East Coast Life Sciences Roundup: Regeneron, Actavis, NPS, & More

Broad startup initiatives, big acquisitions, critical data readouts, and more characterized the news flowing out of the biotech sector along the East Coast this week. Details below:

—Residents of Long Island, NY, were dismayed when Astellas Pharma shut down their local biotech flagship, OSI Pharmaceuticals. But Accelerate LI is trying to turn things around. The not-for-profit organization, started by an ex-politician, a venture firm, and local research institutions, among others, have put together a broad effort to develop startups and jumpstart the creation of an innovation cluster on Long Island. Executive director Mark Lesko told me Accelerate LI’s most advanced companies to date are six biotechs. We’ll catch up with them down the road.

—Natick, MA-based Karyopharm Therapeutics has raised $48.2 million in private financing to help advance its lead cancer drug, KPT-330, into large clinical trials. Delphi Ventures joined Karyopharm’s venture backers, which the company declined to identify. Karyopharm has raised about $80 million in cash since its inception. The company expects to have KPT-330 in pivotal studies for at least two different forms of cancer by the end of 2014.

—Tarrytown, NY-based Regeneron Pharmaceuticals (NASDAQ: REGN) is best known for afilbercept (Eylea), its drug for age-related macular degeneration, but the company took a big step this week towards creating a potential asthma drug. The full results of a mid-stage, 104-person study testing its drug, injectable monoclonal antibody dupilumab, in patients with moderate-to-severe allergic asthma, were published in the New England Journal of Medicine. Regeneron’s study concluded that the drug significantly reduced “asthma exacerbations,” in which a patient’s condition worsened to the point that would potentially include a trip to the hospital. Regeneron plans to begin a larger, 500-patient mid-stage study of the drug in June.

—Bedminster, NJ-based NPS Pharmaceuticals (NASDAQ: NPSP) and Cambridge, MA-based Ironwood Pharmaceuticals (NASDAQ: IRWD) both won FDA approval of their first drugs in 2012, and now they’re both raising money from Wall Street to help with their marketing debuts. NPS, which won FDA approval of short bowel syndrome treatment teduglutide (Gattex) in December, sold 6 million shares at $14.53 apiece, raising as much as $136.5 million. Ironwood, which won clearance from regulators in August to sell chronic constipation and irritable bowel syndrome drug linaclotide (Linzess), priced 10.5 million shares at $13 apiece, bringing in up to $87.2 million.

—Stephane Bancel has a lot on his plate these days. Not only is he the president and CEO of Moderna Therapeutics and the chairman of BG Medicine, but now he’s also added a new title: senior partner at Cambridge, MA-based Flagship Ventures. Bancel has joined the firm in an advisory role, providing strategic counsel and support to Flagship’s portfolio companies. The topic is something Bancel is well familiar with – both Moderna and BG Medicine were created by Flagship.

—Elizabeth, NJ-based generics giant Actavis agreed to acquire Warner Chilcott in an all-stock deal worth about $8.5 billion. Actavis, known as Watson Pharmaceuticals until it bought Iceland’s Actavis Group in 2012, targeted Warner Chilcott to add more branded drugs to its portfolio—particularly in women’s healthcare and gastroenterology—and lower its tax bill. Actavis aims to reincorporate itself in Ireland, where Warner Chilcott is headquartered, giving Actavis the opportunity to reduce its corporate tax rate from 28 percent to 17 percent.

—Cambridge, MA-based Seaside Therapeutics’ experimental drug, STX209, flunked its second clinical trial in three weeks, this time a study in patients with Fragile X Syndrome, a rare form of autism. In early May, Seaside reported that STX209 missed its goal in a mid-stage trial of lessening social withdrawal in patients with autism spectrum disorders. Seaside said that it still plans to continue its lone remaining study, a late-stage clinical trial testing STX209 in children between 5 and 11 years old with Fragile X Syndrome.

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