Biogen Founder Retires From Board, Biopure Goes Broke, Epix Saga Ends, & More Boston-Area Life Sciences News

Xconomy Boston — 

A mixture of good news and bad for New England life sciences this week with a couple of companies closing their doors while others forged new partnerships and made acquisitions. Health IT was a particularly busy area.

—Waltham, MA-based Phase Forward (NASDAQ:PFWD) acquired the interactive voice and Web-response services business of Princeton, NJ-based contract research company Covance (NYSE:CVD) for $10 million. As part of the deal, Phase Forward will supply its clinical trials data management software to Covance’s customers.

—Also in Waltham, MedVentive—a developer business intelligence software for health plans, medical centers, and pharmacies—completed a $7.25 million Series C round of venture capital. Backers included Excel Venture Management whose managing director, Enrico Petrillo, has joined MedVentive’s board of directors.

—On the same day, iMedX of Sheldon, CT, raised $13.3 million in financing. The company provides software for outsourced transcription services for doctors and also operates in India.

—Luke reported that Cambridge, MA-based Biogen Idec is developing 12 different possible cancer drugs in a bid to expand its share of the cancer drug market. Biogen Idec (NASDAQ: BIIB) is currently the world’s largest manufacturer of drugs to treat multiple sclerosis but is going for a bigger piece of the expected $84 billion in sales of cancer drugs in 2012.

—That’s not the only recent change at Biogen Idec. Co-founder Phillip Sharp retired from Biogen’s board of directors Thursday after 31 years. Sharp is one of biotech’s pioneers and a Nobel Laureate. Now Biogen’s board must decide whether or not to replace him, since there is no requirement to do so.

—Cambridge, MA-based Biopure (NASDAQ:BPUR) filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy after years of trying to get its blood substitute approved by government regulators in America and Europe. The company’s assets will be sold to OPK Biotech, as well as sold in a bankruptcy court auction.

—Alnylam Pharmaceuticals (NASDAQ:ALNY) of Cambridge, MA, announced that major Swiss drug company Novartis is extending the companies’ research collaboration in RNA interference treatments for a fifth year. Novartis will continue to fund research and development efforts at Alnylam through October 2010.

—Speaking of RNA interference, Watertown, MA-based Dicerna is teaming up with Cambridge, MA-based Archemix to create drugs that combine Dicerna’s RNAi technology with Archemix’s proprietary “apatmer” technology. Financial specifics of the deal were not disclosed.

—Cambridge, MA-based Aveo Pharmaceuticals took in $20 million in a deal that extended a partnership with Melville, NY-based OSI Pharmaceuticals (NASDAQ: OSIP). Aveo has worked with OSI since 2007 and in the new deal will provide its partner with expanded access to its mouse model for cancer. The two companies may share revenue if any drugs come out of the collaboration.

—Lexington, MA-based Epix Pharmaceuticals announced that it will liquidate its assets and shut down in August after running out of cash. The company developed a still-experimental drug to treat Azheimer’s disease.