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J.P. Morgan Healthcare Conference deal roundup

SAN FRANCISCO – As investors digested headline-grabbing deals unspooled at the outset of the J.P. Morgan Healthcare Conference, including big acquisitions disclosed by Massachusetts biotechs Shire PLC, Biogen Idec Inc., and Foundation Medicine Inc., other mostly smaller deal announcements have continued to trickle out at the investors gathering this week.

They included not only drug makers snapping up startups but collaborations and licensing deals by companies eager to share the cost and risk of bringing new therapies to market. Here are some involving Massachusetts businesses:

• Moderna Therapeutics Inc. of Cambridge, which secured $450 million in financing earlier this month to work on 45 experimental drugs using messenger RNA technology, struck a licensing and collaboration deal with pharmaceutical giant Merck & Co.


Under the deal, Merck will make an upfront payment of $50 million for rights to as many as five of Moderna’s drug candidates. It will also take a $50 million ownership stake in the Cambridge biotech.

* Vedanta Biosciences, a Boston startup developing drugs to fight autoimmune diseases, said it has reached a license agreement with Janssen Pharmaceutical Cos., an arm of health care giant Johnson & Johnson.

The deal, negotiated by J&J’s innovation center in Cambridge, gives Janssen rights to commercialize Vedanta’s drug candidate for irritable bowel disease.

Under the terms, Janssen will make an undisclosed upfront payment to Vedanta, which was formed by Boston’s PureTech Ventures, and additional payments totaling up to $241 million if the drug meets development and business milestones.

• Cambridge startup Annovation Biopharma Inc., which is developing safer therapies for anesthesia and critical care, was sold to the Medicines Cos., a Parsippany, N.J. drug maker, for an upfront payment of $28.4 million and additional payments of up to $26.3 million if Annovation achieves certain clinical and regulatory milestones.

Annovation was funded by Atlas Venture of Cambridge and the Partners Innovation Fund, an arm of Boston’s Partners HealthCare System, which owns Massachusetts General and Brigham and Women’s hospitals.


“It’s a powerful, exciting technology,” said Chris Coburn, vice president of innovation at Partners HealthCare. “From our standpoint, this is a state-of-the-art deal.”

On Sunday, on the eve of the J.P. Morgan conference, Irish drug maker Shire, which has its US base in Lexington, said it agreed to buy NPS Pharmaceuticals Inc. of Bedminster, N.J., for about $5.2 billion, a deal partly funded by a breakup fee from drug giant AbbVie Inc., which canceled its own plan to buy Shire.

Meanwhile, the Cambridge cancer diagnostic company Foundation said Swiss pharma Roche AG will spend more than $1 billion to take a majority stake in Foundation.

And biotech Biogen Idec Inc. of Cambridge said it will pay as much as $675 million to purchase British biotech Convergence Pharmaceuticals.

Robert Weisman can be reached at robert.weisman@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @GlobeRobW.