BioWatch appears on Local Tech Wire every Friday

RESEARCH TRIANGLE–The Golden Leaf Foundation is working on a new agreement with BioVista, which missed a second and final deadline to raise a prescribed amount of money for a biotech fund.

BioVista and Golden Leaf signed an agreement in December 2002 calling for BioVista to raise $30 million which the Foundation would then match. The Foundation advanced BioVista $250,000 a 7 percent interest, half the cost of setting up the fund.

Valeria Lee, head of the Foundation, says some have criticized the it for not putting out bids. “We looked at all the fund in North Carolina and others from out of state, but you don’t put out bids for venture funds,” Lee says.

She says BioVista came to the Foundation with the original proposal, which it saw as a way to explore setting up a venture fund with the specific goal of investing in late stage biotech companies.

The basic goal of such investments is to develop more biomanufacturing in the state, Lee says, which is in line with the “New Jobs Across North Carolina” strategic biotech economic development plan submitted to Gov. Easley by the Biotech Center early this year.

Original deal dead

Lee says the Foundation could have hired consultants to explore the venture fund possibilities and spent more to accomplish what it has with the $250,000 loan it still expects to produce results or re-coup.

The original agreement expired Dec. 31 last year and the Foundation gave BioVista a 90-day extension, which expired in March. That agreement is now dead, Lee says.

“That particular arrangement did not materialize and we have no formal agreement with them. We are considering another investment with them, but it would be a different agreement altogether. We should complete all the arrangements by the middle of May, but certainly by the end of May,” Lee tells LTW.

Lee says Golden Leaf still expects positive results from its relationship with BioVista. “We expect to recoup the $250,000 and think the new arrangement will be very positive for the industry and for North Carolina. We’re pleased with what’s unfolding.”

Clay Thorpe, managing partner of BioVista, was on vacation, but his office said he would probably say “no comment,” in any event. “He worked hard trying raise that fund all year and it’s a much deserved vacation,” says Lee.

Clemson Biotech Complex

Clemson University in South Carolina wants a piece of the biotechnology pie. Thursday it dedicated its new Biosystems Research Complex and announced a DNA Learning Center.

A news release about the $27 million complex, called biotechnology the “field of dreams for many research universities and states.”

The 108,000 square feet of state-of-the-art labs and 40,000 square feet of greenhouses were built with the support of the South Carolina General Assembly.

Clemson is a nationally recognized research university where approximately 17,000 students pursue more than 80 undergraduate and 100 graduate degree programs in five academic colleges.

The DNA Learning Center, to be funded by both public and private funds, is dedicated to “genetic literacy” among the state’s teachers, students, and public.

“Genetic literacy is essential to help us better manage our own health and our family’s health and to understand the life-science issues affecting our lives and livelihoods,” said Doris R. Helms, a biologist as well as Clemson provost.

Robert E. Ballard, Clemson biology professor who will be director, said,”We will follow the Dolan DNA Learning Center model, seeking
grants, contributions, private support and fees.”

The Dolan DNA Learning Center is the world’s first science center devoted entirely to public genetics education. It is an operating unit of Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory, an important center for molecular genetics research. The center extends the laboratory’s traditional research and postgraduate education mission to the college, pre-college
and public levels.

The SC center has a number of programs scheduled beginning this June.