East Coast Life Sciences Roundup: ASCO, Follica, Aveo, & More

All eyes may have been on ASCO to start the week, but that wasn’t the only news emanating from biotechs on the East Coast. We’ve got all the details here:

—Luke Timmerman, Xconomy’s National Biotech Editor, had the winners, losers, and everything in between in his two-part wrap of this year’s annual meeting of the American Society of Clinical Oncology. Several East Coast biotechs, such as Tesaro (NASDAQ: TSRO), Infinity Pharmaceuticals (NASDAQ: INFI), and Synta Pharmaceuticals (NASDAQ: SNTA), saw their stocks skyrocket or plummet based on the news coming out of the meeting.

—Boston-based Follica, the PureTech Ventures-incubated startup creating a treatment for male and female pattern baldness, claims to have used its technology in a procedure that successfully grew new hair follicles in humans in a clinical trial. George Cotsarelis, the man behind Follica’s technology, also published a study in Nature Medicine showing that he has identified a key protein—fibroblast growth factor 9, or Fgf9—that could potentially be used to help grow new follicles. Follica, however, provided few details as to the bevy of questions that remain, such as what trials it is planning, what its existing studies look like, or when people can ultimately expect to see its procedure sold on the market.

—Cambridge, MA-based Verastem shuffled its leadership as Christoph Westphal moved from the company’s chairman and CEO to its executive chairman. Robert Forrester, Verastem’s COO and president, will take over as CEO on July 1.

—Cambridge, MA-based Aveo Oncology (NASDAQ: AVEO) announced plans to ax 140 jobs, or 62 percent of its workforce, as part of a strategic restructuring. The decision is the latest domino to fall following the disastrous May 2 FDA advisory panel vote on tivozanib. Aveo has abandoned tivozanib as a kidney cancer drug, but will now focus its efforts on developing the compound as a treatment for colorectal and breast cancer. Aveo has two mid-stage studies of tivozanib underway for patients with those cancer types that should produce data by the end of 2014.

—New Providence, NJ-based Edge Therapeutics raised an $18 million Series C round from unspecified investors to help kick-start a mid-stage clinical trial for its lead drug, EG-1962. The drug is a sustained-release, injectable form of nimopidine, which is used to prevent the life-threatening delayed side-effects often suffered by patients with aneurysms and traumatic brain injury (TBI). Edge is developing several drugs to treat the delayed complications from brain hemorrhages, TBI, and brain surgery. Edge has the backing of some big biotech players: former Celgene CEO Sol Barer is its chairman, while MIT bioengineering professor Bob Langer heads its scientific advisory committee.

—South Plainfield, NJ-based PTC Therapeutics plans to go public and sell 6.9 million shares at $13 to $16 apiece, the company said this week. PTC expects to begin trading on the Nasdaq under “PTCT.” The company, like competitors Sarepta Therapeutics (NASDAQ: SRPT) and Prosensa, is developing a treatment for Duchenne muscular dystrophy, a degenerative muscle disease characterized by muscle weakness that quickly and progressively worsens.

—Cambridge, MA-based gene therapy specialist Bluebird Bio also inched closer to the Nasdaq, setting a range this week of $14 to $16 apiece for the 5 million shares it plans to offer at its IPO. Bluebird plans to list on the Nasdaq under the symbol “BLUE.” Bluebird is using gene therapy to treat severe genetic diseases such as childhood cerebral adrenoleukodystrophy and beta-thalassemia.

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