East Coast Biotech Roundup: Forum, Crossovers, Immuno-Oncology & More

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a Phase 2 study of an oral anti-inflammatory drug the company is developing for patients with cystic fibrosis. As the Boston Business Journal reported, the company also beat an unusual path to Wall Street and began trading on the Nasdaq this week.

—Summit, NJ-based Celgene (NASDAQ: CELG) got into the immuno-oncology dealmaking frenzy, paying AstraZeneca $450 million up front to grab some rights to a so-called checkpoint inhibitor drug called MEDI4736. Celgene will get at least 70 percent of all the sales MEDI4736 generates in blood cancers, though that royalty stream will decrease after four years. The New Jersey drugmaker will also lead and pay for all the new trials the two companies start through the end of the next year—studies that’ll test MEDI4736 in tandem with drugs in Celgene’s pipeline—and also cover all the costs of selling the drug in hematology settings. The alliance could expand to include other drugs as well.

—Nascent Cambridge startup Potenza Therapeutics formed a collaboration with Astellas Pharma to develop cancer immunotherapy drugs in a deal that could see the Japanese company acquire Potenza at an unspecified, predetermined price down the road. Potenza was formed in December by MPM Capital, which led a $38 million Series A round along with InterWest Partners and Astellas’ VC arm, Astellas Venture Management.

—The National Institutes of Health awarded Stony Brook University’s Center for Biotechnology in Long Island, NY, a three-year, $3 million grant to establish the “Long Island Bioscience Hub.” This collaboration between Stony Brook, Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory, and Brookhaven National Laboratory aims to accelerate the translation of life science discoveries at the Long Island institutions into new drugs, devices, and diagnostics.

—Two more blockbusters from local drugmakers made Hayman Capital Management’s hit list. The hedge fund filed a relatively new type of patent challenge, known as an inter partes review, against Biogen’s (NASDAQ: BIIB) multiple sclerosis pill dimethyl fumarate (Tecfidera) and Celgene’s blood cancer drug thalidomide (Thalomid). Hayman has already made similar challenges to drugs like dalfampridine (Ampyra, Acorda therapeutics) and ibrutinib (Imbruvica, Pharmacyclics).

—Gene editing pioneer and UC Berkeley professor Jennifer Doudna became a founding member and scientific advisor of Cambridge-based Intellia Therapeutics, a startup that has made a deal with another one of Doudna’s gene editing outfits, Caribou Biosciences. There’s a bit of musical chairs going on amongst the emerging gene editing companies, which you can get a sense of from this column by Alex Lash.

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