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NC Biotech, Windsor Circle, Willow Hill, & More NC Innovation News

Xconomy Raleigh-Durham — 

Summer is just around the corner, and as rainy April rolls into muggy May, here’s a look at the headlines from the last week in North Carolina tech, biotech, agtech, and cleantech news:

—The North Carolina Biotechnology Center awarded $2.5 million in loans and grants for life sciences work at companies and universities during the fiscal third quarter. Among the companies receiving Biotech Center loans were bioMASON and BioMedomics, both based in Research Triangle Park; Mimetics, of Durham; and Locus Biosciences, based in Raleigh. Six university projects received Biotech Center grants supporting the work of multiple researchers.

—Windsor Circle, a Durham startup that has developed software that runs marketing campaigns and other services for retailers, raised $4.1 million in equity financing. New investor Alerion Ventures and existing investors Comcast Ventures, IDEA Fund Partners, Origin Ventures, and Triangle Angel Partners participated in the round. Windsor Circle also secured a $2.5 million line of credit from Square 1 Bank. The company says it will use the funding for additional product development, business development, and new hires.

—In other investing news, International Farming Corporation, a Kinston-based firm that invests in farmland, is joining forces with agricultural technology investment firm Finistere Ventures to form Willow Hill Ventures, an agtech-focused venture fund. In addition to providing capital, the firms say Willow Hill will also offer access to farmland and scientific testing programs that startups can use to validate their technologies.

—The former chief executive of Sprout Pharmaceuticals, the Raleigh company that won FDA approval for the first female sexual dysfunction drug last year and was subsequently acquired by Valeant Pharmaceuticals (NYSE: VRX) for $1 billion, unveiled a new venture. Cindy Whitehead is the founder and CEO of The Pink Ceiling, an all-woman firm that offers consulting services and seed investments to startups developing novel products for women. The Pink Ceiling’s first partnership is with Undercover Colors, a Raleigh startup developing a nail polish that changes color in the presence of date rape drugs.

—Solar energy developer Ecoplexus will add 54 megawatts to its portfolio through six new North Carolina solar projects. The San Francisco-based company says the planned North Carolina sites, representing a $79 million investment, will generate enough electricity to power more than 5,000 homes.

—In other cleantech news, Duke Energy (NYSE: DUK), which recently ranked third among all utility companies for newly installed solar capacity in 2015, boosted its renewable energy target. The Charlotte-based company now projects it will own or operate 8,000 megawatts of wind, solar, and biomass capacity by 2020, which represents a 33 percent increase over the goal that Duke set three years ago. Besides adding more renewable energy to its portfolio, Duke has also been evaluating how some of those assets work with batteries in various test projects around the country, a topic I covered last week in a story about utility-scale energy storage.