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Raleigh-Durham Roundup: MaxPoint, Targacept, Frontier Capital, & More

Xconomy Raleigh-Durham — 

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

MaxPoint Interactive (NYSE: MXPT) is North Carolina’s newest publicly traded company. Morrisville, NC-based MaxPoint, whose software analyzes “big data” to help businesses develop targeted marketing campaigns, debuted on the New York Stock Exchange on Friday, pricing its initial public offering at $11.50 per share. At that price, MaxPoint raised $75 million, which the company plans to plow into sales and marketing, as well as software enhancements. The company is also considering expansion overseas.

MaxPoint says it has more than 400 enterprise customers in industries such as retail, health care, and automotive. In 2014, the company reported $106.4 million in revenue. MaxPoint had raised more than $25 million in venture capital, led by its two largest shareholders, Madrona Venture Funds and Trinity Ventures.

—As the markets welcomed a new North Carolina public company, investors are saying goodbye to another. Winston-Salem, NC-based Targacept (NASDAQ: TRGT) announced a definitive agreement to merge with South San Francisco-based Catalyst BioSciences, a deal that enables privately held Catalyst to go public without going through the IPO process. Targacept shareholders will share $20 million in cash, plus $37 million worth of convertible notes. When the deal is complete, Catalyst’s executive team will manage the combined company and Targacept will change its stock symbol to “CBIO.”

Targacept was spun out of R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Co. in 1997 based on the tobacco giant’s research on the effects of nicotine on receptors in the brain. The promise of the company’s research into drugs treating depression, schizophrenia, and Alzheimer’s disease was enough to land a high-profile partnership with AstraZeneca (NYSE: AZN). But Targacept’s lead drug in depression failed in a late-stage clinical trial, starting a long string of clinical trial failures. AstraZeneca finally pulled out of its Targacept partnership last year. Combined, Targacept and Catalyst will have about $35 million in cash, which Catalyst plans to use to finance clinical development of its own drug candidates treating hemophilia.

Frontier Capital closed a $390 million fund for investments in software and technology service companies. The Charlotte, NC-based private equity firm says the fund exceeded its $300 million target. Frontier invests in established companies with annual revenue between $5 million and $30 million. The firm says this fund gives it the ability to invest anywhere from $10 million to $40 million, taking minority and majority ownership positions.

—Kristin Newby, a cardiologist and Duke University professor of medicine, is now the lead scientist for a longitudinal study tracking the health of residents in Kannapolis, NC. The Measurement to Understand the Reclassification of Diseases Cabarrus/Kannapolis, usually referred to as the MURDOCK study, is tracking the health of more than 11,000 residents in Kannapolis and surrounding Cabarrus County to find ways to improve the way diseases are diagnosed and treated. Newby replaces Robert Califf, who in January was named Deputy FDA Commissioner.

—Pharmaceutical manufacturer Patheon acquired IRIX Pharmaceuticals, a maker of pharmaceutical ingredients. Durham, NC-based Patheon did not disclose any financial details for its purchase of IRIX, a Florence, SC, company. But Patheon notes that IRIX specializes in making difficult to manufacture active pharmaceutical ingredients. Patheon expects to close the deal within the next two months.