East Coast Life Sciences Roundup: Syndax, Enteris, Invivo, & More

Xconomy Boston — 

The big news in biotech this week may have been Amgen (NASDAQ: AMGN) finally completing its high-profile quest to acquire Onyx Pharmaceuticals, but that isn’t all that happened. We’ve got your East Coast headlines below:

—Waltham, MA-based Syndax Pharmaceuticals pocketed $26.6 million in equity financing this week from existing investors Domain Associates, MPM Capital, Forward Ventures, and Rusnano MedInvest. The cash gives the company enough financial leeway to move its lead drug into a late-stage clinical trial for breast cancer that should get underway early next year. Syndax’s drug is supposed to make tumor cells vulnerable to hormone therapy after they’ve already become resistant to it. The company has now raised more than $80 million from private investors, according to CEO Arlene Morris.

—The peptide-producing technology invented by defunct Unigene Laboratories now lives on in Boonton, NJ-based Enteris Biopharma. The company was formed this month by Unigene’s former lender, Victory Park Capital, and is headed by a group of Unigene’s former executives. Enteris hopes to use Unigene’s old platform to reformulate tough-to-deliver small-molecule drugs and peptides for pharmaceutical companies. I spoke to Enteris’ leadership about their chances of pulling that off, given Unigene’s past failures.

—-Shares of Cambridge, MA-based Invivo Therapeutics’ (NASDAQ: NVIV) plummeted this week after it revealed that it won’t begin a study testing its experimental spinal implant in human patients until the first quarter of 2014 and that the trial will take much longer than anticipated. Invivo, whose CEO Frank Reynolds resigned suddenly due to health issues last week, saw its stock tank by more than 60 percent in the days following the news.

—New Brunswick, NJ-based Johnson & Johnson (NYSE: JNJ) shelled out a $75 million milestone payment to licensing partner, Sunnyvale, CA-based Pharmacyclis (NASDAQ: PCYC), after the FDA accepted its new drug application for the highly-anticipated cancer drug ibrutinib. J&J, in 2011, paid $150 million up front and promised various additional future payments to share rights to the drug equally. Ibrutinib has received a breakthrough therapy designation from the FDA, meaning the agency will give it a speedier review than it would for other drugs.

—Holliston, MA-based Harvard Bioscience (NASDAQ: HBIO) named Jeffrey Duchemin its new CEO, replacing interim chief David Green. Duchemin is coming off a 16-year stint at med tech giant Becton Dickinson (NYSE: BDX).

—Burlington, MA-based Infraredx secured a $25 million equity investment from Japan’s Nipro. The two already have a deal in place whereby Nipro will sell Infraredx’s coronary imaging system in Japan. Infraredx expects to win approval from Japanese regulators to begin selling the system there next year. The system, which uses a combination of infrared light and ultrasound to detect fatty plaque in the arteries, is already available in the U.S. and Europe. A member of Nipro’s team has also joined Infraredx ‘s board as part of the deal.

—Boston-based Epirus Biopharmaceuticals claimed success in a late-stage clinical trial testing its biosimilar, or generic biologic, form of rheumatoid arthritis drug infliximab (marketed by Johnson & Johnson and Merck as Remicade). The company, backed by 5AM Ventures, TPG Biotech, and Montreux Equity Partners, plans to file applications for approval in certain international markets over the next 12 months.