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East Coast Bio Roundup: NY Startups, Editas, Bonney, C4 & (Much) More

Xconomy Boston — 

Most everyone in biotech is on their way to San Francisco this weekend, making their annual trek to the J.P. Morgan Healthcare Conference for a few days of wall-to-wall meetings, schmoozing, and state-of-the-industry pontifications. But rather than get swallowed up by the conference maelstrom, biotechs try to get their big news out ahead of the show, which is why the first week in January has increasingly become a dealmaking/financing bonanza. We’ve rounded up all the madness—on the East Coast, anyway—below.

—After 18 months of vetting deals, Seattle’s Accelerator Corp. formed its first New  York biotech startup. With the help of the investors in its Accelerator IV fund, the firm put $48 million into Petra Pharma, a company that aims to treat a range of diseases by uncovering new enzyme targets and drugging them. I spoke with co-founder Lewis Cantley, a biochemist at Weill Cornell Medical College, and Accelerator CEO Thong Le about the venture and its implications for the New York biotech scene.

—Physician-scientist Jay Bradner is running the Novartis Institutes for Biomedical Research these days, but some of his old work at Dana-Farber Cancer Institute became the basis for a new Cambridge, MA-based startup called C4 Therapeutics. Tech mogul Marc Cohen (via his investment vehicle CoBro Ventures) teamed with The Kraft Group and others to invest $73 million in C4, which will try to harness the power of a cellular garbage disposal system called the ubiquitin proteasome system to develop drugs. Cohen and Kraft have joined up to invest in biotechs before—the two joined with Bradner to form Acetylon Pharmaceuticals seven years ago.

—These are early days for the gene editing system known as CRISPR-Cas9, and much has yet to be sorted out before it can make an impact on healthcare. But it’s on its way to the public markets nonetheless, as Cambridge-based Editas Medicine became the first CRISPR company to file for an IPO. Alex Lash took a look at Editas’s IPO prospectus, and found eight things you might not have known about the high-profile startup until now.

—Editas wasn’t the only East Coast biotech to outline plans for an IPO. Visterra, run by former Amag Pharmaceuticals CEO Brian Pereira, filed an S-1 this week, as did Syndax Pharmaceuticals, which is back in the queue after withdrawing its IPO a year ago.

—The hiatus is apparently over for Michael Bonney. The former Cubist Pharmaceuticals CEO resurfaced this week, named a partner at Boston biotech startup creator Third Rock Ventures. Bonney resigned from Cubist in October 2014,  about two months before Merck bought the antibiotics company for around $10 billion.

Atlas Venture signed two “option-to-buy” deals—when one company agrees to buy another at a prearranged price after certain milestones are met—for portfolio companies Quartet Medicine and Rodin Therapeutics. Merck (NYSE: MRK) could buy Quartet, and Biogen (NASDAQ: BIIB) may acquire Rodin. About 25 percent of Atlas’s startups are tailored for deals like these. I examined the strategy, and spoke about the pros and cons of these arrangements with Quartet CEO Kevin Pojasek and Rodin CEO Adam Rosenberg.

—Petra wasn’t the only New York biotech to grab some funding this week. Tara Biosystems, a heart-on-a-chip startup from Harris & Harris Group (NASDAQ: TINY), nabbed $2.25 million as part of a plan to establish roots in New York and grow along with its burgeoning life sciences ecosystem. CEO and Harris & Harris managing director Misti Ushio told me … Next Page »

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