East Coast Life Sciences Roundup: Termeer, Atlas, OSI Pharma & More

Xconomy Boston — 

All eyes in the biotech world will soon turn to the American Society of Clinical Oncology’s annual meeting in Chicago, but for now, the industry keeps humming along. This week’s news was highlighted by partnerships, product launches and big name hirings—and lowlighted by the closure of the long time anchor of Long Island’s biotech scene.

—Former Genzyme CEO Henri Termeer offered a glimpse into what he’s doing in this next chapter of his career, in a two-part interview with Xconomy’s national biotech editor, Luke Timmerman. The man who turned Genzyme into a multi-billion dollar success went into great detail about what fuels him to stay active in biotech, drug prices, and the lessons he learned during his last days at the company.

—Just weeks after raising $265 million for its latest fund, Cambridge, MA-based Atlas Venture has formed what it calls “corporate strategic partnership” agreements with Amgen (NASDAQ: AMGN) and Novartis (NYSE: NVS). Through those agreements, Atlas, Amgen, and Novartis will essentially work together to build new biotech startups. The alliance is the latest example of Big Pharma and venture capital firms teaming up to foster the development of life sciences startups. Merck/Flagship Ventures and Polaris Partners/Johnson & Johnson are some other recent examples.

—Three years after paying $4 billion for OSI Pharmaceuticals, Japan’s Astellas Pharma shuttered its Long Island, NY-based subsidiary’s lab as part of a global R&D shakeup that affects 200 jobs across the U.S. OSI became a success on the back of lung cancer drug erlotinib (Tarceva) and is the anchor tenant for the Broad Hollow Bioscience Park, a not-for-profit partnership between Farmingdale State College, Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory, and the Research Foundation of the State University of New York, that offers research space to early-stage life sciences startups.

—Cambridge, MA-based Tokai Pharmaceuticals raised $35.5 million from Apple Tree Partners, Novartis Venture Funds, and other undisclosed investors to help bankroll the ongoing mid-stage clinical trial of its prostate cancer drug, galeterone. Tokai has been shaken up recently. Martin Williams, its previous CEO, left the company in March “to pursue other career opportunities” and has been replaced by Jodie Williams, its former COO and vice president of clinical affairs.

— Cambridge, MA-based Radius Health’s most advanced drug program may be its injectable osteoporosis drug, BA058, but CEO Michael Wyzga told me that its biggest value driver is a follow-up version of the drug administered through a skin patch. Radius will unveil the results from a mid-stage clinical trial for the patch in September, after which time it will likely evaluate its deal options. Radius pulled a potential IPO in November.

—It’s been a big few weeks for Boston-based Third Rock Ventures. In March, Third Rock raised $516 million for its third fund, bringing its total assets under management to about $1.3 billion. And it built on that momentum on Tuesday, adding two well-known life sciences veterans to its ranks. Alnlyam Pharmaceuticals (NASDAQ: ALNY) CEO John Maraganore joined Third Rock as a venture partner, aiding the firm with advice for its portfolio companies. Maraganore—who is keeping his day job at Alnylam—used to work at Millennium Pharmaceuticals along with Third Rock’s founders Robert Tepper, Kevin Starr, and Mark Levin. Third Rock also named James Geraghty, a Genzyme executive for two decades, an “entrepreneur-in-residence” that will help Third Rock create companies targeting rare diseases.

—Speaking of Third Rock, Cambridge, MA-based Ninepoint Medical—the only medical technology startup Third Rock has formed to date—began selling its first product, the NvisionVLE Imaging System, this week. Ninepoint CEO Charles Carignan told me that the company is in the midst of raising $35 million for a Series B round that will help it roll the system out across the U.S. and Europe, among other things. The NvisionVLE’s selling point is that it can look deep into tissue and see large areas very quickly, creating a more efficient way for doctors to identify a disease.