Ercole Biotech, a University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill spin-out founded a year ago, landed its first big partnership this week with Isis Pharmaceuticals in California.

The deal included a debt convertible to equity investment in Ercole that brings its total to $2.2 million to date. The company is seeking $10 million in venture backing for its RNA-based technology that pinpoints genetic targets overlooked by other methods.

At the Biotech 2003 event Wednesday, Ercole CEO Richard Kouri said the deal with Isis, which also bases its technology on UNC research, took over a year to negotiate. The two companies are hunting for new drugs to treat prostate cancer, psoriasis, heart and genetic disease. Kouri says Ercole believes it is only 12 to 18 months from filing for an Investigative New Drug application with the U.S. Food and Drug Administration for its first drug.

Kouri, who says Ercole is his tenth start-up, said he has yet another in the works but that it is too early to talk about the venture.

Open house at BioLink

BioLink Life Sciences Inc., which recently moved into new 5,300 square foot offices and laboratories in Cary, is holding open house the morning of June 3.

BioLink, founded by DeAnna Nelson in 2001, sells specialized biological reagents used in research. It is developing unique biosensors with the University of Washington at Madison. It provides a variety of consulting and research services to drug development firms large and small, focusing on drugs development problems.

The company constructed its own office-lab complex when it didn’t find what it wanted already available.

The open house at 250 Quade Drive is 8 to 10 AM and includes a continental breakfast. You can let the company know you’re coming at

Forum influenced Biotech 2003

Noah Pickus, director of the Emerging Issues Institute at North Carolina State University, says one executive at the Biotech 2003 event Wednesday told him, “This is you.”

The event’s focus on expanding North Carolina’s biotechnology industry statewide, its emphasis on doing that by attracting further biomanufacturing facilities, and its discussion of alternative financing methods reflect goals established at an Emerging Issues Forum two years ago.

Leslie Alexandre, president of the North Carolina Biotechnology Center mentioned during one panel discussion that a Wyeth executive told her North Carolina may already be number one in biomanufacturing facilities nationally.

The effectiveness of lobbying efforts by the Center, the Forum, and NC Bio, the state arm of the national industry group, was clear from Gov. Mike Easley’s remarks during lunch at the event supporting several key items of their agenda.

Easley promises help:

Biotech 2003 coverage: