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East Coast Biotech Roundup: NY Disruptors, Commense, Regeneron, & More

Xconomy Boston — 

Our East Coast drive started in New York this week, where we took a close look at the state of the city’s biotech ecosystem and the road ahead through the eyes of some of the area’s scientific entrepreneurs and investors. Over in the suburbs, Regeneron Pharmaceuticals’ partnership with Sanofi continued to pay dividends, with some new data on a drug expected to generate several billions in revenue a year. Up the coast in Boston, there was some good and some bad. A new startup from PureTech Health and new funding rounds for a few other growing companies, but some bad news and restructurings for more established biotechs like Ariad Pharmaceuticals and Forum Pharmaceuticals. Those headlines and more below.

—This week we at Xconomy held our annual New York biotech event, “New York’s Life Science Disruptors,” and this year’s iteration showcased the recent evolution of the city’s biotech scene—specifically, the influx of early-stage investors and new high-profile startups. You can have a look at some of the action, a few of my takeaways, and some thoughts about the progress and looming challenges for New York biotech here.

—Boston-based Emulate raised $28 million in new funding as part of a plan to continue to expand the potential reach of its “organ-on-a-chip” technology. The company just moved into a new headquarters in Boston’s Seaport District, and will grow its ranks from 40 to 85 employees this year. I spoke with Emulate president Geraldine Hamilton about the funding and the path ahead for Emulate.

—Waltham, MA-based Forum Pharmaceuticals said its lead drug, encenicline, failed two late-stage studies in patients with schizophrenia. The news leaves Forum and encenicline in a precarious position. The company said it’ll restructure and “evaluate a potential path forward, if any,” though Forum didn’t specify whether it was referring to encenicline or the company itself. I profiled Forum, an unusual biotech bankrolled almost exclusively by Fidelity for more than a decade, last year.

—Boston’s PureTech Health launched a new startup called Commense that aims to use microbiome-based interventions to help protect newborns born via C-sections from developing certain serious conditions later on. The startup, which has roots at NYU Langone Medical Center’s work into so-called vaginal seeding (here’s more on that in The Scientist), didn’t divulge exactly what types of treatments it aims to develop. However, PureTech’s Daphne Zohar and Aleks Radovic-Moreno told me that “defined products,” such as a microbiome cocktail therapy, are under consideration.

—Meanwhile, PureTech’s other microbiome startup, Vedanta Biosciences, inked a licensing deal with a group of Japanese institutions to expand its reach into cancer and infectious diseases.

—Tarrytown, NY-based Regeneron Pharmaceuticals (NASDAQ: REGN) and partner Sanofi said that antibody drug dupilumab, a potential treatment for a variety of skin disorders, met its main goals in a Phase 3 trial of patients with moderate-to-severe atopic dermatitis, a condition commonly called eczema. The companies aim to file for FDA approval later this year, and have another phase 3 study ongoing in asthma. Here’s more on the data in Forbes and Reuters.

—In other New York news, check out this Q&A with Acorda Therapeutics CEO Ron Cohen, who chimes in on drug pricing, the IPO and financing climate, and other issues affecting the biotech industry this year.

—Lexington, MA-based ImmuneXcite has hired some experienced biotech veterans and raised $8.6 million to begin a push towards its first clinical trial. The company hired Eric Furfine as chief scientific officer and acting CEO, and John Edwards as its executive chairman—both are former executives of … Next Page »

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