Vertex Gets FDA OK, Alnylam Plans For ASCO, Biogen Drug Advances in Europe, & More Boston-Area Life Sciences News

Xconomy Boston — 

This week was full with news of progress from New England drug developers.

—Waltham, MA-based antibody drug maker ImmunoGen (NASDAQ: IMGN) sold 7 million shares of stock at $12 apiece. The company had $115.8 million in cash on hand at the end of March, a quarterly report showed.

—Biogen Idec (NASDAQ: BIIB) of Weston, MA, said it received a positive opinion from the committee of the European Medicines Agency, which could help pave the way sales in Europe of fampridine (Fampyra) as a new treatment for multiple sclerosis. The drug is expected to be cleared in about two months, Biogen said.

—My colleague Luke took a look at Cambridge, MA-based Bluebird Bio, a developer of gene therapies that is getting a lot of attention for its two lead programs. One is a drug focused on beta-thalassemia, a genetic disorder in which patients don’t produce enough hemoglobin; the other is a treatment for the brain disorder childhood cerebral adrenoleukodystrophy.

—Cambridge-based Vertex Pharmaceuticals (NASDAQ: VRTX) nabbed FDA approval to market its drug telaprevir (Incivek) in the U.S. as a treatment for hepatitis C. The protease inhibitor can be used as a first-line treatment or for patients who haven’t responded well enough to other treatments. Earlier this month, the FDA approved a competing treatment from Merck  for the liver-damaging disease, which affects 3 million people in the U.S.

Radius Health of Cambridge took in $91 million in new financing to help advance pivotal Stage 3 clinical trials of its osteoporosis treatment, and merged with an unlisted shell company (“MAC”), to take on the status of an SEC-reporting company and apply to be listed on a national stock exchange. The deal included $66 million in equity funding for Radius, which is developing a bone-building drug, called BA058, modeled after human parathyroid hormone-related protein.

Casenet, a Bedford, MA-based healthcare software maker, added $3.3 million in equity funding and increased the size of its current financing round to a targeted $15.8 million.

—Cambridge-based drug developer Proteostasis inked a strategic alliance with Ireland-based Elan Pharmaceuticals to develop treatments for neurodegenerative diseases like Parkinson’s, Huntington’s, and multiple sclerosis. Elan gave $20 million initially and could put another $30 million into Proteostasis over the next five years. in return for a 24 percent stake in Proteostais, a seat on its board of directors and scientific advisory board, and the first chance to exclusively license new drug compounds from the collaboration.

—Xconomy New York editor Arlene Weintraub talked to  Cambridge-based Alnylam Pharmaceuticals (NASDAQ: ALNYCEO John Maraganore, who said the company’s drug for treating liver cancer could make a big splash at this year’s American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO) conference on June 4. The company has more safety data on the drug than it did last year, with one of the patients in the trial having been on the drug for a year.