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East Coast Biotech Roundup: Celgene, Blueprint(s), Intarcia & More

Xconomy Boston — 

One of East Coast biotech’s preeminent dealmakers was on the march this week: it agreed to one buyout, nabbed an option for another one, invested in an emerging field of science, and expanded its marriage with a high-flying partner—all before reporting its quarterly earnings on Thursday. Eager to find out who it is? Read on for that, and the rest of this week’s headlines.

—Over the last few years Summit, NJ-based Celgene (NASDAQ: CELG) has earned quite a rep for its dealmaking prowess. This week Celgene was at it again, taking part in four separate transactions. It exercised an option to buy Quanticel Pharmaceuticals for $100 million up front and potentially $485 million overall; paid $30 million for the right to acquire Toronto biotech Northern Biologics down the road at a predetermined price; paid partner Agios Pharmaceuticals (NASDAQ: AGIO) $10 million to split commercial rights to a new cancer metabolism drug (with $70 million more potentially coming on the back end); and teamed with SR One (GlaxoSmithKline’s VC arm) to lead two financing rounds for CRISPR/Cas9 gene editing startup CRISPR Therapeutics.

—Those rounds for CRISPR Therapeutics, which recently announced plans to open up an R&D center in Cambridge, MA, totaled $89 million—$60 million in a Series A deal and $29 million in a Series B. Aside from Celgene and SR One, New Enterprise Associates, Abingworth, and founding investor Versant Ventures also participated. For more on the CRISPR financing, the Quanticel deal, and how both fit into a strategic reinvention by Versant, check out Alex Lash’s column.

—And for more on “build to buy” deals, in which a startup is created with a handshake on a future buyout already in place, take a look at this piece by The Medicines Co.’s (NASDAQ: MDCO) Jason Campagna, which notes a key drug development flaw these deals expose.

—Speaking of The Medicines Co., the Parsippany, NJ-based company was cleared by the FDA to begin selling two products: a drug-device called Ionsys for postoperative pain; and a drug named Raplixa to control bleeding during surgeries.

—On Monday I recapped the latest demo day from Blueprint Health, the New York City-based healthtech accelerator. The seven startups that debuted comprised Blueprint’s seventh graduating class; the accelerator has now formed a total of 60 startups—85 percent of which are still up and running. The latest group is toting digital health solutions for insurance brokers, dieticians, and other health providers.

—The other local Blueprint, Cambridge-based Blueprint Medicines (NASDAQ: BPMC), made its Wall Street debut this week, raising $147 million in an upsized initial public offering. Blueprint priced 8.15 million shares at $18 apiece, beating its projected $15 to $17 per share range, and ended its first trading day at $18.87.

—For the third time in four years, Boston-based Intarcia raised a nine-figure sum of funding. This time, however, Intarcia bagged that cash with a form of debt financing, a “synthetic royalty financing” that gives its backers royalties on future sales of Intarcia’s implantable device for diabetes in return for $225 million in notes. Intarcia didn’t specify which of its backers provided the funding, but those investors can convert their notes to equity down the road.

—The Boston healthcare technology-focused venture firm formerly known as Foundation Medical Partners has rebranded as Flare Capital Partners and closed a new $200 million fund. General partner Michael Greeley (an Xconomist) told David Holley that Flare has already made five investments from the new fund—a few are Iora Health, Predilytics, and Valence Health—and plans to target broad healthcare themes, such as virtual physician-patient communication.

—Cambridge-based Acceleron Pharma (NASDAQ: XLRN) and partner Celgene have chosen which of the two drugs in their partnership to move into phase 3 testing for beta-thalassemia and myelodysplastic syndrome: luspatercept, and not sotatercept, the drug Acceleron developed first. Luspatarcept will begin late-stage studies by the end of the year; the sotatercept program will focus on patients with chronic kidney disease. Acceleron will release some data from a Phase 2 study of luspatercept this weekend at a medical meeting in Washington, D.C.

—For the third time in less than two years, Lexington, MA-based Synta Pharmaceuticals (NASDAQ: SNTA) has a new CEO. Chen Schor, a former Teva Pharmaceutical executive, was named the company’s president and CEO, taking over for Anne Whitaker—who had only been running Synta for nine months, and left “to pursue a professional opportunity at a large multinational pharmaceutical company.” Whitaker joined in August, a few months after longtime Synta CEO Safi Bahcall abruptly resigned.