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Biotech Roundup: CRISPR’s 3rd IPO, Gender Diversity, Buyouts & More

Xconomy National — 

Across the nation, and even looking back into the past, health was in the headlines this week. Our presidential candidates were either recovering from pneumonia or talking up their health records. New documents came to light that showed the sugar industry paid for studies downplaying the ties between sugar and heart disease. And the drug-price frenzy continued, with Senators Tammy Baldwin and John McCain introducing a new bill to combat price hikes and Mylan CEO Heather Bresch set to testify on Capitol Hill about the EpiPen price increases next week.

Meanwhile, there was yet another twist in the ongoing Duchenne muscular dystrophy drama, more biotech buyouts, new startups, and the filing of a long anticipated IPO. Let’s get right to it.

—Going for IPO: CRISPR Therapeutics, split between Switzerland and Cambridge, MA, filed paperwork to become the third developer of CRISPR-Cas9 gene editing drugs to go public on the Nasdaq. The other two, Editas Medicine (NASDAQ: EDIT) and Intellia Therapeutics (NASDAQ: NTLA), completed IPOs earlier this year… Also in Switzerland, Alzheimer’s drug developer AC Immune outlined plans for a Nasdaq IPO.

—Nine-digit M&A: Horizon Pharma (NASDAQ: HZNP) agreed to buy Novato, CA-based Raptor Pharmaceuticals (NASDAQ: RPTP) for $800 million, or $9 a share. Raptor has two marketed drugs, one to treat a rare metabolic disease and the other to treat lung infections in cystic fibrosis patients… Allergan (NYSE: AGN) said it would buy Vitae Pharmaceuticals (NASDAQ: VTAE) and its pipeline of autoimmune disease drugs, for $639 million, or $21 a share.

—Summit, NJ-based Celgene (NASDAQ: CELG) said this week that its Crohn’s disease drug, mongersen—a key part of Celgene’s inflammatory disease strategy—succeeded in a mid-stage trial. Celgene provided few specifics, however, which will put the spotlight on the data’s full disclosure at a medical meeting later this year…Separately, a notice on the Federal Trade Commission’s website indicated that Celgene may be on the verge of a deal with privately held Swiss company EngMab, which is developing antibody drugs for multiple myeloma.

—French health giant Sanofi (NYSE: SNY) and life-science group Verily, part of Google’s parent Alphabet (NASDAQ: GOOG), unveiled a jointly owned venture called Onduo that will develop diabetes treatments.

Bezinga first reported this week that Ron Farkas, head of the FDA team that reviewed the Duchenne muscular dystrophy drug eteplirsen from Sarepta Therapeutics (NASDAQ: SRPT), recently left the agency. Sarepta shares climbed more than 20 percent, as investors took the news as a good sign regarding eteplirsen’s chances of approval. The drug is currently under FDA review.

—Shares of Bedminster, NJ, and Irvine, CA-based Aerie Pharmaceuticals (NASDAQ: AERI) climbed more than 60 percent after the company said its combination glaucoma drug, netarsudil/latanoprost (Roclatan), succeeded in a Phase 3 trial. A few doctors expressed concern about the eye redness the drug is known to cause, and its potential impact on patient compliance. Aerie took advantage of the stock bump by filing to raise $50 million.

—Cash For Cambridge Startups: Relay Therapeutics debuted with $57 million from Third Rock Ventures and D.E. Shaw Research. Relay will use Shaw’s supercomputers and other cutting-edge lab tools to explore the shifting shapes of proteins implicated in cancer and other diseases… Sofinnova Partners and Atlas Venture co-led a $35 million Series A round for Delinia, which is developing drugs for autoimmune diseases.

—More Financings: Hayward, CA, and Boston-based Intarcia Therapeutics added $215 million more as it prepares to ask for FDA approval of its implantable diabetes treatment… Riding news that its partner Celgene will file for FDA approval of one of its cancer drugs, Agios Pharmaceuticals (NASDAQ: AGIO) raised $150 million in a stock offering… Dallas-based Peloton Therapeutics, which is developing small molecule cancer drugs, brought in new investor Foresite Capital Management as part of a $52.4 million Series D round…Medford, MA-based Sofregen Medical, which aims to use silk fibers to repair soft tissue defects, raised $6.2 million from Polaris Partners and other unnamed investors.

—Xconomy’s Jeff Engel profiled MIT professor Sangeeta Bhatia and her advocacy for gender diversity in science, engineering, and biotech.

—This year’s prestigious Lasker Awards for biomedical research went to seven scientists for their work on the way cells adapt to fluctuating oxygen supply; hepatitis C biology and drug development; and DNA replication.

STAT took an in-depth look at employee turnover and morale at the messenger RNA startup Moderna Therapeutics in Cambridge.

—Japanese pharma Eisai launched a research group in Andover, MA, with 90 scientists developing drugs for cancer, dementia, autoimmune diseases, and other disorders.

—Rigel Pharmcaeuticals (NASDAQ: RIGL) is cutting 30 jobs and ditching its rheumatoid arthritis work.

Alex Lash contributed to this report