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East Coast Biotech Roundup: NY Bio, Gender Gap, Zafgen, PureTech & More

Xconomy Boston — 

Biotech clusters aren’t built overnight. It takes years of work, a bit of luck, a collaborative atmosphere, and the wherewithal to keep plugging away through the ups and downs. New York is in the early stages of its life sciences quest, but it has arrived at a critical point in its growth that could make the difference between success and failure. That story and the rest of your East Coast biotech headlines below.

—Amid several coming changes in local biotech leadership, the New York life sciences community gathered this week for NewYorkBio’s annual meeting in Manhattan. There was optimism about the progress made over the past several years, but also a sense of urgency to finally fix the city’s lab space problem before it’s too late.

—It’s no secret that there’s a gender diversity problem in biotech boardrooms and life science venture firms. This week my colleague Alex Lash weighed in on the issue, and cited some potential solutions proposed by executives at a recent Xconomy dinner in San Francisco (more such dinners are planned in our other cities around the country). One local biotech to take action on the gender gap problem is Biogen (NASDAQ: BIIB), which last year began a training program for women in its upper ranks to prepare them for board seats outside the company.

—Cambridge, MA-based Ariad Pharmaceuticals (NASDAQ: ARIA) sold off its European operations, as well as some rights to its flagship cancer drug ponatinib (Iclusig), to Incyte (NASDAQ: INCY) for $140 million up front. The deal is the latest step in a strategic review from new CEO Paris Panayiotopoulos, and one of the goals appears to be an outright sale of Ariad—the Incyte deal includes an option in which anyone who buys all of Ariad can gain back Incyte’s rights to ponatinib.

—Rockefeller University has named Yale University genetics chief Richard Lifton its new president, effective Sept. 1. Lifton will take over for outgoing Rockefeller head Marc Tessier-Lavigne, who is leaving big shoes to fill as a ringleader for the New York biotech community.

—Cambridge-based Intellia Therapeutics (NASDAQ: NTLA) raised $108 million in an IPO, becoming the second company using CRISPR-Cas9 gene-editing technology to go public. Intellia sold 6 million shares at $18 apiece and has since surged over 40 percent. It closed its most recent trading day at $25.75.

—Cigna this week entered into two deals with developers of PCSK9-blocking cholesterol lowering drugs—one of them being Tarrytown, NY-based Regeneron Pharmaceuticals (NASDAQ: REGN)—to tie the price of those drugs to the health benefits they provide patients. Regeneron’s drug, alirocumab (Praluent), and Amgen’s rival drug evolocumab (Repatha), each have a list price of $14,000 per patient, per year. And both, so far, haven’t had much commercial success. The Wall Street Journal has more here.

—Cambridge-based Zafgen (NASDAQ: ZFGN) said on a conference call this week that it has submitted a briefing document to the FDA regarding its obesity drug, beloranib, and has requested a meeting to discuss the drug’s path forward. CEO Tom Hughes said on the call that the meeting should take place within the next few months, after which Zafgen will provide an update on the next steps. A clinical hold was placed on beloranib last year due to safety concerns, but the drug subsequently met its primary goal in a Phase 3 trial for Prader-Willi Syndrome. You can read more here about the saga, and its impact on the Prader-Willi community.

—Boston startup creator PureTech Health debuted two new companies in two days. The first, on Monday, was … Next Page »

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