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Life Science Weekly inSite (Oct. 13 - 16)

10/17/2008 10:18:10 AM

Life Science Weekly inSite (Oct. 13 - 16)
A weekly round-up of biotech’s top stories from around the world
By Suvarna Bhatt, Feature Editor

SAN FRANCISCO – On Monday, the top story at the BioSpace news-desk was that AcelleRX, a spinout from the Cleveland Clinic focusing on developing drugs for heart-attack survivors, raised $6.9 million in first round financing. The financing was lead by Triathlon Medical Ventures and was joined by Early Stage Partners, Fletcher Spaght Ventures, Reservoir Venture Partners, Blue Chip Venture Company of Cincinnati, JumpStart Inc. and North Coast Angel Fund. The second largest story in biotech was that King Pharmaceuticals Inc. extended its tender offer for Alpharma Inc to November 21, 2008. Last Friday, the original deadline for the offer, about 18.8 million shares of Alpharma's Class A common stock was validly tendered, according to King. King has offered $37 a share for Alpharma.

News tittered between good and bad on Tuesday. Par Pharmaceuticals announced it is slashing 190 jobs in its generic unit. The company also reported it would cut down on R&D expenses by focusing on completing projects that are already in development. About 30 percent of the jobs will be cut by the end of this year. Another round will be affected in the first half of 2009. Par also announced its chief operating officer, Gerard Martino has resigned. The good news in the biotech market place was that Johnson & Johnson’s profits were reported to beat analysts’ forecast. The company has strong sales of consumer products and medical devices which helped report higher-then expected earnings in the third-quarter. The news lifted shares more than 2 percent. The global giant said it earned $3.31 billion, compared with $2.55 billion in the earlier period, when the company took restructuring charges.

Genentech earnings followed suit on Wednesday, and reported third-quarter profit rose 6.7 percent on rising sales of key cancer drugs. The earnings revealed to investors just how profitable cancer drugs can be. The South San Francisco company said third-quarter U.S. sales of its cancer drugs, Avastin, Rituxan and Herceptin, macular degeneration drug Lucentis, allergic asthma drug Xolair and cystic fibrosis treatment Pulmozyme – saw double-digit increases from the same time period last year. On Wednesday, GlaxoSmithKline announced it’s continuing its expansion by buying the Egyptian products business of Bristol-Myers Squibb Company for $210 million. Glaxo said the acquisition will make it the leading pharmaceutical company in Egypt.

Yesterday, Cell Genesys Inc. made the top news when the company said it is exploring strategic alternatives, including the sale and liquidation of the company. It also stopped the late-stage trial of its prostate cancer drug. Shares of the company plummeted 77 percent to an all time low. In addition, the company plans to cut about 75 percent of its workforce of 290 employees by the end of the year. Cell Genesys said it is considering various options such as a merger or acquisition by another company and sale of assets. Continuing the negative trend in biotech news for the day, Orchestra Therapeutics, formally known as The Immune Response Corporation announced it filed for Chapter 7 bankruptcy on Monday in the U.S. Bankruptcy Court in the Southern District of California. In the 90s, the company had trouble proving its key HIV drug, Remune actually worked in patients. The company also tried its hand at developing other drugs, its main hope was a vaccine for multiple sclerosis, called NeuroVax. However, the company failed to make profit from any of its drug products. In court, Orchestra listed assets of $1.64 million and liabilities of $32.61 million.

That’s it for this week’s leading biotech news from the BioSpace news desk…stay tuned for the following week’s top movers and shakers…

Suvarna Bhatt is a Feature Editor for Click here to contact her.

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