Rod Brooks Follows His Heart(land), Amazon Helps Out OLPC, the Broad Gets $400M, GT Solar Shines Over Big Contract, & More Deals News

Summer’s over, school’s back in session, and the deals were jumping in just about every sector as September got underway.

—IRobot announced co-founder Rod Brooks was stepping down as the company’s CTO (but remaining on the board of directors) to devote full time to his new company, Heartland Robotics. Cambridge, MA-based Heartland will focus on developing industrial and workplace robots to “rehumanize and revitalize” U.S. manufacturing, according to its website. Brooks, Heartland’s chairman and CTO, and CEO Ken Zolot (both Xconomists) gave Xconomy the scoop that they had closed a Series A funding round and licensed core technology from MIT. Brooks also took a leave from his MIT professorship.

—Waltham, MA-based Phase Forward (NASDAQ: PFWD), which develops software that large pharmaceutical companies and research institutions employ to manage the vast amounts of data generated by clinical drug trials, paid $40 million for Clarix, a Pennsylvania maker of phone- and Web-based interactive voice response systems used to help manage supplies for drug trials.

—The “Give One, Get One” program offered by Cambridge, MA-based One Laptop Per Child Foundation last holiday season gave U.S. and Canadian consumers the opportunity to buy two XO laptops for $400: one for themselves, the other for a child in a developing country. But the implementation, as Wade noted, “was a fiasco.” Some orders weren’t filled until March, while others were lost. This holiday season, OLPC plans to repeat the offer—but it’s put Amazon in charge. If any company knows how to fulfill orders during the holidays, it’s Amazon.

—Ryan broke the news on Wednesday that the Broad Institute of Harvard and MIT, which is focused on genomic research, was receiving a $400 million endowment from its founding benefactors Eli and Edythe Broad. The institute—originally structured as an administrative unit of MIT—also quietly announced it is revamping itself as a stand-alone nonprofit, with an independent board of directors and other major organizational differences from its first incarnation.

—In addition to Brooks stepping down as CTO, Bedford, MA-based iRobot (NASDAQ: IRBT) announced it had been awarded a U.S. Army contract for military robots, spare parts, training, and repair services that could total $200 million over the next 5 years. Chairman Helen Greiner told Wade that in addition to the Packbot robots already employed in the Middle East, the contract could include next-generation “SUGVs,” or small unmanned ground vehicles, which iRobot is developing in partnership with the Army’s Future Combat Systems program.

—Merrimack, NH-based maker of equipment for manufacturing photovoltaic cells GT Solar (NASDAQ: SOLR) confirmed that it had won a $173 million contract (its CEO had previously called it a $177 million deal) to supply polysilicon reactors to DC Chemical of South Korea. GT Solar went public on July 24.

—Perhaps inspired by GT Solar’s successful IPO, Essex, CT-based wind power firm Noble Environmental Power set the size of its planned IPO at 23.4 million shares. The company  hasn’t yet specified a price for the shares, but when it originally filed for the offering back in May, it set a maximum target of $375 million.

—MIT spinoff Hepregen, which is working on a way to screen drugs in development for liver toxicity, raised $3 million out of a $5 million first round of venture capital. Investors include Battelle Ventures and Innovation Valley Partners.

—Teradyne (NYSE: TER), the North Reading, MA-based maker of electronics testing equipment agreed to pay roughly $250 million ($15.65 a share) to acquire Eagle Test Systems (NASDAQ: EGLT). Illinois-based Eagle makes analog, mixed-signal, and radio frequency semiconductor test products.

Bob is Xconomy's founder and chairman. You can email him at Follow @bbuderi

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