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Avila Gets Leukemia & Lymphoma Society Funding, Dicerna Unites with Ipsen, Rhythmia to Test Heart Mapping Technology, Amag Licenses to Takeda, & More Boston-Area Life Sciences News

Xconomy Boston — 

Looks like the region’s massive flooding didn’t get in the way of everything this week. We saw lots of headlines of partnerships for area drugmakers.

Dicerna Pharmaceuticals, a Watertown, MA, developer of drugs designed to silence disease-related genes using RNA interference, announced its second big partnership this year, this time with the French biotech Ipsen. The deal won’t pull in a ton of cash for Dicerna, but will give the company 50-50 ownership rights to drugs developed through combining Dicerna’s RNAi technology with Ipsen’s strategy of using peptides as delivery vehicles in cells, Luke wrote. In January, Dicerna announced a partnership with Japan-based Kyowa Hakko Kirin for developing cancer drugs, which could be worth up to $1.4 billion in milestone payments.

—Ryan wrote about how the impending healthcare reform could mean big payoffs for Burlington, MA-based Nuance Communications (NASDAQ:NUAN), a speech recognition software company that’s advocating for the government to make rules that would standardize its technology alongside electronic medical records. Nuance has products that allow doctors to dictate patient information directly into electronic records systems and enables radiologists to more efficiently order imaging tests, helping to make healthcare customers the company’s biggest market.

Avila Therepeutics announced it will receive as much as $3.2 million from The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society for the development of a drug that treats B-cell related cancers. The Waltham, MA-based company’s AVL-292 drug aims to form covalent bonds that hit targets on the B-cells in the immune system, and is set to enter its first clinical trial this year.

—Cambridge, MA-based Ascent Therapeutics announced it had changed its name to Anchor Therapeutics to better reflect the drug technology it’s developing. The company seeks to treat ailments from cancer to inflammation using “pepducins,” which anchor in cell membranes and target molecule receptors involved in a variety of disorders.

—This is the year Rhythmia Medical, a Burlington startup founded by MIT and Harvard business school alumni, will put its technology for mapping the heart to the test. The company has developed a catheter-based system for speeding up the time it takes to pinpoint the problematic tissues behind irregular heartbeats, which will be tested in a clinical trial of fewer than 100 patients in Europe this year, one of the co-CEOs told Ryan.

—Lexington, MA-based Amag Pharmaceuticals (NASDAQ:AMAG) pulled in $60 million in initial fees through a licensing deal with Japan-based Takeda Pharmaceutical Company. The deal gave Takeda an exclusive license to all therapeutic uses of Amag’s ferumoxytol, a drug for treating iron deficiency anemia, in Europe, former Soviet states, Asia Pacific countries (excluding China, Japan, and Taiwan), Canada, and Turkey. Last June Amag nabbed FDA approval for marketing the drug as an anemia treatment for adults with chronic kidney disease.

Cambridge-based Cequent Pharmaceuticals and MDRNA (NASDAQ:MRNA), a Bothell, WA-based gene-silencing drug developer, announced plans to merge in an all-stock deal worth about $46 million. The deal, which is expected to close by July, will bring MDNRA enough cash to continue operating through 2010, as well as Cequent’s RNA interference technology.