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Syngenta, NC Biotech, PSEG Solar, & More NC Innovation News

Xconomy Raleigh-Durham — 

Panthers country is licking its wounds from Sunday night’s big game, but there’s plenty going on in the business community to take minds off of the stinging Super Bowl defeat. Here’s a recap of some of the top headlines in North Carolina biotech, tech, and cleantech news.

—Switzerland-based agribusiness giant Syngenta (NYSE: SYT), which maintains its biotechnology R&D headquarters in Research Triangle Park, is weighing a $43 billion acquisition offer from China-based ChemChina. If Syngenta shareholders and regulators approve the deal, it would be the largest ever foreign acquisition by a Chinese company, according to The Associated Press. ChemChina pledges to keep Syngenta management in place. The ChemChina offer comes after Syngenta rejected a $46.5 billion offer from rival Monsanto (NYSE: MON).

—The North Carolina Biotechnology Center, which provides a mix of loans and grants to support early-stage life science research, announced that it awarded $1.3 million in its fiscal second quarter ending Dec. 31. Part of that funding included $600,000 in awards for the Biotech Center’s inaugural round of Biotechnology Innovation Grants, a program that specifically supports life science inventions at North Carolina research institutions. Grant recipients included projects at the University of North Carolina, Greensboro; North Carolina State University, and the Duke University Medical Center.

—Heat Biologics (NASDAQ: HTBX) stopped enrolling new patients in a Phase 2 study of its bladder cancer treatment after the FDA imposed a partial clinical hold on the trial. The FDA’s action follows disclosure by Durham-based Heat that the cell line used as the source to make its cancer immunotherapy was previously misidentified. Heat reported no injuries in the trial and the FDA is permitting already enrolled patients to continue in the study.

—PSEG Solar Source paid more than $40 million to acquire a 25.9 megawatt North Carolina solar project under construction by Ecoplexus. Under the deal, Ecoplexus will operate the solar project after it is completed. Newark, NJ-based PSEG Solar has a 15-year agreement with a subsidiary of Virginia-based Dominion Resources (NYSE: D), which will purchase power produced by the site, located about 80 miles east of Raleigh in Martin County. PSEG Solar says the North Carolina solar site is the company’s 50th utility-scale project in 11 states.

—In other cleantech news, the state’s clean energy economy accounted for $7 billion in revenue and more than 26,000 jobs in 2015, according to the North Carolina Sustainable Energy Association’s annual Clean Energy Industry Census. The solar industry continued to be a bright spot for the state, accounting for $1.8 billion in revenue and 20 percent of the total clean energy businesses in North Carolina. In 2015, North Carolina became the fourth state—following California, Arizona, and New Jersey—to surpass 1 gigawatt of installed solar capacity, the association says.

—When Google Fiber goes live in North Carolina, the fiber-to-the-home effort will also reach low-income housing. Google announced in a blog post that it is partnering with U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development and the White House to bring its speedy Internet connections to public housing—at no cost to housing authorities or their residents. This partnership is already bringing fiber Internet to housing in Kansas City, MO, and Google says it will roll these connections out to “select public and affordable housing” in its other markets as Google Fiber goes live. Google announced last year that Raleigh-Durham and Charlotte were among four new Google Fiber markets.

—Education technology startup ProctorFree landed funding that the company plans to apply toward its software, sales and marketing, and new hires. The Huntersville-based company did not disclose how much money it received but a security filing shows the company raised nearly $1.3 million. The company says Real Ventures led the round, which included participation by Task Force X Capital, as well as some undisclosed individual investors. ProctorFree provides automated exam proctoring for schools and businesses that administer online tests.

Photo courtesy of Flickr user Daniel X. O’Neil via a Creative Commons license.