East Coast Life Sciences Roundup: Aveo, Forma, Regeneron, RainDance, & More

Xconomy Boston — 

The big news here at Xconomy this week was the launch of our new Texas bureau. But out on the East Coast, the life sciences industry was buzzing from top to bottom as well. Nine-figure partnerships, FDA advisory panel debacles, venture financings, and more all dominated headlines from New York to Boston.

—Cambridge, MA-based Aveo Oncology’s (NASDAQ: AVEO) worst nightmare came to fruition Thursday as 13 of 14 members of an FDA advisory panel voted against its kidney cancer drug, tivozanib. The vote makes it highly unlikely that regulators will clear tivozanib without Aveo conducting an additional clinical trial. Aveo’s shares plummeted close to 50 percent following the news.

—Lexington, MA-based RainDance Technologies scored big this week, not only securing a $20 million Series E financing, but adding diagnostic testing powerhouse Myriad Genetics (NASDAQ: MYGN) as a stockholder. Myriad joined a funding round that included previous RainDance backers Mohr Davidow Ventures, Quaker BioVentures, Alloy Ventures, Acadia Woods Partners, and Sectoral Asset Management. RainDance’s droplet technology separates patient samples into millions of micro-droplets, each containing a DNA sample, and then merges each one with a reagent. The result is millions of ultra-tiny test tubes for researchers to use to perform diagnostic tests. RainDance CEO Roopom Banerjee told me that the company has shot down acquisition attempts in the past, and is focused on scaling up—something the funding will help RainDance accomplish.

—Watertown, MA-based Forma Therapeutics not only landed a potential nine-figure check from Summit, NJ-based Celgene (NASDAQ: CELG), but also left room to sell its protein homeostasis-based drugs in the U.S. down the road. Celgene has committed $200 million to Forma in a combination of upfront and early R&D payments for the rights to exclusive commercial access outside the U.S. to the protein homeostasis drugs Forma discovers. By keeping the U.S. rights, Forma positioned itself to sell its own products one day, writes Luke Timmerman.

—Harvard University received a $50 million donation from the Blavatnik Family Foundation to help spur the creation of new, innovative drugs. Harvard will use the cash to create the Blavatnik Biomedical Accelerator, which will single out promising early stage technologies, help increase their value, and shape them to be licensed or developed commercially by players in the life sciences industry. Harvard will also create the Blavatnik Fellowship in Life Sciences Program at Harvard Business School, which will expose MBA students with life sciences experience to the projects the Biomedical Accelerator supports.

—Tarrytown, NY-based Regeneron Pharmaceuticals’ (NASDAQ: REGN) shares soared more than 10 percent on Wednesday after Allergan (NASDAQ: AGN) reported up to a two-year delay for the eye drug it is developing to compete with Regeneron’s smash hit afilbercept (Eylea). Allergan CEO David Pyott said on a conference call Wednesday that Darpin, its drug for the “wet” form of age-related macular degeneration—which often leads to blindness in the elderly—will head to another mid-stage study, rather than straight into late-stage trials, pushing back its potential approval by one to two years. Regeneron’s stock jumped to $237.29 from $215.14 on the news, while Allergan’s slumped to $98.67 from $113.55.

—Basking Ridge, NJ-based Regado BioSciences is tapping the public markets to help bankroll a 13,200-patient, late-stage study of its two-pronged anticoagulant, REG-1. Regado, one of the biotechs backed by the international partnership between Domain Associates and Russia’s state-owned Rusnano, hopes to raise $75 million through an IPO to get it through interim results of the trial, which are expected in 2014. The hook for Regado’s REG-1 is the ability to precisely control the level of a patient’s bleeding during an angioplasty, alleviating the risk of stroke or death and ultimately making the procedure safer. The drug is an injection of pegnivacogin, an anticoagulant; and anivamersen, which binds to pegnivacogin, reducing or controlling its effectiveness. Cowen & Co., Needham & Co., Wedbush Securities, BMO Capital Markets, and Canaccord Genuity are the underwriters for the IPO.