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Aveo Gets Money from OSI, Merck Buys SmartCells, Glaxo Cancels Resveratrol Drug Trial, & More Boston-Area Life Sciences News

Xconomy Boston — 

This week we took an in-depth look at several New England area biotechs, and saw some interesting developments from bigger drugmakers.

—I checked in with Holden, MA-based Hygeia Therapeutics, a startup developing topically delivered synthetic hormone treatments, using technology licensed from Yale University. The biotech has gathered pre-clinical data on a synthetic estrogen product for the treatment of age-related skin thinning.

—Ryan profiled Selventa, a Cambridge, MA-based startup formerly named Genstruct that is developing software to help pair the right patients with the right experimental treatments—before expensive clinical research trials are done. The firm, which has kept pretty quiet about its technology since starting in 2002, is now making a push to publicize its research and technology.

—Cambridge-based Aileron Therapeutics inked a deal for exclusive rights to “click” chemistry technology from The Scripps Research Institute in La Jolla, CA.

—Antibody technology developer Adimab, of Lebanon, NH, brought in a $4 million Series E funding round. The startup, which was founded in 2007 and is working on yeast-based human antibody discovery technology, raised the financing at a pre-money valuation of $520 million, which is double the value of the company when it raised its last round in October 2009.

—Cambridge-based Aveo Pharmaceuticals (NASDAQ:AVEO) said it will bring in $25 million in two equal payments from OSI Pharmaceuticals, which has exercised its option to Aveo’s technology for research in cancer and patient biomarker selection. Aveo’s platform allows researchers to engineer animal models with genetic mutations that are present in human forms of cancer.

GlaxoSmithKline axed a mid-stage clinical trial of SRT501, a drug it picked up as part of its 2008 acquisition of Cambridge-based Sirtris Pharmaceuticals that is a formulation of the “red wine” chemical resveratrol. Glaxo chose to end the trial of the drug as a treatment for advanced multiple myeloma after a review of data from the study found that the drug had minimal efficacy and could potentially cause kidney complications.

—The Cambridge-based Novartis Institutes of BioMedical Research, a R&D unit of Swiss drug giant Novartis, has weighed in to the legal battle over a potentially game-changing lung cancer drug discovered at Boston’s Dana-Farber Cancer Institute. Dana-Farber scientists started Gatekeeper Pharmaceuticals in Millbrae, CA, to commercialize the discovery but in a recent filing Novartis claims it has rights to the drug because it has funded research at Dana-Farber that contributed to the drug’s discovery.

—Luke gave a preview of the upcoming American Society of Hematology conference in Orlando, FL, where Cambridge-based Millennium: The Takeda Oncology Company will unveil results from a string of clinical trials of treatments for blood-related disorders. Millennium has already developed a $1 billion molecule in bortezomib (Velcade) for multiple myeloma and will likely answer questions on how it’s maintaining the momentum for that drug and what else it has in its pipeline.

—Beverly, MA-based biotech startup SmartCells will be bought by drug giant Merck & Co. (NYSE:MRK) in a deal that could exceed $500 million, Merck announced on Thursday. SmartCells, which is developing a once-a-day injectable form of insulin designed to make diabetes treatment more convenient and effective, has received an upfront payment, and is eligible for future payments based on clinical development and regulatory milestones for products that come from its technology.

—Sage Science, a Beverly-based provider of genetic research tools, brought in a $2 million equity-based financing. In November the company announced it would be providing its technology to the Broad Institute of MIT and Harvard in Cambridge.