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Deux Deals for Dyax, Au Revoir for Vertex’s Boger, Grande Alliance for Idenix and GSK, & More Boston-Area Life Sciences News

Xconomy Boston — 

This week’s life sciences news was dominated by New England’s public companies—starting with three developments from Dyax.

—Last Wednesday, an FDA advisory committee voted by a margin of just 6-5 to recommend approval of ecallantide from Cambridge, MA-based Dyax (NASDAQ:DYAX). The drug, a treatment for the rare blood disease hereditary angioedema, is the lead drug candidate in Dyax’s pipeline.

–The next day, Dyax and its Cambridge neighbor Biogen Idec (NASDAQ:BIIB) announced that they’ve expanded a previous deal under which Dyax has discovered antibody drugs for Biogen. The new agreement, under which Biogen is entitled to 10 additional product licenses, includes a $5 million up-front payment to Dyax, research funding, up to $85 million in milestone fees, and royalties for each drug that Biogen brings to market through the partnership.

—And the day after that, Dyax announced it had inked an exclusive license deal with French drug firm Fovea Pharmaceuticals to develop a version of ecallantide for eye diseases.

—Worcester, MA-based RNAi-drug developer RXi Pharmaceuticals (NASDAQ:RXII) agreed to sell up to $25 million of its common stock to YA Global Investments over the next two years, in increments worth up to $500,000.

—Vertex Pharmaceuticals (NASDAQ: VRTX) of Cambridge, MA, announced a changing of the guard: founder, president, and CEO Josh Boger will retire on May 23, to be replaced by Vertex director Matthew Emmens, who will become president, CEO, and chairman of the board. Boger expressed his confidence in Emmens’ ability “to take the reins and guide Vertex as we bring our innovations to patients.”

—Cambridge, MA-based Idenix Pharmaceuticals (NASDAQ: IDIX) forged a deal granting pharma giant GlaxoSmithKline worldwide rights to its HIV drug IDX899. GSK will pay $34 million up front for the drug and up to $416 million in milestone payments, as well as double-digit royalties should the drug make it to market.

—Activist investor Carl Icahn nominated a new slate of four directors for election to the board of Cambridge, MA-based Biogen Idec (NASDAQ: BIIB), including two of the four people he tried and failed to put on the firm’s board last summer.

—The FDA cleared Framingham, MA-based GTC Biotherapeutics (NASDAQ: GTCB) to market the first drug in the U.S. ever derived from genetically modified animals. The drug, recombinant antithrombin (ATryn), is produced in the milk of genetically engineered goats, and is approved for treating patients with a rare genetic blood clotting disorder.

—Ryan gathered an excellent list of the many firms in the Boston area that are developing new treatments, diagnostic tools, and other devices for patients with diabetes. “Diabetes is a huge problem that these multiple firms, through therapeutic or devices or health IT, all address,” Michael Greeley, managing general partner of Boston venture firm Flybridge Capital Partners, told Ryan.

—One such company, Lexington, MA-based medical device maker GI Dynamics, added $15 million to its third round of venture capital, turning to previous investors Advanced Technology Ventures, Cutlass Capital, Domain Associates, Johnson & Johnson Development, Polaris Venture Partners, and Seedling Enterprises for the cash. GI Dynamics’ EndoBarrier-a sleeve that lines a section of the small intestine to block calorie absorption-is being investigated as a treatment for Type 2 diabetes and obesity.

—An HIV-blocking vaginal gel developed by fellow Lexington firm Indevus Pharmaceuticals (NASDAQ:IDEV) failed to reach its efficacy goal in a 3,100-patient study. Results of a larger, 10,000-patient trial of the gel are due by the end of this year.

—Luke talked to Rob Friel, CEO of Waltham, MA-based PerkinElmer (NYSE: PKI), about his firm’s strategy of sacrificing short-term profits to preserve the health of R&D. Seven-decades-old PerkinElmer, which makes sophisticated lab tools for biomedical researchers, expects growth to come primarily in the diagnostics and environmental detection/food safety arenas.

–Lexington, MA-based Cubist Pharmaceuticals (NASDAQ:CBST) announced its intention to sue Teva Parenteral Medicines to try to block Teva’s efforts to market a generic version of Cubist’s top-selling antibiotic daptomycin (Cubicin) in the U.S.. Daptomycin, which is approved to treat skin and blood stream infections caused by resistant bugs such as MRSA, was responsible for $414.7 million of Cubist’s $433.6 million in total revenue last year.

—The Cambridge City Council approved by a margin of 8-1 a rezoning request from Pasadena, CA-based Alexandria Real Estate Equities that would be necessary to realize Alexandria’s $1 billion plan for a 16-acre biotech park in East Cambridge, MA. “Over the next several months we intend to prepare and submit a development plan for review and approval by various City and State agencies,” Tom Andrews, Alexandria’s senior vice president and regional market director, told Wade.