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.

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).

Bayer CropScience, which has United States headquarters in Research Triangle Park, has given $1 million to North Carolina State University to endow a chair in sustainable development.

Tom Rufty, Ph.D., co-director of the Center for Turfgrass Environmental Research and Education and a professor of environmental plant physiology in the Department of Crop Science, has been named the first Bayer CropScience Professor of Sustainable Development.

Liverpool, England-based Eden Biodesign Ltd. has opened its United States subsidiary, Eden Biodesign Inc., with the appointment of Maria Lusk as director of client management at the new Research Triangle Park facility.

Lusk, former project manager and business development manager at PharmaDirections, has 17 years' experience in biotechnology and the pharmaceutical industry, including roles at Diosynth, Bayer and LabCorp.

BioDelivery Sciences International (BDSI) of Raleigh has signed a research collaboration and licensing agreement with a global non-profit foundation to develop a BioDelivery therapy targeting neglected parasitic diseases such as leishmaniasis and Chagas disease found primarily in developing countries.

BDSI signed the agreement with the Drugs for Neglected Diseases initiative (DNDi), a foundation focused on the development of new drugs and new formulations of existing drugs for patients suffering from some of the world's most neglected communicable diseases.

Athenix, an 8-year-old Research Triangle Park agricultural biotechnology company whose research was advanced by a $150,000 Small Business Research loan from the North Carolina Biotechnology Center in 2002, has entered a collaboration with DuPont's Pioneer Hi-Bred business to develop genetic insect resistance in corn and soybeans.

Under the agreement, DesMoines, Iowa-based Pioneer will use proprietary insect-resistance trait genes from Athenix to develop and commercialize next-generation corn and soybean seed products. Terms of the agreement were not disclosed.