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Raleigh-Durham Roundup: Cree, Google Fiber, Bayer CropScience, & More

Xconomy Raleigh-Durham — 

Here are the highlights from recent North Carolina tech and biotech news:

Cree (NASDAQ: CREE) is restructuring its LED products business in response to an oversupply of LEDs and a weakening forecast for LED sales. The company said it would consolidate two manufacturing plants at its home in Durham, NC, and two in China to bring excess LED capacity in line with demand. Cree also announced a $500 million stock buyback plan.

The restructuring comes a month after Cree announced plans to spin off its Power & Radio Frequency Products unit as a separate company, supported by a public stock offering. At that time, Cree CEO Chuck Swoboda said the spinoff would allow Cree to focus on growing its LED lighting business. Cree has yet to provide any new details on the IPO plans.

—Google Fiber broke ground in North Carolina, beginning construction of its fiber-optic network in the Research Triangle and Charlotte. The two North Carolina markets, along with Atlanta and Nashville, TN, were chosen by Google (NASDAQ: GOOG) in January as the next markets for its speedy Internet service. In the Triangle alone, Google plans to deploy more than 5,700 miles of fiber optic cable, the Raleigh News & Observer reported.

—Bayer CropScience’s expansion at its Research Triangle Park location continued with the agbio company breaking ground on Greenhouse 6, a $34 million research facility. The construction follows the completion of a $33 million office modernization project at the campus. Since 2012, Bayer CropScience has spent nearly $150 million on capital projects in RTP.

—Cystic fibrosis drug developer Spyryx Biosciences received an award from the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation to support the Chapel Hill, NC-based company’s drug development efforts. No financial details of the award were disclosed. It follows an $18 million Series A round that the company raised in May to take its experimental cystic fibrosis drug into clinical trials.

Asklepios BioPharmaceutical, a Chapel Hill biotech company, licensed rights to its gene therapy technology to AveXis. Asklepios said that Dallas, TX-based AveXis will use the technology in its Phase 1 gene transfer clinical trial in spinal muscular atrophy, a hereditary disease that affects motor neurons and causes muscle weakness. In the most severe forms of the disease, it can cause death. Specific financial terms of the deal were not disclosed, but Asklepios said it received an upfront payment and stands to gain milestone payments and royalties if AveXis successfully develops and commercializes its treatment.

—In other innovation news bridging North Carolina and Texas, Durham nutrition app developer InRFood has raised some funding from the Lone Star State. As my colleague Angela Shah reported, InRFood has about $250,000 in seed funding, including a recent investment from Houston Health Ventures. InRFood’s app identifies the ingredients in packaged food products, then flags potential concerns and suggests better options.