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East Coast Biotech Roundup: Sync Project, Epizyme, Bristol & More

Xconomy Boston — 

If you missed our latest biotech event, “New York’s Life Science Disruptors” this past Thursday, don’t worry—we’ve got you covered. This week we’ll post an overview of the festivities, complete with a slideshow look at the action. In the meantime, though, grab your Monday morning coffee and have a look at this past week’s East Coast biotech headlines.

—Boston-based PureTech formed its latest startup this week: an ambitious venture called “The Sync Project,” which aims to run rigorous studies to try to measure the therapeutic value of music. The Sync Project has built a platform that maps music to biometric data in real time; apps can be built onto it as well. Co-founder Ketki Karanam told me the startup aims to start out looking at music’s effects on diseases like autism, sleeping disorders, and anxiety.

—Cambridge, MA-based Epizyme (NASDAQ: EPZM) reworked its partnership with Eisai this past week to regain control of its experimental epigenetic cancer drug, EPZ-6438. Epizyme paid Eisai $40 million up front; another $70 million could flow to the Japanese company in various milestones. In return, Epizyme has reclaimed worldwide rights to EPZ-6438, aside from in Japan.

—Bedford, MA-based Ocular Therapeutics (NASDAQ: OCUL) reported positive results from the first of two Phase 3 studies it’s running to test OTX-DP, an implantable device that delivers dexamethasone into the eye over four weeks, then dissolves. Ocular is testing OTX-DP for pain and inflammation after cataract surgery. Results from the second study are expected by the end of March.

—Cambridge obesity startup Ember Therapeutics merged this past week with New York-based Mariel Therapeutics, a company developing drugs for osteoarthritis and kidney fibrosis. The combined company has four drugs in its pipeline: an osteoarthritis treatment that has completed Phase 2 testing, and three undisclosed preclinical programs. As Luke Timmerman reported a few weeks ago, Ember shut down in December.

—The latest clinical data from dueling cholesterol-lowering drugs, Sanofi/Regeneron Pharmaceuticals’ alirocumab and Amgen’s evolocumab, were published this week in the New England Journal of Medicine. Both drugs, which block the protein PCSK9, continue to substantially reduce levels of low-density lipoprotein, or “bad” cholesterol, and appear to be lowering risk of serious cardiovascular events like stroke and heart attack as well. (It should be noted that the NEJM published interim, not final results to these studies.) But as Forbes wrote, both drugs are showing small signs of negative neurocognitive effects as well—something to watch as they head towards potential FDA approval later this year.

—Cambridge-based Bind Therapeutics (NASDAQ: BIND) said that CEO Scott Minick is stepping down. President and CFO Andrew Hirsch will serve as interim CEO while Bind searches for someone to take Minick’s spot. Minick said in a statement that he wanted to return to his “family and career on the West Coast.” Minick was a managing director at Arch Venture Partners before moving to Cambridge in 2010 to take over Bind.

—Canton, MA-based Collegium Pharmaceuticals raised $50 million this week to support the development of an extended-release form of the opioid pain pill oxycodone. TPG Biotech led the round; RA Capital Management, Adage Capital Management, Rock Springs Capital, EcoR1 Capital, Eventide Asset Management, Aperture Venture Partners, Longitude Capital, Skyline Ventures, Frazier Healthcare, and Boston Millennia Partners also participated.

—New York-based Bristol-Myers Squibb (NYSE: BMY) is heading back to the FDA to seek approval of its experimental hepatitis C drug daclatasvir, this time for hep C patients with the genotype 3 strain of the virus. Bristol initially sought FDA approval of daclatasvir as a combination therapy with another one of its drugs, asunaprevir. But Bristol abandoned asunaprevir in October because of competition from better drugs from Gilead Sciences and AbbVie; the FDA rejected daclatasvir a month later. Now it’s handing the FDA data from tests of combination therapy with daclatasvir and Gilead’s sofosbuvir (Sovaldi) instead.

—Cambridge-based Zafgen (NASDAQ: ZFGN) posted positive results from another Phase 2 study for its obesity drug, beloranib. This time, beloranib hit its mark in a study of patients with obesity coming from injury to the hypothalamus. Beloranib has succeeded in two other phase 2 studies for severe obesity and Prader-Willi syndrome.

—Waltham, MA- and Dublin-based Alkermes (NASDAQ: ALKS) sold a manufacturing facility in Gainesville, GA, to Recro Pharma (NASDAQ: REPH) for $50 million up front, and potentially another $120 million in future payments. Alkermes acquired the plant when it bought Elan Drug Technologies in 2009. Recro also got Alkermes’ rights to a few other drugs it’s deemed “non core assets”—like hypertension drug verapamil (Verelan) and pain drug hydrocodone bitartrate (Zohydro)—in the deal.

—New York-based Pager has raised $10.4 million from Lux Capital, Montage Ventures, Goodwater Capital, and Summation Health Ventures (a joint venture between the Cedars-Sinai and MemorialCare health systems). The startup has developed a mobile service for on-demand doctor house calls through an iOS app; it’s currently only available in New York City.