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.

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.

GlaxoSmithKline (GSK), which maintains its U.S. headquarters in the Triangle, is adding new drugs to its lineup and expanding its reach in emerging markets through acquisition rather than development.

GSK plans to spend $667 million to acquire certain drugs and distribution rights to those drugs from Belgium-based UCB.

The deal also includes some 50 UCB operations in the Far-East, Middle-East, Latin America and Africa.

As farmers look to get more out of each acre of farmland, St. Louis-based Monsanto is exploring unique ways to discover and deliver more desirable traits through the seed. Monsanto's new collaboration with GrassRoots Biotechnology Inc. is expected to do just that by expanding the benefits of Monsanto's research and product portfolio for its farmer customer.

Morrisville-based Centice, a Duke University spin-out that is developing a computerized sensor-based drug verification system for safer dispensing of medicines, has raised another $2 million, this time as bridge financing.

It's Centice's third round of funding, according to Dow Jones VentureWire and Triangle Business. The firm is commercializing its PASS Rx pharmaceutical authentication sensor system with help from an $11.3 million second round in November 2007. It closed a $3 million A round in 2004.

Zen-Bio, of Research Triangle Park, has been awarded a $1.88 million Phase II Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) grant to help it commercialize its line of synthetically grown human cells for use by scientists studying obesity, diabetes, and common cancers.

Dogs at North Carolina State University suffering from lymphoma and leukemia are now receiving the same type of medical treatment offered elsewhere to humans.

Steven Suter, D.V.M., assistant professor of oncology, has made NCSU's College of Veterinary Medicine the first in the nation to offer canine bone marrow transplants in a clinical setting. He's providing the treatment on three leukophoresis machines donated by the Mayo Clinic of Rochester, Minn.

Asklepios BioPharmaceutical (AskBio), a Chapel Hill-based spin-out from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill founded with funding support from the North Carolina Biotechnology Center, has entered a collaboration with a Massachusetts firm to develop AskBio's technologies to battle amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS, known as Lou Gehrig's disease).