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Bio Roundup: Frazier v. Trump, Data Dumps, New York Steps & More

Fri, 08/18/2017 - 08:45

The CEO of a major U.S. pharmaceutical company was in the news this week, but for a change not because of the cost of drugs. Merck CEO Kenneth Frazier (pictured) was the first of what quickly became a line of CEOs to exit President Trump’s manufacturing council, leading to its dissolution altogether. Frazier was widely praised by other life sciences leaders, even as he drew Trump’s ire.

Elsewhere, the Affordable Care Act got a temporary helping hand, New York biotech got another boost, and the market for a new type of ovarian cancer drug got even more crowded. Let’s round it... Read more »

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Alzeca Receives $11M for Early Alzheimer’s Detection Technology

Thu, 08/17/2017 - 16:57

Houston—Alzeca, which is developing an imaging agent to help doctors detect Alzheimer’s disease at its earliest stages, announced Thursday it has raised $11 million in a Series A round of funding.

The Houston-based company has developed an imaging agent that it says can, when used with an MRI, detect the presence of abnormal brain proteins associated with Alzheimer’s disease and other causes of dementia, including chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE). In particular, Alzeca is targeting amyloid plaques, proteins that typically accumulate in the brain years before significant cognitive symptoms appear in Alzheimer’s patients.

The funding round was led by the Werth... Read more »

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Novo Nordisk Diabetes Drug Beats Lilly’s Trulicity in Head-to-Head Test

Thu, 08/17/2017 - 15:30

A Novo Nordisk drug candidate for type 2 diabetes beat Eli Lilly’s dulaglutide (Trulicity) in reducing blood sugar and body weight in patients studied in a late-stage clinical trial, the Denmark-based company says. The results could bring strong competition to one of Indianapolis-based Lilly’s top-selling products if Novo Nordisk’s experimental drug is approved by the FDA and other global regulatory agencies.

Like Lilly’s (NYSE: LLY) dulaglutide, Novo Nordisk’s semaglutide is a once-a-week injectable treatment. Both are glucagon-like peptide-1 (GLP-1) therapies, a class of drugs that stimulate insulin and suppress glucagon, the two hormones that work together to regulate blood sugar.... Read more »

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Expanding Tissue and Squeezing Cells: Meet Xconomy’s Young Innovator Award Finalists

Thu, 08/17/2017 - 13:17
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The finalists in the Young Innovator category of the 2017 Xconomy Awards show that it’s never too early in life to start a company or invent a new technology. These four individuals (30 years of age or under) share a strong drive, even a restlessness, to build new things that make a difference. Three knew early on that, despite spending time in academic labs, they wanted to hatch a startup and use it to help make that difference. One has opted to stay in academia to open up new ways of peering deeper into cells. Here are brief introductions to the... Read more »

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On the Hudson, Two Developers Open NYC’s Latest Bio Startup Space

Thu, 08/17/2017 - 08:54

Two real estate developers, Taconic Investment Partners and Silverstein Properties, have unveiled plans to bring about 150,000 square feet of new wet lab space online on the West Side of Manhattan, the latest effort in an ongoing quest in New York City to provide startup biotech companies a local home to form and grow.

Taconic and Silverstein have christened a building on West 54th Street and 11th Avenue the “Hudson Research Center” and plan to invest up to $20 million to turn it into a life sciences complex housing a variety of entities—startups, growing biotechs, pharma outposts, and disease foundations. Originally... Read more »

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Latest Immunotherapy Setback: Bristol Drugs Stumble in Kidney Cancer

Wed, 08/16/2017 - 09:45

The recent stumbles for cancer immunotherapy—specifically, combinations of treatments meant to help boost its effectiveness—continued late Tuesday with some disappointing news from one of the leaders in the field, Bristol-Myers Squibb.

Bristol (NYSE: BMY) said that a Phase 3 trial testing two of its immunotherapies together in newly diagnosed kidney cancer patients, a study called Checkmate-214, met one study goal and missed another. Enough people responded to treatment with Bristol’s nivolumab (Opdivo) and ipilimumab (Yervoy), compared to a course of mainstay kidney cancer drug sunitinib (Sutent), to declare success. But there wasn’t enough of a difference seen in the drug... Read more »

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Coming of Age: San Antonio Startups Experience Busy Summer of M&A

Wed, 08/16/2017 - 08:00

San Antonio—Business leaders have been working for years to recast the Alamo City’s image, in an attempt to brand it as a hub of tech and healthcare startups as much as it is a place for tourists to visit the home of Davey Crockett’s last stand, take a glitzy River Walk, and enjoy a stellar NBA team.

