NCBiotech News

We work hard to bring you the stories about the life science community in North Carolina. Every once in a while, we add a little news of our own. Read some of those stories below, or check out some of our perspectives on our staff blog.

Metabolon, a Research Triangle Park company that develops biomarkers for disease detection, has reported finding a molecule in urine that may indicate a man's level of prostate cancer progression.

Metabolon and fellow researchers at the University of Michigan say the discovery could lead to simple, non-invasive tests for men to determine how or whether to treat the disease.

Wilmington-based contract research firm PPD is getting $5 million in milestone payments from Janssen-Cilag, an Alza Corp. affiliate, thanks to successful regulatory approvals in Finland and Sweden for PPD's drug Priligy that treats men with premature ejaculation.

PPD licensed the development rights for Priligy to Alza, calling for PPD to receive a $2.5 million milestone payment for each of the first two national approvals.

Wilmington-based PPD will acquire AbC.R.O., Inc., a contract research organization that operates in Central and Eastern Europe.

As a result, PPD will gain immediate entry into Romania, Bulgaria, Serbia and Croatia, and will strengthen its existing staff and operations in Poland, Russia and Ukraine.

Raleigh-based BioDelivery Sciences has reported encouraging Phase I clinical trial results for Bioral Amphotericin B, the company's lead product candidate incorporating its Bioral drug delivery technology aimed at oral dosing of the antifungal medicine that has been otherwise limited to intravenous use.

The patented Bioral drug delivery technology permits oral dosing by encapsulating drugs in a lipid crystal. The company said the initial test in 48 healthy human volunteers has shown the technology to be safe and well tolerated.

Scientists at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill School of Medicine have discovered a gene that, when mutated, or "knocked out," in mice, causes obesity by dampening the body's ability to burn energy while leaving appetite unaffected.

The research could potentially lead to new drugs for treating obesity in humans that do not target the brain, according to study senior author Yi Zhang, Ph.D.

Norris Tolson, president and CEO of the North Carolina Biotechnology Center, will be one of three honored with the prestigious Watauga Medal by North Carolina State University for his distinguished service to the university at the university's Founders' Day Dinner March 9.

Targacept, a clinical-stage biopharmaceutical company developing a new class of drugs known as NNR Therapeutics, announced that J. Donald deBethizy, Ph.D., President and Chief Executive Officer, is scheduled to present at the 11th Annual BIO CEO and Investor Conference at the Waldorf-Astoria Hotel in New York City on Tuesday, February 10 at 11:00 a.m.

Last year, Exigent Pharmaceuticals of Durham received a $250,000 Small Business Research Loan from the Biotechnology Center. The company is developing compounds that would prevent the spread of drug-resistant bacteria.

This week, TechJournalSouth featured the company in its article "Exigent Pharmaceuticals wants to beat drug-resistant bugs." It is excerpted below.

Raleigh-based BioMarck Pharmaceuticals which was started with the help of a $15,000 loan from the North Carolina Biotechnology Center, said it recently received $990,000 of a $3 million federal grant.

The firm, a 2002 spin-out from North Carolina State University, is conducting successful clinical trials with an inhaled drug to combat the over-secretion of mucus and reduce inflammation. The technology has garnered nearly $16 million in follow-on and venture funding, including the grant from the National Institutes of Health announced this week.

An agreement between the U.S. Food and Drug Administration and Durham-based Inspire Pharmaceuticals has opened the door to the firm's fifth attempt to prove its Prolacria dry-eye treatment should be approved for marketing.

After lengthy negotiations with the regulators, Inspire has begun a Phase III test of Prolacria in 450 patients in United States and Canada to determine if its benefits outweigh any downsides.

Inspire is developing treatments for various respiratory and eye diseases caused by malfunctions in hydration of the body's mucosal tissues.

Medical device maker ConvaTec has settled on Greensboro to expand its manufacturing operations.

The company plans to hire 30 machine operators and mechanics at an average salary of $44,000. ConvaTec will also convert warehouse space to manufacturing and invest $19.55 million in machinery, equipment and building upfit.

Vince Mendenhall, D.V.M., Ph.D., joins Wake Forest University Baptist Medical Center as director of the new preclinical surgical services (PSS) section, located at the Piedmont Triad Research Park.

Chapel Hill drug company POZEN announced today that it has received good news from federal regulators in the company's efforts to commercialize two of its experimental medicines.

Mardil, a Morrisville cardiac device company, reported "significant improvement in heart function" for the first human receiving its implanted device as part of a clinical trial being conducted in India.

The Mardil device, called BACE (an acronym for Basal Annuloplasty of the Cardia Externally), was pioneered by cardiothoracic surgeon Jai Raman, M.D., in an effort to develop a minimally invasive approach to treating mitral regurgitation.

North Carolina's broad pharmaceutical base continued to absorb global changes in the industry with this week's $68 billion purchase of Wyeth by Pfizer -- the largest such combination since Glaxo Wellcome bought SmithKline Beecham for $76 billion in 2000.

Here are some of the ways North Carolina is affected:

* Wyeth employs about 1,000 people at a manufacturing plant in Sanford -- one of Wyeth's largest.