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Genzyme and Boston Scientific Get Good News From the FDA; Acusphere and Targanta Not So Much; TransMedics Pulls IPO Plug; & More Boston-Area Life Sciences News

Xconomy Boston — 

New England’s life sciences firms got a lot of news from the FDA this past week—not all of it good. Here’s more on that, and the rest of the week’s news from the sector.

—Ryan caught up with the CEO of Targanta Therapeutics (NASDAQ:TARG) the day after the FDA has decided to not to approve the Cambridge, MA-based biotech firm’s antibiotic oritavancin. Mark Leuchtenberger says Targanta will need to raise money to fund the clinical trial that the FDA will require the company to conduct before once again considering oritavancin, which would be the firm’s first marketed product, and that Targanta will “take the appropriate steps” to use its existing funds appropriately.

—Another local life sciences firm, Watertown, MA-based Acusphere (NASDAQ:ACUS), also got bad news about its lead product candidate when an FDA advisory panel voted 16-1 against recommending approval of the heart imaging agent known as perflubutane polymer microspheres (Imagify). The FDA is not obligated to follow such advice, but it usually does.

—Cambridge, MA-based Semprus BioSciences reportedly raised $8 million in a Series A financing round led by 5AM Ventures and Pangaea Ventures. Semprus is developing antimicrobial coatings for medical devices.

—Infinity Pharmaceuticals (NASDAQ: INFI) of Cambridge, MA, announced that its partner, AstraZeneca, has decided to give back its share of a program focused on developing cancer drugs that block a target called heat shock protein 90. Luke offered a couple of points of view on what AstraZeneca’s decision means, and how it might affect Infinity.

—Ryan spoke with officials from several of the disease foundations that are an increasingly important source of funding for biotechs such as Cambridge, MA-based Vertex Pharmaceuticals (NASDAQ:VRTX). But with their own budgets being squeezed by the economic downturn, foundations are going to be more and more choosy about which firms and programs they support.

—Watertown, MA-based HIV drug developer Panacos Pharmaceuticals (NASDAQ:PANC) announced plans to reduce its staff from 33 workers to 15 and to explore such strategic options as a financing, partnership, sale of the company, or sale of certain assets.

—Ryan chatted with John Dunn, executive vice president of the VC arm of Biogen Idec (NASDAQ:BIIB). The Cambridge, MA-based firm this year committed an additional $100 million to Biogen Idec New Ventures; Dunn says he expects to invest the new allocation over a four-year period. Ryan also gave a quick overview of some of the 13 companies in the Biogen outfit’s portfolio.

An FDA panel recommended that biotech behemoth Amgen, which has operations in Seattle and Cambridge, MA, be required to run more clinical trials before it’s allowed to market its colorectal cancer drug, panitumumab (Vectibix), to patients with a specific genetic profile.

The FDA approved a new stent produced by Natick, MA-based Boston Scientific (NYSE:BSX). The device is designed to prop open renal arteries, which carry blood to the kidneys.

—Biogen Idec (NASDAQ: BIIB) announced that another patient taking natalizumab (Tysabri) has been diagnosed with PML, the rare and often fatal brain infection called PML.

—The quasi-public Massachusetts Life Sciences Center announced that Johnson & Johnson (NYSE:JNJ) will be the first member of a new consortium of firms that will provide matching funds to support Bay State life sciences startups and researchers. The agency also announced $3.7 million in grants to fund collaborative research between scientists and companies in the commonwealth, and plans to set up shop in 5,855 square feet of office space in Waltham.

—Andover, MA-based TransMedics, a developer of organ-transport systems, scrapped a planned IPO. The offering, originally announced in September of 2007, was to have been worth up to $86 million.

—Cambridge, MA-based Genzyme (NASDAQ: GENZ) won FDA approval for a drug designed to aid the treatment of patients with non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma and multiple myeloma. Plerixafor (Mozobil) is projected to generate about $75 million in sales in 2009.