Rackspace, the cloud computing giant sold to a private equity firm last year for $4.3 billion, has likely helped sprout more tech companies in San Antonio than most other businesses in the city. Many tech founders are former Rackspace employees... Read more »

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Jounce Taps Ex-Ariad Dealmaker, Cole, as CBO

Tue, 08/15/2017 - 12:34

Cambridge, MA-based cancer drug developer Jounce Therapeutics (NASDAQ: JNCE) has named Hugh Cole its new chief business officer and head of corporate development. Cole was previously a top dealmaker at Ariad Pharmaceuticals and was a Shire executive for seven years before that. Takeda acquired Ariad for $5.2 billion in January.


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Allergan Veteran Kevin O’Brien Moves to Merz to Lead Neurosciences

Mon, 08/14/2017 - 12:55

Kevin O’Brien, a 16-year veteran of Allergan (NYSE: AGN), is joining Merz North America as vice president and U.S. head of neurosciences. O’Brien had held various roles in Allergan’s dermatology and aesthetics business. Merz North America is a subsidiary of Germany-based Merz Pharma. O’Brien will be based in Merz North America’s headquarters in Raleigh, NC.

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Immune Pharma Taps Triumvira’s Tony Fiorino for CMO, COO Roles

Mon, 08/14/2017 - 12:49

Tony Fiorino has been named to the joint positions of chief medical officer and chief operating officer of New York-based Immune Pharmaceuticals (NASDAQ: IMNP). Fiorino will oversee research and development, clinical development, and manufacturing of Immune’s drug candidates. The company’s lead drug, bertilimumab is in mid-stage clinical testing for bullous pemphigoid, a rare autoimmune skin condition, as well as ulcerative colitis. Fiorino comes to Immune from Triumvira Immunologics of Hackensack, NJ, where he was president and CEO. His experience also includes executive roles at BrainStorm Cell Therapeutics (NASDAQ: BCLI) and EnzymeRx.

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Dragonfly, eGenesis, Spero & More: Xconomy’s Startup Award Finalists

Mon, 08/14/2017 - 10:30

Startups play a critical role in the innovation economy that we chronicle at Xconomy—transforming new ideas that begin in a lab into the products and companies of tomorrow. No surprise, then, that the startup category in our first-ever Awards program was a particularly competitive one, loaded with private companies (no more than 5 years old) in several biotech hotspots: gene editing, microbiome research, immuno-oncology, regenerative medicine, digital health and more. Here are brief introductions to our six startup finalists.

First up is eGenesis, one of the latest startups tied to the work of Harvard Medical School geneticist George Church (Church... Read more »

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Ophthotech’s Final Try at Combo Eye Drug Comes up Short

Mon, 08/14/2017 - 08:45

It wasn’t too long ago that Ophthotech was running a group of clinical trials being perhaps as closely watched as any in the ophthalmology field, studies that had a chance to change the way a common form of vision loss, age-related macular degeneration (AMD), is treated. But those days are a distant memory now. All three of the trials have failed.

Ophthotech (NASDAQ: OPHT) said this morning that its experimental pegpleranib (Fovista) failed the third of three Phase 3 trials in patients with the “wet” or more damaging and fast-moving form of AMD. The drug, when given in combination with... Read more »

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GSK Hands Nerve Drug Back to Ionis as RNA Battle Heats Up

Fri, 08/11/2017 - 09:33

A race is on to bring two new RNA-based drugs for a rare, debilitating nerve disease called familial amyloid polyneuropathy (FAP). And GlaxoSmithKline has just dropped out of it.

This morning, Ionis Pharmaceuticals (NASDAQ: IONS) said that it has regained full rights, from GSK, to a drug called inotersen, which the Carlsbad, CA, company expects to submit to regulators in the U.S. and Europe for a review this year. If the FDA approves inotersen, it could become the first marketed treatment in the U.S. for FAP.

