East Coast Life Sciences Roundup: KiiLN, Celgene, Acceleron, & More

8/9/13Follow @benthefidler

[Updated, 11:26 a.m. ET] The New York metropolitan area, for a change, dominated the landscape of life sciences news coming out of the East Coast. This week, big plans for Manhattan startup incubators were unveiled, a new healthcare IT company got its sea legs, and one of biotech’s savviest dealmakers continued doing what it does best:

—New York life science entrepreneurs have long contended that the biggest thing preventing the Big Apple from becoming a true biotech cluster is affordable lab space. A group of postdoctoral researchers from the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai have formed the Keystone for Incubating Innovation of Life Sciences – NYC, or “KiiLN,” to try to change that. I spoke with the band of postdocs at length about their plan to create a large, flexible incubator in the middle of East Harlem—right near all of the big biomedical institutions on the east side of Manhattan.

—Take a look at many of the breakout biotech IPOs this year and you’ll find that they’ve all got some type of partnership with Summit, NJ-based Celgene (NASDAQ: CELG). That’s because the Summit, NJ-based company has shrewdly built a massive network of alliances with many of the most innovative small biotechs out there, writes Xconomy’s National Biotech Editor, Luke Timmerman. Agios Pharmaceuticals (NASDAQ: AGIO), Bluebird Bio (NASDAQ: BLUE), and Epizyme (NASDAQ: EPZM) all saw their valuations soar upon going public—and all three of them have a big deal in place with Celgene.

—Speaking of which, Cambridge, MA-based Acceleron Pharma is hoping that trend will continue. Acceleron, another small biotech with a Celgene partnership, filed papers with the Securities and Exchange Commission this week outlining a $74.75 million IPO. Acceleron, which is developing drugs for certain types of blood cancers and orphan diseases, aims to trade on the Nasdaq under the ticker symbol “XLRN.” Celgene is one of Acceleron’s largest shareholders, and much like it did with Agios, the big biotech plans to buy additional shares at the IPO price through a separate deal concurrent with the offering.

—Tarrytown, NY-based Regeneron (NASDAQ: REGN) is ahead of schedule in potentially bringing its breakout eye drug aflibercept (Eylea) to patients with diabetic macular edema, a common complication of diabetes that leads to distorted vision. Regeneron revealed that the interim results from two late-stage clinical trials were strong enough that the company will file an application with the FDA to market the drug in the new indication this year—about one year sooner than expected. Aflibercept is already approved as a treatment for the “wet” form of age-related macular degeneration, the leading cause of blindness in the western world.

—Cambridge and New York City-based Maxwell Health’s plans to provide small businesses and their employees with user-friendly health insurance got a big boost this week as the company raised a $2 million Series A round from a group led by Tribeca Venture Partners. I met with CEO Veer Gidwaney at New York Tech Meetup’s latest gathering this week, and got some insight into the company’s vision for driving down healthcare costs by incentivizing a healthy lifestyle.

—Cambridge-based Ensemble Therapeutics reeled in another big fish this week. The company inked a partnership with Novartis (NYSE: NVS) that gives the pharmaceutical giant rights to develop a specific class of Ensemble’s own in-house experimental drug candidates that block the inflammatory protein interleukin-17. The partnership is Ensemble’s sixth to date, and the second it has formed in the past month. Alexion Pharmaceuticals (NASDAQ: ALXN) signed a deal in July to tap into Ensemble’s library of synthetic mid-sized drugs, which are supposed to hit tough-to-reach biological targets that other drugs can’t.

—GlaxoSmithKline (NYSE: GSK) has kickstarted a $50 million venture fund designed to invest in companies making bioelectronic therapies, or ultra-tiny devices or specialized drugs that tinker with electrical signals that pass through the nerves in the body. The fund, called the Action Potential Value Fund, is based in Cambridge and has already made its first investment, teaming with Covidien (NYSE: COV) and Boston Scientific (NYSE: BSX) to pour $27 million into Valencia, CA-based Setpoint Medical.

—New York-based Keryx Pharmaceuticals (NASDAQ: KERX) officially filed a new drug application with the FDA for ferric citrate (Zenerex), which is supposed to lower the phosphate levels of kidney dialysis patients. Ferric citrate passed through late-stage clinical trials in January. Keryx also plans to file an application with European regulators to sell the drug in the European Union.

—[Updated with stock movement] Bedminster, NJ-based NPS Pharmaceuticals’ (NASDAQ: NPSP) drug teduglutide (Gattex in the U.S., Revestive in Europe), generated $4.8 million in sales in the U.S. in the second quarter, coming in ahead of Wall Street’s expectations. NPS said that 141 patients were on the drug as of Aug. 2, and that it now expects between 275 and 325 patients on the drug at the end of the year, up from the 200 to 300 it initially projected. NPS began selling teduglutide in the U.S. in February, but believes the drug’s biggest market opportunity lies overseas. The drug, which treats a rare disease known as short-bowel syndrome, is priced at close to $300,000 for a year of treatment. NPS’ stock soared more than 20 percent in early trading Friday, to $21.77 per share, following the news.

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

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