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Raleigh-Durham Roundup: LabCorp, SignalShare, UNC, & More

Xconomy Raleigh-Durham — 

Here are the week’s headlines in North Carolina tech and biotech news:

—LabCorp (NYSE: LH) priced a $2.9 billion offering of senior notes to raise money to cover some costs related to its $6.1 billion acquisition of contract research organization Covance (NYSE: CVD).

Burlington, NC-based LabCorp, a laboratory testing and diagnostics company, announced its deal to buy Covance last November. LabCorp said Covance would help the company expand its reach into the clinical trials space. A Covance shareholder vote approving the sale is scheduled for Feb. 18.

—Morrisville, NC-based SignalShare, a provider of wireless Internet for events, has acquired Incubite, whose messaging application is expected to enhance SignalShare’s Wi-Fi offering.

Mountain View, CA-based Incubite is developing a messaging technology that it says will enable venues to bypass cellular networks. The app is intended to give venues a way to directly connect with event goers to send them messages, pictures, and alerts. SignalShare says that this nGage app will give venues a way to create a “custom branded social media hub” for gatherings and events. No financial terms were disclosed for the deal.

—The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill has formed a $5 million venture fund to invest in early-stage startup companies developing UNC research.

University officials say the Carolina Research Venture Fund will help bridge the capital gap that startup companies face. The fund will be overseen by a board of directors, comprised of trustees, administrators, and researchers. This board will hire independent managers to handle fund operations. The university says its fund will also have an advisory board made up of venture capitalists from across the country.

UNC’s board of trustees approved the concept of a university-backed venture fund in 2013, following an earlier board directive calling for a plan to bring more university research to market. The fund’s $5 million start comes from earnings on university investments of non-state funds.

—Salix Pharmaceuticals (NASDAQ: SLXP) is working with Centerview Holdings Partners to evaluate options that could include a sale of the company, Reuters reported, citing three unidentified sources familiar with the matter.

The report that the Raleigh, NC, gastrointestinal drug company is exploring a possible sale follows the disclosure last November of inventory discrepancies for its top-selling drug, rifaxamin (Xifaxan), a diarrhea drug. Salix said that supplies of the drug were higher than it had previously stated, which led the company to cut its earnings forecast.

CFO Adam Derbyshire resigned following the inventory disclosure; CEO Carolyn Logan retired from the company earlier this month. Thomas D’Alonzo, Salix’s chairman, is acting as interim CEO.

—A manufactured form of insulin administered as a nasal spray may improve memory in patients, including those with Alzheimer’s disease, according to early clinical trial results at Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center in Winston Salem, NC.

The study, funded by grants from the National Institute of Aging and the Department of Veteran Affairs, evaluated 60 adults diagnosed with amnesic mild cognitive impairment or mild to moderate Alzheimer’s dementia. Patients given detemir, a manufactured form of insulin, for 21 days, showed “significant improvement in their short-term ability to retain and process verbal and visual information” compared to those given a placebo.

While previous trials of insulin in patients with Alzheimer’s disease and mild cognitive impairment have shown promise, Wake Forest says this study was the first to test the manufactured form of the hormone, whose effects are longer lasting. Researchers say the results support further study of the manufactured insulin as a treatment for Alzheimer’s disease and other neurodegenerative disorders.