East Coast Life Sciences Roundup: Biogen Idec, Celgene, Alnylam, More

Xconomy Boston — 

Celgene of Summit, NJ, received some good news late Friday from the FDA, while Boston-area companies large and small made out well during the week, as partnerships were born and reformed. And the startup community got a boost from a Massachusetts agency’s funding for a new incubator space in the heart of Cambridge.

—The FDA approved Celgene’s pill pomalidomide (Pomalyst) as a third-line treatment for multiple myeloma, a blood cancer that arises from diseased plasma cells in the bone marrow. The drug can now be marketed for patients who did not respond to at least two previous therapies, which include another Celgene (NASDAQ: CELG) drug, lenalidomide (Revlimid); and bortezomib (Velcade), a product of Takeda’s Millennium subsidiary. Celgene’s new drug will now compete with Onyx carfilzomib (Kyprolis), which was approved by the FDA in July.

Biogen Idec (NASDAQ: BIIB) has agreed to pay $3.25 billion upfront to gain full control of the multiple sclerosis drug natalizumab (Tysabri) from its partner Elan Corp. (NYSE: ELN) of Dublin, Ireland. Elan, which formerly split profits from the drug equally, will instead receive royalties on an accelerating schedule, starting with 12 percent of global net sales for the first 12 months. Biogen Idec of Weston, MA, expects the deal to boost its 2013 GAAP earnings by 20 to 30 cents.

—Alnylam Pharmaceuticals (NASDAQ: ALNY) of Cambridge, MA, was rewarded for its work on RNA interference when The Medicines Company of Parsippany, NJ, agreed to partner up in the development of Alnylam’s drug candidate for cardiovascular disease. The New Jersey company will pay $25 million upfront and as much as $180 million in possible milestone payments to gain an exclusive license for an Alnylam drug that inhibits the molecular target PCSK9. Alnylam could also receive double-digit royalties if its ALN-PCS program results in a marketed drug.

—Another Cambridge, MA, company, Ironwood Pharmaceuticals (NASDAQ: IRWD) is taking its first leap from R&D into commercial operations, with a major marketing push for a new drug with a potential market of 10 million patients. Ironwood and its partner Forest Laboratories (NYSE: FRX) are gearing up to spend as much as $300 million this year to drum up sales for Ironwood’s new pill for constipation, linaclotide (Linzess). The drug was approved in August for chronic constipation and irritable bowel syndrome with constipation in adults.

—Cambridge’s booming life sciences neighborhood around Kendall Square will soon include the startup incubator Lab Central, which got a boost this week when the Massachusetts Life Sciences Center awarded it a $5 million grant. The money will go toward the construction of a life sciences laboratory that startups can share, rather than each having to muster its own money to build spaces equipped for experiments. When Lab Central opens in November 2013, it will host as many as 30 entrepreneurial life sciences companies. The Massachusetts Life Sciences Center is a quasi-public agency in charge of Massachusetts’ $1 billion economic stimulus program for the biomedical sector.

—In case you’re not already engaged in the life sciences community around Boston, you can find out what everyone else is talking about at Xconomy’s next big event, “Boston Biotech Seizes the Momentum.” It’s on April 4 in—where else?—Cambridge, MA. Biogen Idec will host the gathering, which includes speakers such as Bruce Booth, managing director at Atlas Venture; Deborah Dunsire, CEO of Millennium Takeda; and Biogen Idec’s CEO, George Scangos.