here is enjoying some heady times on Wall Street.

—Shares in Optimer Pharmaceuticals (NASDAQ: OPTR) jumped nearly 20 percent Tuesday on reports that drug industry heavyweights were circling around with an eye on acquiring the company, which relocated its headquarters from San Diego, CA to Jersey City, NJ, late last year. Optimer is angling for a $1 billion purchase offer, according to a Bloomberg report. Among the potential buyers are GlaxoSmithKline (NYSE: GSK), AstraZeneca (NYSE: AZN), Cubist Pharmaceuticals (NASDAQ: CBST), and Japan’s Astellas, the sources said. Optimer sells the antibiotic fidaxomicin (Dificid) to treat dangerous intestinal infections caused by C. difficile bacteria. With its share price edging close to $14, Optimer’s market valuation has risen to about $690 million.

—New York-based Pfizer (NYSE: PFE) will collaborate with Cambridge, MA-based Bind Therapeutics on therapies for undisclosed diseases, using Bind’s nanoparticle drug delivery system in an effort to enhance the effectiveness of Pfizer’s small molecule drugs. Bind will receive $50 million upfront from the drug giant under a deal announced Wednesday, with as much as $160 million more for each jointly developed product that meets Pfizer’s goals. Bind had already formed a partnership in January with biotechnology giant Amgen (NASDAQ: AMGN) of Thousand Oaks, CA.

—Pfizer also closed a collaboration deal with another Cambridge, MA, biotechnology company, Tetragenetics, whose SionX technology platform supports the discovery of antibody drugs targeted at ion channel proteins. These proteins, which control the passage of potassium, sodium, and other ions across cell membranes, have been implicated in diseases ranging from schizophrenia to kidney disorders. Tetragenetics did not disclose financial terms of the deal announced Wednesday, or the diseases Pfizer is targeting. Tetragenetics also announced a deal Tuesday to license its technology to Amgen (NASDAQ: AMGN) of Thousand Oaks, CA.

—-Cambridge, MA-based Ra Pharmaceuticals landed a collaboration deal with drug giant Merck (NYSE: MRK) that could be worth as much as $200 million to the five-year-old company. Ra is creating a library of trillions of compounds called Cyclomimetics that are designed to have the specific drug actions of antibodies, while offering some of the advantages of small molecules. The company screens its stable of small, cyclic polymers for potential uses against drug targets. Ra will receive an undisclosed upfront payment and research support funds from Whitehouse Station, NJ-based Merck, and will be eligible for additional payments depending on the progress of the collaboration from drug discovery through commercialization.

—Cambridge, MA-based Infinity Pharmaceuticals (NASDAQ: INFI) has had a powerhouse rival since Gilead of Foster City, CA (NASDAQ: GILD) started moving beyond its dominant HIV drug franchise and building a major cancer drug division. Infinity and Gilead both have experimental drugs aimed at the same hot cancer target. But Gilead’s push into cancer has also benefited investors in East Coast companies. The expanding California company partnered up on antibody development last year with Lebanon, NH-based Adimab. Gilead also acquired Branford, CT-based CGI Pharmaceuticals for as much as $120 million in 2010. Gilead’s cancer program and acquisitions were detailed this week by Luke Timmerman, Xconomy’s National Biotech Editor.

—New York-based WorldOne, a health data company based in New York, said it secured a $35 million funding commitment from Deerfield Management of New York. Much of the money will go toward expanding Cambridge, MA-based Sermo, an online community for doctors that WorldOne acquired last July. Sermo will allow physicans to use the Web or mobile devices to track news in medicine and interact with their peers, while also linking them to the pharma companies, financial institutions, and other organizations that are interested in the doctors’ opinions and pay Sermo for access. WorldOne says its global network now includes a total of 1.8 million healthcare professionals in 80 countries, including more than 385,000 doctors.

Bernadette Tansey is Xconomy's San Francisco Editor. You can reach her at btansey@xconomy.com. Follow @Tansey_Xconomy

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