Editor’s note: RTP Beat is a regular feature on Thursdays.Founder, Chairman and Chief Executive John Bennett, Ph.D., has resigned from Insect Biotechnology Inc. (IBI), a product development company focused on pesticides and insect repellants.
According to a recent letter IBI sent to local business partners and venture capital firms, the 10-year-old biotech firm’s efforts to obtain financing have been unsuccessful. As a result, certain investors and board members have “stepped forward” to maintain funding through October. The letter said the company’s board has accepted Bennett’s resignation and that Alan Brandt, Ph.D., IBI’s founder, president and chief operating officer, and Luther Hodges, a board member, are analyzing the company’s position and future prospects.
Dr. Brandt confirmed the details of the letter but declined to comment on Bennett’s resignation.
Dr. Bennett was the former chief executive of Protein Delivery (now Nobex).
The letter also said IBI needs $50,000 to fund the company through the end of the year. It’s seeking $2 to $3 million in venture capital financing to fund the development, approval and commercialization of its repellant technology, “Skeeter Shield,” which the company deems to be its key product.
The Durham company expects to receive Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) registration approval for its “Skeetercide” product, an all-natural pesticide that kills mosquito larvae, near the end of the year, says Brandt.
“Skeetercide” was delayed in the EPA approval process, taking up more time and money than the company expected, says a source close to the company.
Meanwhile, IBI’s insect repellant, “Skeeter Shield,” is in the final stages of development and expected to be fast-tracked once it goes to the EPA for registration, according to a source close to the company. That’s because the basic chemical of the product…which is plant derived and synthetically produced…has been used for a wide array of medicinal salves and perfumes, and has a long safety record, says the source.
“Testing and international alliances are developing for the repellant technology,” says Brandt.
The company hopes to market the product as a spray that will be as effective and less toxic than the well known, widely used repellant DEET. DEET is not recommended for frequent, long-term use and on young children.
IBI was founded in 1993, years before the technology was ready for commercialization. The company licensed the patented technology from the University of Florida and became fully operational in 1998. Since then it has raised a total of $6.8 million in venture capital financing. Its lead investor is Durham-based Aurora Funds.
BrontoMail has 27 new clients to roar about
BrontoMail, a provider of e-mail distribution management technology, says it signed 27 new clients in the third quarter, a 37 percent growth in its customer base. The company’s newest clients include public relations firm Porter Novelli, the John Templeton Foundation, the University of California at Davis Mondavi Center for Performing Arts, and Duke University’s Office of Alumni Affairs.
Joe Colopy, co-founder and president of Durham-based BrontoMail, says the boost in business can be attributed to a number of factors, such as the company fine-tuning its sales and marketing process, hiring a dedicated sales person in May and new features that it has added to its product. BrontoMail’s Web-based tools help public relations firms, law firms and nonprofits manage e-mail marketing, including list managers that keep track of new members and those who want to opt out. Clients can also track the number of people who click through in an e-mail newsletter, survey or press release.
“Most of our new clients comes from search engines,” says Colopy. “We are putting more and more money into paid placement on Google, which has been effective.”
Colopy adds that he and co-founder Chaz Felix, two former Red Hatters, have consciously bootstrapped the company since its inception in May 2002. The fledgling startup has four full-time and two part-time employees.
Hats Off Communications debuts the Cooking Show
Four former Red Hatters who founded Hats Off Communications are debuting the Cooking Show, their first culinary event, this Saturday at the Raleigh Convention Center. Created as an all-day event to bring the community together, the Cooking Show will feature food and wine tasting, cooking demonstrations and entertainment ideas. Celebrity chef Alton Brown, best known as the quirky host of the Food Network’s “Good Eats” program, will provide cooking demonstrations of two of his favorite dishes: salt-roasted shrimp and tempura shrimp.
“This show is a learning show…for everyone involved, us included,” says Melissa London of Hats Off, “so we’re looking forward to building a long-lasting, dynamic event here in Raleigh.”
Tickets can purchased in advance for $15 from the Cooking Show Web site (www.thecookingshow.com); at the door, they’re $20. If you need another reason to attend, a portion of the show’s proceeds benefits the Family Violence Prevention Center (Admittedly, an agency for which I volunteer) and the Food Bank of N.C.
WindChannel adds hotspots with AirPath Wireless partnership
WindChannel Communications’ SitSpot Wireless division has teamed with Toledo, Ohio-based AirPath to provide SitSpot users with wireless high-speed Internet access at AirPath’s Wi-Fi network in areas outside SitSpot’s local coverage territory. The partnership gives SitSpot users Wi-Fi access at more than 1,000 coffee shops, airports, restaurants and hotels around the world.
Founded last year, Raleigh-based WindChannel is a fixed wireless broadband provider.
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