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East Coast Biotech Roundup: Vertex, Biogen, Sarepta, Juno, & More

Xconomy Boston — 

What a week it was for life sciences. Two deals worth more than $1 billion dollars each, FDA approval for a long-awaited potential cystic fibrosis drug, and plenty of other news from new and established biotech companies. And all this happened while Xconomy’s Deputy Biotech Editor Ben Fidler is out of the office. Here’s a quick look back at last week’s work:

Vertex Pharmaceuticals started the Fourth of July weekend with some fireworks: The FDA approved its dual treatment for cystic fibrosis, which will be marketed as Orkambi. The regimen combines an existing CF treatment, ivacaftor, with a new drug, lumacaftor, and will cost $259,000 annually, Vertex executives said July 2.

—Hours before the Vertex announcement, Biogen announced a $1 billion licensing deal. The Boston biotech giant is paying $124 million upfront and as much as $1.1 billion in milestones for access to a gene therapy researcher’s small portfolio of therapies targeting ophthalmologic diseases. The partner company is called AGTC and based in Gainesville, FL.

—Cambridge, MA-based XRpro Sciences decided to buy some assets from Pfizer Thursday in a deal that totals $1.3 million upfront, and potential future revenue royalties, as Xconomy’s Frank Vinluan reported. Those assets were part of Icagen, a Durham, NC-based company that Pfizer acquired for about $56 millionin 2011.

— Waltham, MA-based Amag Pharmaceuticals is trying to buy its way out of a midlife crisis by purchasing Cord Blood Registry of San Bruno, CA, for $700 million. Amag’s first therapeutic, ferumoxytol (Feraheme) for iron deficiency, suffered from safety problems after it was approved in 2009, and the company had a failed merger four years ago. Cord Blood Registry stores umbilical cord blood and stem cell blood samples, and will fit in Amag’s maternal health business.

In a deal jumbo deal that kicked off a busy week, Summit, NJ-based Celgene is paying $150 million upfront and buying $850 million of Juno’s stock at $93 per share to become Juno’s commercial partner on a wide range of Juno’s T-cell therapies outside the U.S. if it wishes to do so, to share global profits on up to three future programs, and to take a seat on Juno’s board of directors. As Xconomy’s Alex Lash explained, Celgene can buy up to 30 percent of Juno’s stock during the 10-year deal.

Entasis Therapeutics made its debut July 1. The Waltham, MA-based company is a spinout of AstraZeneca and is focused on creating novel antibiotics. Its lead candidate treats uncomplicated gonorrhea, the company says. It received $40 million in Series A funding from AstraZeneca in March.

—Sarepta Therapeutics (NASDAQ: SRPT) of Cambridge, MA, hired former Genzyme head Henri Termeer as an advisor as the company waits for word from FDA about its Duchenne muscular dystrophy treatment eteplirsen. As Xconomy’s Alex Lash reported Monday, Sarepta has asked the agency to start its final review of eteplirsen and decide whether the drug should come to market as a treatment for one version of the rare DMD that affects about 2,000 patients in the U.S.

—Novartis is paying $200 million upfront and an undisclosed amount of clinical development and regulatory milestones to buy Stamford, CT-based Spinifex Pharmaceuticals. Spinifex is developing drugs for chronic pain and is also based in Melbourne, Australia.