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New RNAi Drugs, Major Cutbacks at Targanta, Big Partnerships for Arqule and Archemix, & More Boston-Area Life Sciences News

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of Cambridge, MA, raised $18 million after third-quarter losses of $11.4 million.

—There was more bad news for Biogen Idec as a U.S. patient taking its multiple sclerosis drug Tysabri died from a rare brain infection called progressive multifocal leukoencephalopathy; she was one of four people to be diagnosed with the infection since Tysabri’s re-introduction in 2006, but the first to lose her life.

—Woburn, MA-based Arqule struck a $60 million deal with Tokyo-based Daiichi Sankyo under which it will co-develop a cancer drug with the lyrical name ARQ-197. In other partnership news, Archemix of Cambridge, MA, inked a deal with GlaxoSmithKline to develop seven drugs related to its proprietary “aptamers” or short DNA and RNA strings; the deal will bring in $27.5 million in up-front payments and up to $200 million in milestone payments.

—Amgen, which has shown in clinical trials that its new drug denosumab can lower the risk of spinal fractures in women, applied for FDA clearance to sell the drug for the treatment of osteoporosis and to prevent bone loss in chemotherapy patients. Meanwhile, after a five-year wait, Lexington, MA-based Epix Pharmaceuticals learned that the FDA has approved its compound Vasovist, a contrast agent for MRI scans of narrowing arteries.

—Sermo, the Cambridge, MA-based private social network for physicians, announced it has set up an online flu tracker where members can upload information about patients with flu symptoms; the hope is that doctors in areas known to be affected by flu outbreaks will be able to use the information to make faster treatment decisions.

—Genzyme Ventures, Baxter International, and several other investors put up $12 million for a Series D financing round at KalBios Pharmaceuticals, a South San Francisco biotech developing antibody fragments as treatments for bacterial infections in cystic fibrosis patients.

—Finally, Cambridge, MA-based Molecular Insight Pharmaceuticals said yesterday it was able to detect early signs of cardiac ischemia, or reduced blood flow to the heart, in Phase II study participants using its experimental imaging agent Zemiva.

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