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Raleigh-Durham Roundup: Sprout Pharma, DARA Bio, Viamet, & More

Xconomy Raleigh-Durham — 

Here are the headlines in North Carolina tech, biotech, and cleantech news.

—The Sprout Pharmaceuticals female sexual desire drug that twice failed to secure FDA approval can now claim the backing of an FDA advisory panel—with conditions. The panel voted 18-6 on Thursday to support flibanserin’s (Addyi) approval as long as the Raleigh, NC, company’s drug is also subject to programs monitoring its safety.

Sprout licensed flibanserin from Boehringer Ingelheim after the German company failed in 2010 to win approval for the drug to treat hypoactive sexual desire disorder—essentially low libido. Two years later, the FDA declined Sprout’s application, again raising questions about the drug’s safety and efficacy. Despite the advisory panel’s support for the Sprout drug, the FDA is under no obligation to follow the panel’s vote and could decline approval yet again.

DARA BioSciences (NASDAQ: DARA) is set to be acquired by United Kingdom-based Midatech Pharma in a stock deal that will join the commercialized cancer product portfolio of DARA with the cancer treatment pipeline of Midatech.

Under the terms of the deal, Midatech will issue new shares, available to DARA stockholders as American depository receipts—stock that trades in the United States but represents shares in a foreign corporation. Those shares will be valued at $1.20 per DARA share, a 50.8 percent premium over DARA’s closing 79 cents closing price on June 3, the last trading day before the deal was announced. DARA shareholders will own 16 percent of Midatech when the acquisition closes. DARA shareholders could also earn up to $5.7 million in cash if DARA hits sales targets in 2016 and 2017.

—The U.S. Department of Defense awarded Viamet Pharmaceuticals a $1.95 million grant to study the company’s topical antifungal as a potential treatment for mold infections in battlefield wounds. Funding started in April and will continue for three years. Durham, NC-based Viamet, which last fall raised $60 million and spun out its cancer program as a separate company, is already in mid-stage clinical trials studying its antifungal as a treatment for vaginal yeast infections.

—Akoustis Technologies is North Carolina’s newest publicly traded technology company. Huntersville, NC-based Akoustis, which is developing telecommunications technology for mobile devices, completed a reverse merger with Nevada company Danlax and raised $5.3 million in a private placement.

Akoustis (OTCQB: AKTS), which was founded about a year ago, is developing filter products for radio frequency filters for mobile wireless devices. The company says RF filters determine which radio frequency signals are transmitted and received by the mobile-wireless handset. Several members of the company’s executive team are veterans of former Greensboro, NC, telecom technology company RF Micro Devices, including CEO Jeffrey Shealy. The private placement financing was led by Montrose Capital Partners. Akoustis plans to use the financing to accelerate development of its filter technology.

—North Carolinians now have a way to comparison shop online for solar energy installations. Energy software startup EnergySage launched its online marketplace for North Carolina in partnership with the North Carolina Clean Energy Technology Center at North Carolina State University.

EnergySage operates online marketplaces that allow businesses and consumers to look up equipment and installation costs for solar arrays. The Boston company last month raised $1.5 million in a Series A round of financing led by LaunchPad Venture Group, which the company plans to apply toward its national expansion plans. EnergySage now operates online marketplaces in more than 30 states.