East Coast Life Sciences Roundup: Epizyme, Alkermes, Ophthotech, & More

Xconomy Boston — 

If you’ve been away all week at an extended post-Memorial Day barbecue, have no fear! We’ve got all of your East Coast biotech news wrapped up below:

—Waltham, MA and Dublin, Ireland-based Alkermes (NASDAQ: ALKS) unveiled detail results from its mid-stage clinical trial on ALKS 5461, its experimental drug for major depressive disorder. The drug, which is designed to work by creating a balance among the opioid receptors in the brain, significantly improved patients’ scores on two standardized, clinically validated tests measuring their symptoms of depression over a two-month span. Richard Pops, Alkermes’ CEO, says that the company will meet with the FDA over the summer and start a pivotal trial at the end of the year or in the beginning of 2014.

—New York-based Ophthotech has raised $175 million to bankroll a 1,900-patient, 200-site late-stage study of E10030, its experimental drug for the wet form of age-related macular degeneration. The financing consists of a $50 million Series C round of preferred equity financing from Novo Ventures (the VC arm of Novo Nordisk), HBM Healthcare Investments, and Clarus Ventures; and a $125 million piece from Novo in return for a percentage royalty on future sales of Ophthotech’s drug. Ophthotech’s goal is to prove using E10030, which blocks platelet-derived growth factor (PDGF), in combination with any vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF) inhibitor—such as Roche/Genentech’s ranibizumab (Lucentis) or Regeneron Pharmaceuticals’ afilbercept (Eylea)—is more effective in treating wet AMD than VEGF blockers alone.

—Cambridge, MA-based Eleven Biotherapeutics struck a deal with ThromboGenics to help the Belgium-based company create a protein drug that would fight an unnamed ophthalmic disease. Eleven and ThromboGenics will work together on the initial research for the drug, and then ThromboGenics will have the exclusive right to develop it, carry out clinical trials, and sell it if the company can win regulatory approval. Eleven will get an upfront payment and milestone payments tied to various targets, as well as royalties on sales of the drug.

—Cambridge, MA-based Epizyme (NASDAQ: EPZM) took the big leap onto the Nasdaq late Thursday, pricing about 5.9 million shares at $15 apiece and raising as much as $88.5 million, if its underwriters exercise their rights to buy all their shares. Epizyme priced at the high end of the $13 to $15 per share range it set on May 28, showing the keen investor interest in the company. Epizyme has an initial market capitalization of more than $400 million. The company, which uses epigenetics to make targeted therapies for patients with genetically defined cancers, began trading today on the Nasdaq under the symbol EPZM.

— Princeton, NJ-based Omthera Pharmaceuticals (NASDAQ: OMTH) didn’t even get to its first quarterly earnings call before finding a buyer. Omthera, which is developing a fish oil pill for people with very high triglyceride levels, was acquired this week by AstraZeneca (NYSE: AZN) in a deal worth as much as $443 million. AstraZeneca will pay $12.70 per share, or about $323 million, up front for Omthera—an 88 percent premium to the company’s $6.77 per share closing price the day before. Omthera’s stockholders will also get contingent value rights worth about $4.70 apiece, or $120 million in total, if the drug hits certain milestones. Omthera went public at $8 per share on April 10, but traded below that its entire time as a public company. Omthera’s largest stockholders were Sofinnova Ventures (29.5 percent ownership stake) and New Enterprise Associates (23.3 percent), who helped the company raise $140 million in private backing.

—Cambridge, MA-based Satori Pharmaceuticals has abruptly shut down due to issues with preclinical studies on its experimental treatment for Alzheimer’s disease, FierceBiotech’s Ryan McBride reported Thursday. Satori had been developing an Alzheimer’s treatment from black cohosh, a plant typically sold as a nutritional supplement to relieve symptoms of menopause.

—Rochester, NY-based eye care giant Bausch + Lomb was snapped up by ever-acquisitive specialty pharmaceutical company Valeant Pharmaceuticals (NYSE: VRX) for $8.7 billion in cash. The deal made for big returns for Bausch’s private equity backers, led by Warburg Pincus, who had been preparing to take the company public. Rather than hold an IPO, the Warburg-led group got a $4.5 billion check. Warburg alone tripled its total investment in Bausch, according to Reuters.