Antigenics Expands Experimental Cancer Treatment, Novartis Adds to Cambridge Presence, Boston Scientific Sells Unit to Stryker, & More Boston-Area Life Sciences News

Xconomy Boston — 

It was a meaty life sciences news week for us that was finished off with a scoop on a legal entanglement between a biotech startup, a research institute, and a big drugmaker. We also had profile stories on some interesting health IT companies, as well as breaking news on clinical trials and expansion moves by pharma companies.

—Lexigton, MA-based biotech firm Antigenics announced its plans to expand a mid-stage clinical trial of its experimental treatment vitespen (Oncophage) in 50 patients with newly diagnosed brain tumors (glioma). The firm (NASDAQ: AGEN) will add six new clinical sites throughout the U.S. in an attempt to recruit enough patients to finish its trial a year ahead of time, an attempt to stay afloat after the immune-boosting drug failed in a trial for kidney cancer.

—Waltham, MA-based Spryance, a medical transcription service provider that operates under the name Heartland, sold to Atlanta-based transcription company Transcend Services (NASDAQ: TRCR) for $6.5 million.

—Ryan profiled Curaspan Health Group, a Newton, MA-based maker of software that streamlines the process of discharging patients from hospitals and managing the transition of patients at other post-acute care facilities. The firm’s staff has doubled in size this year and could double again in the next, Ryan wrote.

—Cambridge, MA-based Resolvyx Pharmaceuticals announced that it had sold to private equity firm Celtic Therapeutics the option to acquire its lead drug, RX-10045, and license it for all uses in treating eye conditions. The drug is set to enter a Phase III trial for the treatment of chronic dry eye syndrome next year. Celtic also purchased a note that is convertible into Resolvyx stock.

—Newton-based MedNetworks is another area company out to use social networking to improve healthcare, but instead of building its own online community, it’s focusing on software that maps and analyzes existing groups and networks of physicians, Ryan wrote. The startup, a spinout from the lab of Harvard University professor Nicholas Christakis, plans to sell the mapping technology to life sciences firms, employer-sponsored wellness plans, health plans, hospitals, and governments, who could use the data to improve the effectiveness of wellness programs and drug marketing campaigns.

—Swiss drug Novartis, Cambridge’s biggest corporate employer, plans to spend $600 million on building another four-acre office and lab complex in the city, the Boston Globe reported. The firm plans to add 200 to 300 employees over five years to its global research headquarters in Cambridge, which would bring the company’s headcount in Cambridge to about 2,300.

—InVivo Therapeutics, a Cambridge-based developer of an implant to treat spinal cord injuries, announced it had completed a reverse merger with an entity called InVivo Therapeutics Holdings. The firm, which was listed on the OTC market under the symbol “NVIV” as of Thursday, is also conducting a $10.5 million private placement financing to put toward funding a human study of its device.

—Ryan took a look at Cambridge-based Ariad Pharmaceuticals (NASDAQ: ARIA) and the potential in its pipeline’s lead cancer drug, ridaforolimus. Later this year Ariad is expected to report the results from a Phase III trial of the drug, which is being developed by Merck & Co. (NYSE: MRK).

—Sudbury, MA-based Solx, a maker of a treatment system for glaucoma, raised $3.7 million of a planned $7.2 million equity-based financing, according to an SEC filing. Members of MVM Life Science Partners are listed as directors of Solx, which launched in 2000 and operated out of the Boston University Photonics Center business accelerator program for four years.

—Idenix Pharmaceuticals (NASDAQ: IDIX), a Cambridge-based developer of antiviral drugs, announced it had brought on Ronald Renaud, Jr. as president, CEO, and board member. Renaud has previously held the roles of chief financial officer, treasurer, and chief business officer at Idenix and replaces Jean-Pierre Sommadossi, who resigned to pursue other biotech opportunities, the company says.

—Natick, MA-based medical device firm Boston Scientific (NYSE: BSX) said it has agreed to sell its neurovascular business unit to Kalamazoo, MI-based Stryker (NYSE: SYK) for $1.5 billion in cash. Boston Scientific will net $1.2 billion in the sale, about half of which will go to new acquisitions, with the remainder going to paying down debt.

—Boston’s Dana-Farber Cancer Institute is tangled in some litigation with Bay Area biotech startup GateKeeper Pharmaceuticals, which was founded by scientists from the research firm to commercialize an anti-cancer molecule they discovered. If successful, the drug could combat non-smallcell lung cancer with specific gene mutations resistant to existing treatments, like Roche and OSI Pharmaceuticals’ blockbuster cancer pill erlotinib (Tarceva) and AstraZeneca’s gefitinib (Iressa). GateKeeper made a move to exercise its right to a license to develop the drug, but Dana-Farber has sought to revoke the deal. Longtime Dana-Farber backer Novartis claims that it actually has the rights to the drug.