East Coast Life Sciences Roundup: Bristol-Myers, Alnylam, Merck, & More

Xconomy Boston — 

The East Coast produced some good news this week about treatments for hepatitis C, some big deals, and at long last, hope for victims of bedbugs.

—Advances against deadly hepatitis C dominated biotech news at the beginning of the week as several very positive clinical trial results were reported for oral treatments at the annual meeting of the American Association for the Study of Liver Diseases  in Boston. Although Abbott Laboratories (NYSE:ABT) and Gilead Sciences (NASDAQ: GILDgot the most attention  at the meeting, East Coast companies also had a good showing. New York-based Bristol-Myers Squibb (NYSE: BMY) reported a combination of three of its experimental drugs cleared the virus in 94 percent of patients in a Phase 2 trial. It was a nice comeback for Bristol-Myers, which had to take a $1.8 billion write-off in the third quarter for a hepatitis C medicine it acquired with the purchase last February of Inhibitex, because some patients on the drug suffered heart failure.

—-Clinical trial results reported at the Liver Meeting by Achillion Pharmaceuticals (NASDAQ: ACHN) of New Haven, CT, also garnered interest because its two experimental drugs, sovaprevir and ACH-3102, proved very potent earlier this year in pre-clinical tests. Achillion said a Phase 1 trial of the two drugs combined served as proof of principle and indicated that they are safe, and the company is planning to start a Phase 2 trial in the first half of 2013.

—-It was also a big week for deals and settlements. On Wednesday New York based Forest Laboratories (NYSE: FRX) agreed to pay Adamas Pharmaceuticals, in Emeryville, CA, up to $160 million to develop a single pill combining memantine, Forest’s Alzheimer’s drug, with the generic donepezil. And on Monday, Alnylam Pharmaceuticals (NASDAQ: ALNY) of Cambridge, MA, agreed to shell out to Vancouver, BC-based Tekmira Pharmaceuticals (NASDAQ: [[ticker: TKRM]]) $65 million upfront, and possibly another $10 million in 2013, to settle a legal dispute over some of the technology used to deliver Alynlam’s RNA interference drugs. Thus puts an end to a partnership that started in 2007 and then fell apart acrimoniously four years later.

—Not such a great week for IPOs, however. Cambridge, MA-based Radius Health announced on Thursday that it is pulling its initial public offering, blaming “market conditions and volatility,” even though the company just set the projected price range for the 6.5 million share offering on Oct 22. CEO Michael Wyzga said in a statement that the company would instead seek alternative funding for its late stage osteoporosis drug, BA058.

—But what about the bedbugs, you ask? Well, on Tuesday a physician at Eastern Virginia Medical School reported that three out of the five pests died after feeding on people who had taken ivermectin (Stromectol), a drug made by Merck  (NYSE: MRK) of Whitehouse Station, NJ, to treat river blindness. John Sheele, who conducted the research using himself and three (very loyal) colleagues as bait, said the drug, along with pesticides, may improve chances of eliminating the hardy bedbug.