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East Coast Biotech Roundup: Regeneron, Synergy, Foundation & More

Xconomy Boston — 

Biotech was in recovery mode this week. After Biogen’s (NASDAQ: BIIB) disappointing quarterly results send the sector’s indices downward, investors looked to other industry stalwarts, like Gilead Sciences (NASDAQ: GILD), to right the ship (Gilead succeeded, as Alex Lash writes here). On the East Coast, a couple of New York biotechs helped the cause. Those details and more below.

—Tarrytown, NY-based Regeneron Pharmaceuticals (NASDAQ: REGN) and Sanofi have been working together for several years on immunology and cholesterol drugs. (The FDA approved one such drug, alirocumab (Praluent), last Friday.) This week the companies added a new layer to their relationship—a $2+ billion partnership to develop cancer immunotherapy drugs. Despite their success in other fields, however, the two have a lot of work to do: Immuno-oncology is as hot a space as there is in biotech, and there are already approved immunotherapy drugs for skin and lung cancer, not to mention a number of others in development.

—New York City-based Synergy Pharmaceuticals’s (NASDAQ: SGYP) prospective constipation drug, plecanatide, succeeded in the second of two Phase 3 studies on Thursday. Shares surged about 15 percent in pre-market trading before settling into a roughly 5 percent gain for the day. Synergy’s drug, if approved, would compete with a rival, marketed drug from Ironwood Pharmaceuticals (NASDAQ: IRWD). The company expects to file an application with the FDA in January.

—Cambridge-based Foundation Medicine (NASDAQ: FMI) took a big hit from investors this week. Shares plummeted more than 20 percent after Foundation missed its projected quarterly sales numbers for its molecular profiling tests, and lowered its estimates for the year. Foundation cited emerging competition and a longer-than-expected wait for broad Medicare reimbursement—both of which have long been concerns for the company. At a $22.30 per share close on Thursday, Foundation now trades right where it did before signing a broad $1 billion collaboration with Roche in January.

—Marc Beer resigned as the CEO of Cambridge-based Aegerion Pharmaceuticals (NASDAQ: AEGR), which has seen its share price dwindle the past few years, in part because of a drug launch that failed to meet expectations. Sandford Drexel Smith has been named Aegerion’s interim CEO and chief operating officer while the company searches for a new full-time leader.

—Accelerate Long Island debuted its newest graduate, bioinformatics startup Envisagenics, which became the ninth company to win $100,000 in seed funding from the organization and its strategic partner, the Long Island Emerging Technologies Fund. Accelerate LI is also reloading its seed fund, having recently received notice of a $1.5 million award from Empire State Development as part of its New York State Innovation Venture Capital Fund.

—New York startups will also soon be getting a boost from a new $550 million fund raised by Deerfield Management, a sum that’ll help finance early-stage science from academic medical centers and hospitals. Deerfield’s fund is specifically focused on treatments for genetic disorders, cancer, and orphan diseases.

—New York-based startup and Blueprint Health graduate Board Vitals raised $1.1 million in financing from private equity group Rock Creek Capital. The company offers an online test-preparation tool to help physicians in specialty fields pass their board exams. Here’s more from AlleyWatch.

—More background details emerged this week in regulatory filings regarding Summit, NJ-based Celgene’s (NASDAQ: CELG) $7.2 billion bid for San Diego-based Receptos. Celgene, for instance, first approached Receptos about a buyout in 2013, and came back to the company several times before verbally offering $191 to $193 per share bid in February of this year. Another bidder, “Party B,” was also involved, though Celgene eventually won out with a $232 per share offer earlier this month.

—Cambridge-based Ariad Pharmaceuticals (NASDAQ: ARIA) will get $100 million—$50 million up front, and $50 million next year—as part of a synthetic royalty financing deal with PDL BioPharma (NASDAQ: PDLI). In exchange, PDL will get a “mid-single-digit” royalty on future sales of Ariad’s cancer drug ponatinib (Iclusig) until it gets an unspecified return on its investment. Ariad also has the option to get another $100 million from PDL at some point over the next year.

—Kenilworth, NJ-based Merck (NYSE: MRK) paid $95 million in cash up front in a deal to acquire privately held Israeli biotech cCAM Biotherapeutics. Merck could shell out another $510 million in milestone payments in the deal, which gives the company access to a group of early-stage immuno-oncology drugs.

—Cranbury, NJ-based Oncobiologics, a startup developing biosimilar versions of big-selling drugs like adalimumab (Humira) and bevacizumab (Avastin), raised $31 million in funding from Cormorant Global Healthcare Master Fund, Longwood Capital Partners, venBio Select Fund, Proximare Lifesciences Fund, OSSB Pharma Fund, and MIH Fund.

Photo of Prospect Park in Brooklyn, NY, courtesy of flickr user Matthew Rutledge via Creative Commons.