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East Coast Biotech Roundup: NY Bio, Synageva, Kadmon & More

Xconomy New York — 

Innovation clusters are built from the ground up. It’s a painstaking process, and takes years of work, a whole lot of money, and perhaps some luck to make them a reality. I’ve been chronicling that effort by New York biotech for a few years now, and a meeting in Manhattan this week produced a good sense of where things stand. That story and the rest of your East Coast biotech news below:

—New York biotech isn’t like Boston or the Bay Area. As entrepreneurs at NewYorkBio’s annual meeting explained this week, you need to bootstrap, hustle, and network to succeed. I took a look at some of the startups coming out of New York’s life sciences scene, and some of the initiatives being undertaken to shape local biotech for the future.

—Competition in immuno-oncology is so fierce these days that some startups are already looking at a “next generation approach” beyond the new wave of “checkpoint inhibitor” drugs that have started changing cancer care.  Among those companies is Cambridge, MA-based Surface Oncology, which just brought in former AstraZeneca executive Detlev Biniszkiewicz to spearhead its plan. I spoke with the newly-named CEO about his plans for the startup, which raised $35 million from a group of venture investors and pharma companies in January.

—In one of the largest biotech buoyouts of the year, Alexion Pharmaceuticals (NASDAQ: ALXN) agreed to acquire Lexington, MA-based Synageva BioPharma (NASDAQ: GEVA) for a whopping $8.4 billion. Alexion is paying a 135 percent premium for Synageva, and shares sank more than 8 percent as investors gnashed their teeth over the price tag. Synageva is developing a therapy that could be approved later this year for a rare genetic disease called lysosomal acid lipase deficiency.

—Fresh off raising a $537 million fund, Boston-based Flagship Ventures formed strategic partnerships with three large companies: AstraZeneca, Bayer CropScience, and Nestle Health Science. All three invested in Flagship’s latest fund, and will work with the firm to create a group of new startups and collaborate with those entities—potentially leading to investments, licensing deals, joint ventures, or acquisitions.

—New York-based Kadmon spun out a gene therapy unit that’ll be called Kadmon Gene Therapy Holdings, or KGT. Kadmon is keeping the details surrounding the now-independent company close to the vest, but as Alex Lash reported, it’s developing a “riboswitch technology” gene therapy approach, which you can read about here.

—New York-based Pfizer (NYSE: PFE) said that Michael Ehlers has stepped in for Jose Carlos Gutierrez-Ramos as the leader of its Cambridge-based BioTherapeutics unit. Gutierrez-Ramos “has decided to return to the biotech sector in the Cambridge area,” Pfizer said.

—It wasn’t a great week for local biotech IPOs. Migraine drug developer CoLucid Pharmaceuticals (NASDAQ: CLCD), which just moved to Burlington, MA, from North Carolina, slashed its valuation and priced 5.5 million shares at $10 apiece (it had hoped to sell shares at $13 to $15 apiece). Canton, MA-based Collegium Pharmaceuticals (NASDAQ: COLL), which is making a non-addictive oxycodone, priced 5.8 million shares at $12 apiece, the low end of its projected $12 to $14 per share range. Boston-based Gelesis, meanwhile, was scheduled to price early in the week but hasn’t as of yet.

—Newark, NJ-based Symbiomix Therapeutics closed the third tranche of a $41 million Series A from OrbiMed, Fidelity BioSciences, and HBM Partners. It’ll use the cash to move an oral, single-dose antibiotic it’s developing for bacterial vaginosis into Phase 3 testing.

—Eli Lilly is the latest pharmaceutical company to beat a path to Cambridge. The Indianapolis drugmaker will open the “Lilly Cambridge Innovation Center” in Kendall Square and move part of its drug delivery and medical devices operations to Cambridge. Like several other Big Pharma companies, Lilly is trying to tap into the area’s scientific talent and form a dealmaking outpost. The center is expected to open at the end of the year, and will be staffed with 30 scientists and engineers.

—Lexington, MA-based Concert Pharmaceuticals (NASDAQ: CNCE) said the deueterium-boosted version of the narcolepsy drug sodium oxybate (Xyrem) it’s been developing with Jazz Pharmaceuticals (NASDAQ: JAZZ) JZP-386 won’t be moved into later trials because of “deuterium-related effects” it’s seen in Phase 1 testing (they didn’t specify what those effects were). The two companies did say that “further evaluation is warranted,” however, and will try to come up with a better formulation.

—New Brunswick, NJ-based Johnson & Johnson (NYSE: JNJ) is teaming with the NYU School of Medicine to form a panel that will review requests from patients to use to its experimental drugs under compassionate use. NYU bioethicist Arthur Caplan will oversee the panel, which will be staffed with 10 independent medical experts, bioethicists, and patient representatives. The New York Times has more here.

—Armonk, NY-based IBM (NYSE: IBM) said it’s now working with more than a dozen cancer institutes to its Watson supercomputer as a genomics research tool for cancer. The New York Genome Center is among those on the partnership list—I wrote about the NYGC’s plan for Watson last year.

—Tillman Gerngross’s Lebanon, NH-based Adimab has inked a new deal with Celgene (NASDAQ: CELG) to discover antibodies that can home in on multiple targets. The deal replaces an earlier collaboration Adimab and Celgene made in 2013. (You can read more about Adimab in this profile I wrote on Gerngross last year).

Photo of springtime in Central Park courtesy of flickr user Shinya Suzuki via a Creative Commons license.