East Coast Life Sciences Roundup: Aileron, Enzymatics, Acton, & More

9/6/13Follow @benthefidler

[Updated, 8:15 a.m. ET] Labor Day has come and gone, and that means one thing: football season is finally upon us. But before the pigskins start flying en masse on Sunday, make sure to catch up on all your East Coast biotech news below:

—Many drugmakers have tried, and failed, to find ways to protect the famous tumor suppressor known as p53, which gets shut down by every single form of cancer. Even so, Cambridge, MA-based Aileron Therapeutics thinks it that may have a chance to reverse that trend. I spoke with Aileron CEO Joe Yanchik about the company’s plan to make a stapled peptide—or, a fused combination of protein fragments—that would simultaneously hit proteins made by two genes that deactivate p53. It plans to begin testing that drug in people with solid and liquid tumors, and a variety of different cancers, in an early-stage clinical trial next year.

—Beverly, MA-based Enzymatics has spent the past seven years piling up cash making enzymes for companies and research institutions that sequence DNA. It has now agreed to put as much as $50 million of that money to work to make its first acquisition, snaring Boulder, CO-based startup ArcherDx. Enzymatics’ plan is to offer diagnostic tests in addition to the enzymes it already sells to its customers, but it has a long way to go—ArcherDx was just formed in January, and will release the beta version of its first product test fall.

— Forest Laboratories (NYSE: FRX) veterans John Simon and Daniel Kreisler started up Marlborough, MA-based Acton Pharmaceuticals in late 2009 with the help of Sequoia Capital, and that move paid off when Sweden’s Meda swooped in to acquire the company. Meda is paying $135 million up front, and potentially another $65 million in additional payments that could bring the deal to $200 million total. Acton has two respiratory drugs nearing the market: an inhalable corticosteroid for asthma called flunisolide HFA (Aerospan), and triamcinolone acetonide (Nasacort FHA), a spray for nasal allergies.

—Fresh off raising $26.6 million to help push its cancer drug, entinostat, into a Phase 3 clinical trial, Waltham, MA-based Syndax Pharmaceuticals has cut another deal to fatten up its wallet. Syndax has given China’s Eddingpharm rights to market and sell entinostat in China and certain other Asian countries, and—assuming the drug hits the market in those countries—will get a royalty stream and unspecified milestone payments. Eddingpharm is backed by Princeton, NJ-based venture firm Domain Associates.

—Cambridge-based Bind Therapeutics inched closer to the Nasdaq, revealing the expected range of its previously announced IPO. Bind plans to offer 4.7 million shares to investors at between $14 and $16 apiece and raise a total of about $71 million. At $15 per share, Bind would be worth $237 million.

—[Updated with new item] Cambridge-based Acceleron Pharma followed in kind early Friday, setting the range for its own IPO. Acceleron aims offer investors 4.65 million shares at between $13 and $15 apiece.

—Monmouth Junction, NJ-based Tris Pharma won FDA approval of a long-acting, liquid version of a hay fever drug known as carbinoxamine maleate in April, and this week, it handed that drug’s rights over to FSC Laboratories. Tris, whose business model is to reformulate pills into liquids while maintaining their efficacy, stands to collect up to $20 million in milestone payments from FSC, and a “significant” double-digit royalty percentage on net sales of the drug.

—Lexington, MA-based Cubist Pharmaceuticals (NASDAQ: CBST) tapped Wall Street to pay for its big buyouts of Trius Therapeutics and Optimer Pharmaceuticals. The antibiotics maker issued two series of notes that could bring the company as much as $800 million total. The Trius and Optimer deals could cost Cubist as much as about $1.6 billion if certain milestones are met.

—Cambridge, MA-based ZappRx raised $1 million in seed funding led by Atlas Venture’s Jean-Francois Formela and Ryan Moore, Life Sciences Angel Network, Hakan Satiroglu, and others. The company is creating a smartphone app that enables doctors to e-prescribe drugs directly to their patients.

—The National Institutes of Health has awarded Watertown, MA-based Enanta Pharmaceuticals (NASDAQ: ENTA) another $9.2 million to fund preclinical and early development of an antibiotic it is developing for anthrax, the hospital superbug known as MRSA, and other bacteria. Enanta first signed a contract with the NIH in 2011, and has now received a total of $23.5 million in funding from the agency to date.

—Cambridge-based Infinity Pharmaceuticals (NASDAQ: INFI) has named David A. Roth its senior VP of clinical development and medical affairs. Roth previously spent more than 10 years at Wyeth and Pfizer (NYSE: PFE).

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

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