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Dealmaking and financing took a breather in the final days of March, possibly digesting two monumental events that had recently occurred—the passage of healthcare reform legislation, and U.S. District Judge Robert Sweet's decision invalidating seven patents held by Myriad Genetics (NASDAQ:MYGN) covering the BRCA1 and BRCA2 genes linked to hereditary breast cancer—a decision likely to be appealed. [Listen to podcast.]

Three deals focused on RNA targeted therapeutics. In the biggest deal of the week, GlaxoSmithKline (NYSE:GSK) and Isis Pharmaceuticals (NASDAQ:ISIS) formed a strategic alliance focused on RNA therapeutics for rare and infectious diseases. Isis will apply its antisense drug discovery platform to discover and develop new therapeutics against targets for rare and serious disease, including some infectious diseases and conditions causing blindness.

The alliance covers up to six programs. GSK will pay Isis $35 million upfront and up to $20 million in milestones per program up to phase 2 proof-of-concept. In return, GSK will have the option to license compounds at proof-of-concept, and will be responsible for all further development and commercialization. Isis will be eligible to receive license fees and milestone payments, totaling nearly $1.5 billion, in the event all six programs are successfully developed for one or more indications and commercialized through to agreed upon sales targets. Isis will also receive up to double-digit royalties on sales from any product that is successfully commercialized.

Antisense therapies target the proteins involved in disease processes through the RNA that is involved in building these proteins. The Isis discovery platform develops specific therapies that bind to messenger RNA and inhibit the production of disease-causing proteins. Isis recently announced positive late-stage data from a trial in heterozygous familial hypercholesterolemia patients that demonstrated the therapeutic effect of their approach [see story].

Dicerna Pharmaceuticals signed its second RNAi partnership this year, this time with French biopharma Ipsen for the development of new therapeutics in endocrinology and oncology. The collaboration will combine Ipsen’s expertise in peptide engineering platform that allows cell-specific, intracellular delivery with Dicerna’s exclusive Dicer Substrate Technology to silence disease-causing genes. Although financial terms were not disclosed, the deal allows Ipsen and Dicerna to share profits and expenses.

Massachusetts-based Dicerna's January licensing deal with Japanese pharmaceutical company Kyowa Hakko Kirin for the discovery and development of new cancer therapeutics gave the company $4 million upfront and could potentially lead to $1.4 billion in total payments if all ten programs are completed and commercialized.

Washington-based MDRNA (OTCPK:MRNA), another RNAi-based drug discovery and development company, will acquire Cequent Pharmaceuticals, an RNAi drug delivery company, for $46 million in an all stock transaction. The combined company will have multiple proprietary RNAi drug discovery platforms with the capability to deliver RNAi-based therapeutics via systemic, local and oral administration.

The transaction will include certain loan provisions that will fund MDRNA operations through the anticipated closing of the merger in early July 2010. Under the terms of the agreement, each outstanding share of Cequent common stock will be exchanged for MDRNA common stock at an exchange ratio that implies a purchase price for Cequent shareholders of approximately $44 million, plus an additional value of $2 million to warrant and option holders, based on the 10 day Volume-Weighted Average Price of MDRNA shares on March 31, 2010, representing an approximate 56 percent equity ownership for MDRNA shareholders and a 44 percent equity ownership for Cequent shareholders.

India's Ranbaxy Laboratories (OTC:RBXLF) is collaborating with San Diego biotech Pfenex to develop an undisclosed biosimilar therapeutic produced using Pfenex' technology. Under the terms of their agreement, Pfenex is eligible to receive maintenance fees, milestone payments as well as royalty payments on any product sales derived from the agreement.

Ranbaxy and Pfenex scientists will collaborate on developing the production strains and the process that will be used to produce products in support of clinical development and commercial production of the biosimilar product.

Finally, Amyris Biotechnologies raised $47.8 million from Singapore-based Temasek Holdings, bringing the total raised by the company to $244 million since its 2003 inception. Major investors in Amyris include Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers, Khosla Ventures, TPG Biotechnology, Votorantim Novos Negocios, Advanced Equities, DAG Ventures, Grupo Cornélio Brennand, Naxos UK, The Westly Group and Stratus Group.

Emeryville, California-based Amyris intends to use these funds to support commercial plant design and construction activities as well as ongoing operations in the United States and Brazil. The company uses synthetic biology to engineer yeast to produce renewable hydrocarbons from biomass. The company has a Brazilian subsidiary and extensive presence in Brazil through partnerships with sugarcane mills where it provides technology and plant design and mill owners contribute capital to convert their mills to produce Amyris' products.

Q1 2010 Top Ten Financings

Company

Ticker

Amount Raised (USD M)

Principal Focus

Venture

IkaSystems

120.0

Healthcare management IT

Intuity Medical

64.0

Diagnostics

Tandem Diabetes Care

52.0

Medical devices

NGM Biopharmaceuticals

51.0

Metabolic

TransMedics

36.0

Medical devices

Genetix Pharmaceuticals

35.0

Gene/cell therapy

Alnara Pharmaceuticals

35.0

Metabolic

Eleven Biotherapeutics

35.0

Autoimmune

Pulmonx

31.6

Respiratory Medical devices

PatientSafe Solutions

30.0

Healthcare IT

IPOs

Ironwood Pharmaceuticals

IRWD

$215.60

Gastrointestinal

AVEO Pharmaceuticals

AVEO

$89.70

Oncology

Anthera Pharmaceuticals

ANTH

$42.00

Inflammatory

CorMedix

CRMD-U

$13.50

Diagnostics

PIPEs

Lexicon Pharmaceuticals

LXRX

75.0

Neurology; autoimmune

Cell Therapeutics

CTIC

30.0

Oncology

GenVec

GNVC

28.0

Oncology

Genta

OTC:GETA

25.0

Oncology

Cell Therapeutics

CTIC

20.0

Oncology

ADVENTRX Pharmaceuticals

ANX

19.0

Oncology

Amicus Therapeutics

FOLD

18.5

Biopharmaceuticals

Chelsea Therapeutics

CHTP

18.2

Biopharmaceuticals

BioSante Pharmaceuticals

BPAX

18.0

Women's health

Anthera Pharmaceuticals

ANTH

17.1

Inflammatory

Follow-ons

AMAG Pharmaceuticals

AMAG

173.7

Anemia

Lexicon Pharmaceuticals

LXRX

111.0

Neurology; autoimmune

Theravance

THRX

99.2

Infectious

InterMune

ITMN

98.7

Pulmonary

ZymoGenetics

ZGEN

96.6

Oncology

Centene

CNC

96.3

Supply/service

Micromet

MITI

80.5

Technology

Dyax

DYAX

55.3

Inflammatory, oncology

Somaxon Pharmaceuticals

SOMX

49.5

Insomnia

Optimer Pharmaceuticals

OPTR

46.8

Infectious

Debt

Medtronic

MDT

3,000.0

Medical devices

Life Technologies

LIFE

1,500.0

Supply/service

Stryker

SYK

500.0

Medtech

Prometheus Laboratories

Private

260.0

Diagnostics

Waters

WAT

100.0

Supply/service

Waters

WAT

100.0

Supply/service

Rentech Energy

RTK

62.5

Renewable Fuels

Vical

VICL

25.0

DNA delivery

Poniard Pharmaceuticals

OTCPK:PARD

20.0

Oncology

Dynavax Technologies

DVAX

20.0

Infectious

Source: Biotech Deal Activity Takes a Breather