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Local Tech Wire

RESEARCH TRIANGLE PARK, N.C. – International giant is gobbling up venture capital-backed in a deal that combines companies focused on advances in crop technology.

Financial terms were not disclosed. The companies also must still gain U.S. regulatory approval.

Investors in Athenix, which employs 65 people, include Intersouth Partners in Durham.

Bayer CropScience, which is based in Germany, announced plans in May to expand its operations in Morrisville with as many as 128 new jobs over the next five years. The firm said it would invest some $10.2 million in its Morrisville facility.

The expansion will include a research and development center and the firm’s BioAnalytics and Regulatory Affairs operations..

Among Athenix projects is development of transgenic plants that are resistant to chemicals and pests.

The company also has developed a platform for creation of herbicide tolerance and insect control. The deal not only will provider Bayer CropScience with that platform but also “significantly” expand its research and development capabilities, the company said in a statement.

“The combined talents and capabilities of Bayer CropScience and Athenix will accelerate the market introduction of highly innovative new products that will directly address the global demand for superior agricultural productivity,” said Mike Koziel, chief executive officer at Athenix. “We look forward to offering an enhanced line of products with increased productivity, profitability and sustainability to Bayer CropScience customers.”

Athenix closed on $10 million in new funding in 2008. .Investors included Intersouth, Hunt Ventures and Polaris Venture Partners.

Earlier that year, Athenix landed contract with international agribusiness giant Syngenta.
Financial terms were not disclosed. Syngenta contracted with Athenix to research potential development of protective products for corn and soybeans.

Athenix, which moved into new headquarters in 2007, closed on a $13 million “C” round in 2006. A new investor, Finistere Partners, led that round.

Other investors in Athenix include Boston Millenia Partners and Eastman Ventures, the venture capital arm of Eastman Chemical Company.

In 2004, Athenix raised $12.5 million in an over-subscribed “B” round. The firm launched in 2001 and raised an $8 million “A” round that year.

Among Athenix projects is development of transgenic plants that are resistant to chemicals and pests.

“As part of our long-term strategy for innovation and growth, we intend to strengthen the position of Bayer CropScience in the seeds and traits market,” said Friedrich Berschauer, chairman of the board at Bayer CropScience. “This acquisition underpins the expansion of our BioScience core crop platform and allows Bayer CropScience to create a strong research platform in North America, the most important seed technology market of the world.”

Bayer CropScience employs 18,000 people worldwide, including some 400 in the Triangle.