East Coast Biotech Roundup: Intercept, Idera, Inotek, & More

Xconomy Boston — 

Abstracts from the American Society of Hematology’s coming annual meeting were released yesterday, leading to a feeding frenzy among investors looking to declare biotech’s immediate winners and losers. In many cases, though, those answers won’t be known until the full details are disclosed in December in San Francisco. Here are the rest of this week’s headlines from the East Coast.

—Cambridge, MA-based Aegerion Pharmaceuticals (NASDAQ: AEGR) needed to diversify to help soften the blow from the disappointing launch of its cholesterol drug, lomitapide (Juxtapid). This week, it attempted to do so by paying AstraZeneca $325 million for an FDA-approved drug for a rare fat disease, metreleptin (Myalept). There are lingering questions as to the drug’s market potential, but Aegerion aims to boost the product’s revenue by winning approval in additional countries and more disease types, and hiking its price.

—Lexington, MA-based Inotek Pharmaceuticals filed for an IPO this week, aiming to fund a late-stage trial program for a drug it’s developing for glaucoma. Inotek is chasing Bedminster, NJ-based Aerie Pharmaceuticals (NASDAQ: AERI), which just began a Phase 3 trial for a glaucoma drug of its own in July.

—Cambridge-based Proteostasis Therapeutics inked a deal with Astellas Pharma to try to develop up to three new drugs that modulate what’s known as the unfolded protein response, a cellular stress reaction that occurs when proteins in the endoplasmic reticulum don’t fold properly. Proteostasis got an unspecified upfront payment, and could receive up to $400 million for each program, should all three projects hit a series of development goals. It’s the second industry partnership scored by Proteostasis over the past year; the company formed a partnership with Biogen Idec (NASDAQ: BIIB) last December.

—New York-based Intercept Pharmaceuticals (NASDAQ: ICPT) is once again a Wall Street battleground after investigators published the results of its Phase 2 study of a nonalcoholic steatohepatitis drug, obeticholic acid, in the Lancet on Friday. While the drug improved certain hallmarks of the disease, including the scarring of the liver that accompanies it, investigators concluded that its long-term benefits and safety profile need “further clarification.” Side effects like elevated cholesterol levels and pruritus (itching) were associated with the drug. Shares sank about 17 percent in pre-market trading.

—Cambridge-based Idera Pharmaceuticals (NASDAQ: IDRA) has edged into the Duchenne muscular dystrophy field by forming a collaboration with Parent Project Muscular Dystrophy—a Hackensack, NJ, nonprofit organization that funds Duchenne research—to develop a toll-like, receptor-blocking drug that can curb an inflammatory response that causes muscle damage for patients with the debilitating disorder. Idera didn’t disclose the financial terms of the deal, but it’ll work with Parent Project and researchers from the Children’s National Health System to do preclinical studies.

—Cambridge-based Bind Therapeutics (NASDAQ: BIND) lost Amgen as a partner last year, but this week it added Merck in its place. The two will work together to soup up two investigational Merck drug compounds—a kinesin spindle protein inhibitor and a polo-like kinase 1 inhibitor—with Bind’s nanoparticle technology, which is meant to help distribute a drug more efficiently throughout the body. Bind will conduct the initial research on the drugs, after which time Merck and Bind will alternate in choosing whether to develop them further. Financial terms weren’t disclosed.

—Another week, another deal for New York-based Bristol-Myers Squibb (NYSE: BMY), which picked up an option to acquire Denmark’s Galecto Biotech AB for up to $444 million. Galecto is developing a drug for idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis that is currently in Phase 1 testing. The drug, TD139, targets Galectin-3, a protein thought to play an important role in many types of fibrosis. Bristol can exercise its buyout option within 60 days of the completion of a Phase 1b trial.

—New Brunswick, NJ-based Johnson & Johnson (NYSE: JNJ) won FDA approval to use its hepatitis C drug simeprevir (Olysio) in combination with Gilead Sciences’ (NASDAQ: GILD) sofosbuvir (Sovaldi) as part of an all-oral, interferon-free regimen for the disease.

—Patrick Vink has been named the new chief operating officer of Lexington-based Cubist Pharmaceuticals (NASDAQ: CBST), taking over for Robert Perez, who will become Cubist’s CEO on Jan. 1 when Mike Bonney officially steps down. Vink has been serving as Cubist’s senior vice president and general manager of international business.

Image courtesy of flickr user stu_spivack via Creative Commons.