Third Rock Invests in Ablexis, Acceleron Grabs $8.4M, Alnylam Chief Joins Agios Board, & More Boston-Area Life Sciences News

Xconomy Boston — 

Drugmakers were big newsmakers this week, with announcements of financings and personnel moves. Sylvia also wrote her column on the incompetencies often found in biotech companies that drive up the cost of drug development.

—Ryan captured his interview with John Glaser, the chief information officer of Boston’s Partners HealthCare. Glaser discussed the challenges and changes in the electronic medical records field, in addition to his personal trials (like getting kicked out of Catholic high school).

—Cambridge, MA-based drugmaker Acceleron Pharma raised $8.4 million of a round of equity, options, and warrants that could be worth as much as $11.5 million. The company, which is working on genetically engineered treatments for anemia and bone loss, listed its board members as Alkermes CEO Richarcd Pops, as well as members of venture capital firms including Advanced Technology Ventures, Venrock Associates, Flagship Ventures, OrbiMed Advisors, and Polaris Venture Partners.

—Luke took a look at Ablexis, a San Francisco firm developing new methods of generating antibodies. Boston’s Third Rock Ventures joined Pfizer Venture Investment in a $12 million investment in the biotech startup, which is out to genetically modify mice to produce antibodies that better interact with their intended targets on cells. It plans on selling the actual mice to bigger drugmakers.

—Life sciences research products and service provider Febit said it cut 60 percent of its workforce at its Heidelberg, Germany-based headquarters, and its site in Lexington, MA. The company is now moving away from its DNA sequencing services and shifting its focus to providing tests that find microRNA biomarkers in blood for drug research and diagnostics development.

—Sylvia wrote a thought-provoking column on the $1.3 billion figure that is thrown around as the cost of developing a new drug. Drug companies often blame the FDA as one of reasons for the staggering number, but Sylvia looked at anecdotes of human error and carelessness inside biotech companies that prevent drugs from getting approved.

—I rounded up the 19 equity deals for Massachusetts startups in May, which amounted to $186 million. Life sciences companies claimed the top five deals, led by a $45 million Series C financing for Watertown, MA-based Tetraphase Pharmaceuticals.

—Cambridge-based Agios Pharmaceuticals said Alnylam Pharmaceuticals CEO John Maraganore will be joining its board of directors. Alynlam (NASDAQ: ALNY) has corporate partnerships with major biotech firms such as Novartis, Roche, and Takeda Pharmaceutical, and has become a leader in developing gene-silencing drugs.