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Alnylam Settles One Lawsuit, Hit With Another; Living Proof Raises $16M, Tolerx/GSK Drug Fails to Meet Goal, & More Boston-Area Life Sciences News

Xconomy Boston — 

New England’s biotech attorneys must be working overtime, if the week’s headlines are any indication.

—Cambridge, MA-based Alnylam (NASDAQ:ALNY) announced it had settled a long-standing legal dispute over the so-called Tuschl I and Tuschl II patent families. The suit, which involved key players in the field of RNA-interference including Alnylam, Max Planck Society, the University of Massachusetts, and the Whitehead Institute for Biomedical Research, began in June of 2009 and was slated to go to trial this month.

—No sooner did Alnylam wrap up that litigation than it was hit with a huge lawsuit from its Vancouver, BC-based partner Tekmira Pharmaceuticals, which is accusing Alnylam of misappropriation of trade secrets, unfair competition, and more—and is seeking damages of more than $1 billion. The suit centers on technology for delivering RNAi therapeutics—a notorious challenge in the field. For its part, Alnylam called Tekmira’s complaint “without merit or foundation,” and said it intends to defend itself fully.

—Elsewhere in Cambridge, Genzyme (NASDAQ:GENZ) faced a lawsuit as well. It and Mt. Sinai Medical School are being sued by six patients with Fabry disease over the handling of a rationing system for agalsidase beta (Fabrazyme), Genzyme’s treatment for Fabry. Supplies of the drug were short following a temporary closure in 2009 of the company’s Allston, MA, plant.

—In non-legal news, Cambridge based Tolerx and its partner GlaxoSmithKline (NYSE:GSK) reported that otelixizumab, their experimental drug for Type 1 diabetes, failed to meet its main clinical goal in a late-stage study called Defend-1. While the companies are reviewing the results of the study, they have suspended recruitment and dosing in a separate late-stage trial of the treatment, which is the lead molecule in Tolerx’s pipeline.

—Living Proof, the Cambridge-based maker of beauty products cofounded by famed MIT inventor Bob Langer, raised $16 million in a Series B funding round. The money, from Piper Jaffray Merchant Banking and Polaris Venture Partners, will go toward product distribution and new R&D efforts.

—Ryan profiled the efforts of Edimer Pharmaceuticals to develop a new treatment for patients with the rare genetic disorder X-linked hypohidrotic ectodermal dysplasia, or XLHED. Backed by Boston’s Third Rock Ventures, Edimer hopes to seek permission to begin initial human trials of a protein-based drug for XLHED in the second half of this year, according to the startup’s CEO, Neil Kirby.

—Gene therapy developer Bluebird Bio of Cambridge forged an agreement with the French Muscular Dystrophy Association (AFM) to develop a treatment for the blood disorders beta-thalassemia and sickle cell anemia. The deal is worth $1.4 million upfront, and entitles Bluebird to as much as $2.8 million worth of manufacturing at Généthon, AFM’s bio-therapy research center, to make material for clinical trials.

—Ryan got a peek at Topera Medical, a secretive startup formed in 2008 around research out of the University of California, San Diego. With a new headquarters in Lexington, MA, and a new CEO (former Boston Scientific executive Edward Kerslake), Topera is aiming to develop a catheter-based system for rapidly identifying the source of irregular heart rhythms in each patient.

—Cambridge-based Ariad Pharmaceuticals (NASDAQ:ARIA) exercised its option to co-promote the experimental drug ridaforolimus with its partner Merck & Co. (NYSE:MRK) for treating soft tissue and bone sarcomas. The move “is consistent with our plans to build a fully integrated commercial oncology company,” said Ariad CEO Harvey Berger in a company press release.