Ionis partner GSK dumped the drug—as well as another experimental medicine Ionis plans... Read more »

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Bio Roundup: $1B Deals, Data Bumps, Acorda’s Lumps, Generic OKs & More

Fri, 08/11/2017 - 07:55

With President Trump holed up in New Jersey, rattling his saber at Kim Jong-un and Mitch McConnell and ignoring his own commission’s advice on the opioid crisis, there was still life sciences news from the nation’s capital. The FDA reported that generic drug approvals are set to hit a record; the agency under Commissioner Scott Gottlieb has moved this summer to increase generic competition and lower the nation’s high drug prices.

Meanwhile, drug-price hawks can sharpen their talons on a report this week from The New York Times and ProPublica. The joint investigation showed that pharmaceutical firms, insurers, and... Read more »

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Pacira Pharmaceutical’s Scibetta Joins Maverick Therapeutics as CEO

Thu, 08/10/2017 - 14:11

James Scibetta has joined Maverick Therapeutics as CEO and member of the Brisbane, CA, biotech’s board of directors. Scibetta comes to Maverick from Parsippany, NJ-based Pacira Pharmaceuticals (NASDAQ: PCRX), where he was president. Earlier this year, Takeda Pharmaceutical signed Maverick on to a five-year, $125 million partnership pursuing new cancer immunotherapies.

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Tyme Technologies Taps Eckard for Chief Scientific Affairs Post

Thu, 08/10/2017 - 13:56

Tyme Technologies (NASDAQ: TYME) has appointed Jonathan Eckard chief scientific affairs officer. Eckard most recently worked as chief business and strategy officer for cancer drug developer Sellas Life Sciences. New York-based Tyme’s lead drug candidate, SM-88, is in early-stage testing as a potential prostate cancer treatment.

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Celgene Narrows Its Relationship With Sutro, No Acquisition Coming

Thu, 08/10/2017 - 08:55

Celgene (NASDAQ: CELG) is revamping its relationship with Sutro Biopharma, walking away from an option to acquire the privately held antibody drug developer but keeping potential rights to four of Sutro’s programs—none of which have yet reached clinical studies.

Their first deal was in 2012, and they expanded it two years later with Celgene taking 15 percent ownership in South San Francisco, CA-based Sutro, which has developed a way to produce therapeutic proteins without using live cells as miniature factories.

Cranbury, NJ-based Celgene is keeping its stake, now just under 15 percent, according to Sutro CEO Bill Newell, and has... Read more »

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Startup Builders, IPO Closers & More: Meet Xconomy’s CEO Award Finalists

Thu, 08/10/2017 - 07:00

There are many ways to stand out as a biotech CEO, from getting a company started in the first place to pushing its first drug over the finish line. Those differences are what we noticed when going through the nominations from you, the readers, for the top Boston biotech CEO, as part of the first-ever Xconomy Awards.

Together with a panel of judges—a group of 11 Boston-area life sciences veterans—we’ve combed through all the entries to come up with the seven finalists we found most compelling. This is a diverse group of CEOs representing companies at different points in their... Read more »

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Athena Survey Probes Gender Issues in San Diego Innovation Ecosystem

Wed, 08/09/2017 - 15:06

A San Diego survey on professional women working in tech and life sciences offers some insights on the recurring debate over gender diversity in venture-backed startups and big companies, as well as a related incident that boiled over this week at Google.

When asked, “What do you aspire to be, professionally?” nearly 29 percent of the respondents said they want to become the chief executive officer, or to hold a similar C-level job (such as CFO or CTO); another 20 percent aspire to become a director or senior corporate executive—and over a third said, “I’m already there.”

Speaking more broadly, slightly... Read more »

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San Antonio’s CellRight Sells to U.K. Medical Company Tissue Regenix

Wed, 08/09/2017 - 14:55

San Antonio — CellRight Technologies, a maker of bone and tissue grafts derived from cadavers, has been purchased by a British company that also uses a process of removing DNA and cells from human and animal tissue so the products can be used in healthcare.

CellRight was sold for as much as to U.K.-based regenerative medicine company Tissue Regenix, which is traded on the London Stock Exchange. Tissue Regenix raised about $52 million (40 million pounds) for the acquisition and said in a public filing in July that it planned to use as much as $30 million to buy CellRight. The... Read more »

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