Editor’s note: BioWatch is a regular feature on Fridays.Malcolm Kendall, a former partner with BioVista Capital, tells Local Tech Wire that he’s still consulting with the Durham-based venture firm although no longer a partner.

BioVista is running late in its attempt to trigger a $30 million contribution to its fund by the Golden LEAF Foundation, by raising $30 million on its own. The fund originally planned to raise its portion of the fund by last summer, but now says it expects to close near the Golden LEAF deadline of December.

If BioVista raises its $30 million, triggering the Golden LEAF contribution of $20 million in 30 days, it plans to invest the money in biotech companies. Golden LEAF would then release another $10 million in increments of $1 million for every $3 million raised by BioVista, also targeted at biotech investment, although BioVista has said it may invest as much as 30 percent of a planned $120 million fund out of state.

Kendall says he left BioVista as a partner because he couldn’t take the same level of risk as the other partners but left on good terms. “They’re still paying me to consult,” he says. Kendall is familiar in the Research Triangle entrepreneurial community from his previous position as an associate at Intersouth Partners.

Biotech summit draws 3 Triangle speakers

Three prominent area venture capitalists will be among the featured speakers and panelists at annual Virginia biotechnology industry conference October 13-15.

Jeff Clark and Doug Gooding of the Aurora Funds, and Garheng Kong of Intersouth Partners are on the agenda.

Clark tells LTW he will appear on a venture capitalist panel talking about the latest trends and key issues in venture financing of biotech. “I’ve spoken there prior years and there’s a lot of activity, especially from the DC to Baltimore corridor, Richmond and Charlottesville.”

Clark says the trend he sees is “that companies are getting financed, even some early stage companies. The level of activity is picking up. We’re seeing strong deal flow. We’re actively working on several new deals, including some in biotech.”

Last year, the VaBIO Summit was the largest industry-sponsored, state biotechnology event in the Mid-Atlantic region. More than 600 people attended the event.

Major speakers at the 2003 summit include: Dr. Michale Blasese, director of the fund for inherited disease research and former chief of clinical gene therapy at the National Human Genome Research Institute; Kelly Longo, Pfizer Global Research and Development; Dale E. Klein, assistant to the secretary of defense for nuclear and chemical and biological defense programs; Dr. Eric Jakobsson, the recently appointed director of the Center for Bioinformatics and Computational Biology (CBCB) at the National Institutes of Health.

Merix update

We also asked Clark about one of the Aurora Funds current portfolio companies, Merix BioScience. “They continue to make solid progress and they’re well positioned to be successful,” Clark says.

A few months ago, The Triangle Business Journal reported Merix was experiencing difficulties with additional financing and its research program. Clark says the company is “working through financing strategies. Moving a process from the lab to full-fledged production is never easy. But they’re working through fairly standard issues.”

Merix executives have not returned LTW calls to comment.