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Life Sciences Roundup

Entrepreneur joins Third Rock Ventures

Xconomy.com / February 15, 2010

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Alexis Borisy is back in company-building mode. The former chief executive of CombinatoRx said he has joined Third Rock Ventures in Boston as an entrepreneur in residence, and he’s already at the helm of a secretive new life sciences firm called Foundation Medicine.

Borisy’s departure from CombinatoRx, a Cambridge biotechnology company he cofounded in 2000, was made public in July, when the company said it would merge with NeuroMed Pharmaceuticals Inc. He is officially a scientific adviser to CombinatoRx, but says he isn’t spending much time working with the company.

Borisy and Third Rock partner Mark Levin have been discussing entrepreneurial opportunities in biotech for the past year. Borisy said Third Rock appeals to him because it is focused on backing life sciences start-ups with the potential to improve how certain diseases are treated, and because the firm’s members often take active roles at the companies in which it invests.

As an entrepreneur in residence, Borisy has an office at Third Rock’s Newbury Street headquarters and spends time with other members of the firm assessing and pursuing opportunities to start or invest in companies. His interests have recently centered on personalized medicine, which he defines as “getting the right therapies to the right patients at the right time.’’

Tom Hughes, chief executive of Zafgen Inc., said the Cambridge biotechnology start-up plans to begin human tests of its anti-obesity drug, which it hopes will become the first treatment to produce weight loss dramatic enough to compete with stomach stapling and other bariatric surgeries.

Solace Pharmaceuticals chief executive Eliot Forster confirmed the start-up, founded in 2006 to develop pain treatments, has shuttered its Cambridge operations. The move came after Solace’s lead drug candidate failed in a mid-stage clinical trial. Backed by PureTech Ventures, Polaris Venture Partners, and InterWest Partners, Solace will continue to operate out of its office in the United Kingdom, Forster said.

Genzyme Corp., the Cambridge biotechnology giant, and Isis Pharmaceuticals Inc., of Carlsbad, Calif., reported results from a late-stage clinical trial that indicated their experimental cholesterol-lowering drug, mipomersen, significantly lowers the cholesterol of patients with a rare condition called heterozygous familial hypercholesterolemia. But there is investor concern over the drug also being associated with increases in liver enzymes called transaminases, which can indicate liver damage.

Veteran biotechnology deal maker Adelene Perkins, who took over as chief executive of Infinity Pharmaceuticals Inc. in Cambridge, said she does not plan any radical moves. Perkins said her goal is to build up the commercial side of Infinity, which has yet to bring a drug to market. “You won’t see Infinity embark on an entirely new course,’’ she said. “My signature is very much on the course we’ve taken to date.’’

This report was compiled by the editors of Xconomy, an online news website focused on the business of technology and innovation. For more New England coverage, visit www.xconomy.com/boston.