East Coast Life Sciences Roundup: Epizyme, Rodin, Ophthotech, & More

8/16/13Follow @benthefidler

The action-packed summer in biotech slowed down a bit on the East Coast this week, but we’ve still got all your required biotech reading—including the real key to pulling off a successful IPO—below:

—Cambridge, MA-based Epizyme (NASDAQ: EPZM) could’ve ended up as acquisition fodder for Big Pharma, but instead it inked a partnership with Summit, NJ-based Celgene (NASDAQ: CELG) last year that paved the way for it to go public. I spoke to Epizyme CEO Robert Gould and president and CFO Jason Rhodes about their path to an IPO, the ins and outs of running a roadshow, and the secret to a winning public offering: PowerBars.

—While Big Pharma has zigged away from investments in neurological disorders, Atlas Venture has zagged towards them—and Cambridge-based Rodin Therapeutics is the latest example. Atlas teamed with Germany’s Proteros Biostructures to form Rodin in June, bringing in an investment from Johnson & Johnson’s Boston Innovation Center to help. Rodin’s acting CEO, and Atlas partner Bruce Booth, told me about the company’s vision to create a group of drugs that combine epigenetics with neurology to tackle neurological disorders like Alzheimer’s Disease and schizophrenia.

—Cambridge-based Bind Therapeutics kicked off 2013 with three high-profile partnerships and a name change. Now it’s hoping to end the year as the latest biotech to trade publicly on the Nasdaq. Bind outlined plans this week to raise up to $80.5 million through an IPO. The company, which originated from the lab of prolific MIT professor Robert Langer, aims to trade under the ticker symbol “BIND.” Bind makes “Accurins,” or nanoparticles that are supposed to help distribute a drug more efficiently throughout the body.

—New York-based Ophthotech followed Bind onto the IPO queue, hoping to raise up to $85 million through an offering of its own. Ophthotech would use the cash to help bankroll a big late-stage clinical trial for a treatment it is developing for the wet form of age-related macular degeneration, the leading cause of blindness in the elderly. Ophthotech plans to begin the trial by the end of the year.

— Cambridge-based Sage Therapeutics has put the executive team in place to bring its allosteric receptor modulators—which are designed to create equilibrium among the brain’s neurotransmitters—into clinical trials. Jeffrey Jonas, the former head of Shire’s regenerative medicine business, has been named the company’s full-time CEO, replacing interim chief executive and Third Rock Ventures Partner Kevin Starr. Stephen Kanes, a former AstraZeneca executive, will be Sage’s chief medical officer. And Kimi Iguchi, who had stints at Millennium Pharmaceuticals and Biogen Idec, will be Sage’s chief financial officer.

—Cambridge-based Alnylam Pharmaceuticals (NASDAQ: ALNY) has been on the upswing this year, and the momentum continued this week when the FDA granted orphan drug status to an experimental drug known as ALN-AT3, as a treatment for hemophilia B. ALN-AT3 is an RNA-based drug Alnylam is developing as an injection just under the skin for hemophilia A, hemophilia B, and other rare bleeding disorders.

—New York-based Forest Laboratories (NYSE: FRX) has put off the new drug application it was planning to file during the fourth quarter for the long-acting muscarinic agonist/long-acting beta agonist, or LAMA/LABA drug it has been developing with Spain-based Almirall. The companies said that the delay is due to comments the FDA made regarding certain unspecified “chemical, manufacturing, and control” issues, and didn’t give a timeline for when they would be resolved. The drug is one of several LAMA/LABA combinations being developed to treat chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, or COPD.

Ben Fidler is Xconomy's Deputy Biotechnology Editor. You can e-mail him at bfidler@xconomy.com Follow @benthefidler

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