East Coast Biotech Roundup: Genocea, Eleven, NIH/Pharma, & More

2/7/14Follow @benthefidler

A couple of local biotechs this week didn’t find their entrée to the public markets so friendly. Meanwhile, Big Pharmas all over the place were banding together to share their resources and run trials together. Those stories and more below:

—Cambridge, MA-based vaccine developer Genocea Biosciences (NASDAQ: GNCA) was the first local biotech to price this week, and it got a lukewarm response from Wall Street. Genocea priced its IPO at $12 per share, at the low end of its projected $12 to $14 per share range, and raised $66 million by selling 5.5 million shares to public investors. Genocea opened up on the Nasdaq on Wednesday at $11.90, and finished its first trading day at $11.

—Cambridge-based Eleven Biotherapeutics (NASDAQ: EBIO) followed suit a day later, and had a tougher time. Eleven priced its offering at $10 per share, well below the $13 to $15 it initially planned to sell its shares at. It also upsized its offering to 5 million shares from the original 4.3 million. All told, the company, which is developing a drug for dry eye disease among other ophthalmic drugs, raised $50 million from the IPO before discounts due to underwriters. It did inch up in its first day of trading, however. Shares of Eleven opened at $10.40 apiece and closed at $10.85.

—Some of the East Coast’s biggest pharmaceutical companies, including New York-based Pfizer (NYSE: PFE) and Bristol-Myers Squibb (NYSE: BMY), Cambridge-based Biogen Idec (NASDAQ: BIIB), Whitehouse Station, NJ-based Merck (NYSE: MRK) and others joined up as part of a deal with the National Institutes of Health to help speed the discovery of potential drugs for Alzheimer’s, Type 2 diabetes, rheumatoid arthritis, and lupus. The companies will invest a total of $230 million over five years as part of the collaboration, called the Accelerating Medicines Partnership. Each partner has to share their data and agree to not use any discovery for their own commercial gain until the AMP makes the data public.

—Merck was part of another big partnership this week as well, announcing plans to join with Pfizer, Thousand Oaks, CA-based Amgen (NASDSAQ: AMGN), and Wilmington, DE-based Incyte (NASDAQ: INCY) to run several combination studies using its experimental cancer antibody drug MRK-3475. Those new studies will combine Merck’s drug with Pfizer’s axitinib (Inlyta), Incyte’s experimental immunotherapy drug INCB24360, and Amgen’s talimogene laherparepvec, which was acquired in its 2011 buyout of BioVex.

—Boston and San Francisco, CA-based life science investment firm Clarus Ventures is looking to raise $375 million for its third fund, Clarus Lifesciences III, according to an SEC filing.

— Biogen was cleared this week to sell its oral multiple sclerosis drug, dimethyl fumarate (Tecfidera), in Europe. The drug was first approved in the U.S. in March, and has since been green-lighted in Canada and Australia as well. Biogen plans to begin selling the MS drug in certain European countries in the coming weeks. The drug generated $398 million in sales in the fourth quarter of 2013 and is expected to break $1 billion in sales total for its first year on the market.

—Cambridge-based Agios Pharmaceuticals (NASDAQ: AGIO) exercised its option to buy back the U.S. rights to its experimental cancer drug AG-120 from its Summit, NJ-based partner Celgene (NASDAQ: CELG). Agios got that option as part of the big collaboration deal the two companies signed in 2010. Celgene still has rights to AG-120 in the rest of the world.

—New York-based Dipexium Pharmaceuticals, which is developing an antibiotic for diabetic foot ulcers, plans to raise up to $35 million through an IPO. It’ll list on the Nasdaq under the ticker symbol “DPRX” if it goes public.

—Longtime Genzyme executive Frederic Chereau is taking flight for San Diego, where he’ll become the president and chief operating officer of aTyr Pharma. Chereau spent a decade at Genzyme before taking the head gig at Cambridge-based startup Pervasis Therapeutics. When Pervasis was acquired by Shire in 2012, Chereau stayed on board and was in charge of the company’s global angioedema franchise.

—Cambridge and San Diego-based Sialix raised $1.2 million in angel-led financing from Boston Harbor Angels, Mass Medic Angels, Launchpad Angels, and others. Sialix is developing antibodies that target glycans found on the surface of tumor cells. Xconomy profiled the company in early 2013.

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

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