East Coast Life Sciences Roundup: EpiCept, Boston Scientific, & More

Xconomy Boston — 

It was a big week for mergers and clinical trial advances for life sciences companies on the East Coast, with one company buying, another merging into an Israeli firm, and two others advancing against cardiovascular disease and obesity.

—On Thursday EpiCept  (NASDAQ: EPCT), based in Tarrytown, NY, announced that it will merge with Immune Pharmaceuticals, a privately held Israeli firm, in a stock swap that will leave EpiCept shareholders with a 22.5 percent stake in the combined company. Immune Pharmaceuticals will be the name on the door, with headquarters in both Tarrytown and Israel. EpiCept is in clinical trials with a topical cream, AmiKet, that treats pain in cancer patients undergoing chemotherapy.

—On the same day, Boston Scientific (NYSE: BSX) announced that it is gobbling up yet another medical device maker, its fifth this year. This time the target is Vessix Vascular, a privately held company in Laguna Hills, CA, in a deal worth up to $425 million. All these takeovers must have called for a change of scenery, for Boston Scientific, now based in Natick, MA, also announced that it will move its headquarters and 800 employees to Marlborough, MA.

—The American Heart Association held its annual scientific sessions this week in Los Angeles, and Omthera Pharmaceuticals  of Princeton, NJ, garnered some attention for its cardiovascular drug Epanova, derived from the Omega 3 fatty acids found in fish oil. In two Phase 3 clinical trials, Epanova significantly lowered triglycerides in patients with very high levels and improved other markers for cardiovascular risk, the company reported. If and when Omthera’s drug reaches the market it will be up against Bedminster, NJ-based Amarin, which won FDA approval for its own Omega 3-based drug in July.

—-Zafgen, based in Cambridge, MA., reached another milestone in its pursuit of a treatment for the disease target so many drug companies lust after—obesity. The company announced on Tuesday that it starting a Phase 2 clinical trial of its drug beloranib, meant to bring balance to the production and burning of fat. Beloranib got a lot of buzz last year when it caused significant weight loss in just a few weeks in a Phase 1 trial. Zafgen, a virtual company, just raised $3 million in new funding in August .