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East Coast Biotech Roundup: Bluebird, Solid GT, Evelo, Dyax & More

Xconomy Boston — 

Congrats to the Kansas City Royals, which used a series of dramatic late-inning comebacks to break the hearts of New York Met fans from Bayside to Astoria and claim their first championship in 30 years. That left the city in a somber mood this past week, although the news wasn’t all bad for Met fans who might’ve invested in Dyax, which got bought by Shire in a $6.5 billion deal.

Meanwhile in Boston, New England Patriots fans are back to thinking their team will never lose again. The biotech bull run seemed unstoppable a few months ago though, before all the drug pricing talk. Maybe a correction is coming for the perfect Patriots in New York against the Giants next weekend too. Though unlikely, as New Yorkers and New Englanders (who don’t have selective amnesia) know, there’s some history there. In the meantime, on to your biotech headlines:

—The bar has been high for Cambridge, MA-based Bluebird Bio’s experimental gene therapy LentiGlobin, which up until last week had essentially had a 100 percent success rate—albeit in a small sample size—in eliminating the need for chronic blood transfusions in beta-thalassemia patients. But new data cast some doubt on LentiGlobin’s effectiveness in some of the folks with the most severe form of the disease, sinking Bluebird’s shares about 18 percent. I spoke with CEO Nick Leschly and chief medical officer David Davidson about the data.

—Former J.P. Morgan banker Ilan Ganot got the biggest funding yet for his quest to find treatments for Duchenne muscular dystrophy—the crippling disease his young son, Eytani, was diagnosed with a few years ago. Ganot’s Solid GT, developing a gene therapy for Duchenne, raised $42.5 million from Biogen, Perceptive Advisors, Janus Capital Management, and some other unnamed investors. The gene therapy should be in clinical testing in 2017, Ganot told me, representing just one of several potential treatments for Duchenne he’s hoping to help move forward.

—Evelo Therapeutics launched this past week with a $35 million round from Flagship Ventures and a plan to use insights into the human microbiome—the trillions of bacteria that populate our bodies—to battle cancer. Evelo aims to create mixtures of naturally occurring, unmodified bacteria and use them as cancer therapies. The company is Flagship’s second microbiome-based startup; it also formed Seres Therapeutics (NASDAQ: MCRB), which earlier this year became the first such company to go public in the U.S.

—Shire (NYSE: SHPG) agreed to shell out as much as $6.5 billion to acquire Dyax (NASDAQ: DYAX) of Burlington, MA. Dyax has one drug, ecallantide  (Kalbitor), already on the market for hereditary angioedema—a rare disease that causes painful swelling of the face, airways, and stomach—and another, DX-2930, on the verge of a late-stage trial. Shire paid $5.9 billion in cash up front for Dyax, and could add another $646 million to the pot if DX-2930 wins FDA approval.

—Cambridge-based Agios Pharmaceuticals (NASDAQ: AGIO) presented its first clinical data showing the potential impact of its cancer metabolism drug, AG-120, may have on solid tumors. In total, 30 of the 55 evaluable patients in a Phase 1 study with a variety of tough-to-treat solid tumors had stable disease—meaning, their tumors didn’t grow after treatment. Some of these responses lasted six months or longer. Agios said it’ll move AG-120 into a Phase 2 trial in cholangiocarcinoma, a type of liver cancer, next year. TheStreet.com has more on the Agios data.

—New York-based Bristol-Myers Squibb is paying $300 million for Cardioxyl Pharmaceuticals, a Chapel Hill, NC-based developer of cardiovascular drugs. The deal could be worth as much as $1.7 billion if Cardioxyl’s lead drug for heart failure hits a variety of future milestones.

—New Brunswick, NJ-based Johnson & Johnson acquired privately-held Novira Therapeutics, a startup developing treatments for hepatitis B, for an undisclosed sum.

—PureTech’s music-as-therapy startup, The Sync Project, is teaming with HINTSA Performance to run a study testing the impact of music on athletic performance.

Photo courtesy of flickr user Arturo Pardavila III via Creative Commons.