Editor’s note: BioWatch is a regular feature on Fridays.PharmaDirections, a drug-development consulting service formed last year, says it sees activity in the biotech sector heating up in the southeast.

“People I speak with in outsourcing, consulting, and general biotech say things are starting to heat up and move in the right direction,” says Yonnie Butler, director of marketing and sales at the company.

Butler tells Local Tech Wire PharmaDirections currently has more than 25 clients, about a quarter of them in the southeast, and expects to grow. The firm is advertising three jobs on its web site.

Butler says the company has added several clients in recent weeks. “We haven’t seen buckets of money rolling in yet, but things are going in the right direction,” he says.

PharmaDirections employs 24 senior associates used case-by-case nationally and four full time in its Cary office. Butler says The company helps its clients “speed the drug development process, create focused outsourcing strategies, and preserve working capital.” Doing those things helps the small and medium sized biotech clients “build value,” he says.

Case studies cited on the PharmaDirections Web site include one in which it helped a start-up cut three months off its development time and saved it $1 million through an outsourcing plan. The company is not identified.

The company was founded by Richard Soltero, Ph.D., former executive director of pharmaceutical development and analytical chemistry at Nobex Corp. At Nobex, Soltero led the strategic development of an orally delivered protein product that was licensed to GlaxoSmithKline in a $280 million deal in 2003.

Soltero also held senior management positions at Magellan Laboratories, Johnson & Johnson, and Ciba-Geigy. He has 45 scientific papers to his credit and five patent applications.

“Our goal is to help companies get the best value from contract research in preclinical and pharmaceutical development programs,” says Soltero. “We’ve spent years guiding drugs through the development process and we’re ready to put that experience to work for innovative companies.”

MediWave gets grant

MediWave Star Technology Inc., which is based Greensboro and has developed a qualitative measurement of individual cardiac health, has received a $150,000 research grant from the NC Biotechnology Center.

MediWave says its technology is easy, noninvasive, highly accurate and cuts diagnostic costs. The money from the Biotech Center will help the company validate the technology clinically and refine it.

Raising the Center’s funding for early stage grants is one of the recommendations in the Biotech Strategic Plan now being considered by Gov. Mike Easley. Early stage research support from the Biotech Center in the past helped companies such as AlphaVax and Embrex (Nasdaq:EMBX) and it provided loans or loan guarantees to Diosynth and Trimeris (Nasdaq:TRMS).

Funding in weeks?

Affinergy Chief Executive Officer Peyton Anderson tells Local Tech Wire the start-up may have news on an initial round of funding close to $1 million in four to eight weeks.

The start-up makes coatings Anderson calls “biological glue” that improves medical devices such as hip and knee replacements and in catheters.

The company secured the license to its Duke University-developed technology Feb. 12.

Pharma IPOs delayed

For a while, it looked as if a biotech/pharmaceutical window for initial public offerings of stock might be opening and companies nationally lined up to jump through it.

Locally, a handful of biotech and pharmaceutical companies that may be considering an IPO attended a hush-hush meeting at the Biotech Center for a primer on the process of going out.

The quiet treatment was necessary because the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) frowns upon even a hint of preliminary publicity on the part of a company or anyone connected to it if an IPO is in the works.

But a good many of the pharmaceutical companies that rushed toward that open window recently are pausing before making the leap. Reuter’s points out that the pharmaceutical companies that got out earlier this month and those in line this week both fared poorly.

San Diego-based Anadys Pharmaceuticals Inc., which is developing hepatitis C treatments, delayed pricing and slashed its estimated issue price to $7 to $8 a share from $11 to $14 a share. No new launch date has been set.

Memory Pharmaceuticals of Montvale, New Jersey, working on drugs for schizophrenia, dementia and Alzheimer’s, did not price this Tuesday or Wednesday as planned.

Xcyte Therapies Inc. (Nasdaq:XCYT), which launched its IPO March 16 at $8 a share, half its original estimated price, and has since dropped to $7.40. Similarly, Tercica Inc. (Nasdaq:TRCA) dropped its IPO price to $9 from an estimate of $14-to $16 a share. It too slumped in Thursday trading.

PharmaDirections: www.pharmadirections.com

Affinergy: www.affinergy.com

Biotech Center: wwwncbiotech.org