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Hear Epizyme, Sage, Zafgen Share Their Stories on Oct. 8

Xconomy Boston — 

Like many biotechs with a big idea showing early potential, Cambridge, MA-based Epizyme (NASDAQ: EPZM) faced a critical decision a few years ago: groom itself for a sale to Big Pharma or, on the other hand, an IPO.

It was a tough call for Epizyme, because the IPO market for biotechs was in the dumps at the time. But the startup, developing epigenetic drugs to treat cancer, decided the risk was worth it—even without any clinical trial data to boost its value in the eyes of investors. Epizyme chose to stay independent, and struck a wide-ranging partnership with Summit, NJ-based Celgene (NASDAQ: CELG) in April 2012 that gave it both a big payout up front, and the ability to keep the U.S. rights to its drugs. It then charged towards one of the most successful biotech IPOs of 2013: Epizyme sold almost a million more shares than it initially planned to, priced at the top of its projected range ($15 per share), and still trades at almost double that price today.

This type of story is the theme of our latest biotech event, “Boston Life Science Disruptors,” at the Novartis Institutes for Biomedical Research on Wednesday, Oct. 8. We’ve put together the leaders and founding stakeholders for three Boston-area companies—Epizyme, Sage Therapeutics (NASDAQ: SAGE), and Zafgen (NASDAQ: ZFGN)—which have all taken disruptive scientific ideas, formed startups around them, and traveled different roads filled with ups and downs to ultimately make a big splash on the Nasdaq. Each of them will share their stories in an interactive night of networking and discussions that you can take part in.

Here are the names you can expect to see:

Sage Therapeutics: developing a group of drugs for rare, or specialty central nervous system disorders.

Kevin Starr: Co-founder of Third Rock Ventures who has helped form and develop the strategy for a number of the firm’s biotechs.

Jeffrey Jonas: CEO of Sage and a former Shire executive who came aboard in 2013 and led the company through an upsized $90 million IPO in July, in the midst of an industry-wide pullback.

Zafgen: advancing a fat-burning drug for severely obese people, and obesity related to certain rare disorders.

Peter Barrett: Partner at Atlas Venture and founding CEO (and current chairman) of Zafgen, which was seeded by the firm in 2006.

Bruce Booth: Partner in Atlas’s life science group who served as Zafgen’s initial COO. Booth has helped put together a number of Atlas biotech startups, focusing on biopharmaceutical products, therapeutic platforms, and biomedical technologies.

Thomas Hughes: A former Novartis scientist who became Zafgen’s CEO in 2008 and steered it towards an upsized $96 million offering in June.

Epizyme: using epigenetics—a field of biology based on the idea of turning genes on and off without affecting the underlying DNA—to create cancer drugs for specific patient groups.

Robert Gould: Epizyme’s CEO, and the former vice president of licensing and external research at Merck.

There’ll also be a keynote address from Martin Seidel, the global head of strategic alliances at the Novartis Institutes. Tickets are going fast, but you can still get a discount if you register here by Sept. 24. Hope to see you all on Oct. 8.