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Lilly Funds Cerulean, Genzyme Sells Diagnostics Unit, Roche Ends RNAi Program, & More Boston-Area Life Sciences News

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method that it says has the potential to identify compounds that can selectively home in on cancer stem cells that have survived chemotherapies and kill them.

—Pfizer (NYSE:PFE) announced it was starting a Cambridge-headquartered program, called the Global Centers for Therapeutic Innovation, to establish an entrepreneurship network with academic medical research centers. The first school announced as part of the system is UC San Francisco, which could received up to $85 million over five years to help get discoveries made at the school to market.

—Cambridge-based Forma Therapeutics will get $20 million over three years, from Tokyo-based drug company Eisai, to develop drugs aimed at typically stubborn disease targets. The deal gives Eisai non-exclusive access to Forma’s cell-based screening platform and proprietary compound library to use for discoveries for its own drug pipeline.

—Swiss drug giant Roche announced it will ax its development efforts in the area of RNA interference. The sting was felt at Roche RNAi research facilities in Kulmbach, Germany, Nutley, NJ, and Madison, WI, and at Cambridge-based Alnylam Pharmaceuticals, which in 2007 inked a deal to give Roche access to its RNAi technology to develop drugs for cancer, respiratory diseases, metabolic disorders, and certain liver conditions. The biotech stood to earn $1 billion over time through the deal, which brought in $331 million upfront.

—Minerva Biotechnologies, a Waltham, MA-based firm working in the fields of cancer, nanotechnology, and stem cells, brought in $4.6 million in an equity and rights offering, according to an SEC filing.

—Cambridge-based Genzyme announced it would sell its diagnostics products unit to Japan-based Sekisui Chemical for $265 million in cash. As part of the deal, which is expected to close this year, Sekisui will offer jobs to the roughly 575 employees in the division. The sale by Genzyme comes as part of its move to sharpen its focus to fend off a potential takeover by French drug company Sanofi-Aventis.

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