Detroit-Area Business, Life Sciences, and Technology News Briefs


EcoSynthetix Raises $100M in TSX IPO

On August 4, Lansing, MI- and Burlington, ON-based renewable chemical company EcoSynthetix announced it had closed its initial public offering priced at $9 per share in Canadian dollars, for proceeds totaling $100.35 million. The common shares trade on the Toronto Stock Exchange under the symbol “ECO.”

EcoSynthetix is the inaugural portfolio company of the InvestMichigan! Growth Capital Fund, part of the 2008 economic initiative created by then-Gov. Jennifer Granholm. Growth capital investments are made across a broad range of sectors in companies that have enterprise values of less than $200 million and are located in Michigan, have their corporate headquarters in Michigan, have a significant number of employees based in Michigan, or are in the process of planning an expansion and/or relocation to Michigan. The fund is managed by Beringea and Credit Suisse’s Customized Fund Investment Group.


BAE and GD Win $1B in Army Contracts

The U.S. Department of Defense announced yesterday that it has awarded two metro Detroit defense firms nearly $1 billion in contracts to develop combat vehicles for the Army.

Troy, MI-based BAE Systems Land and Armaments was awarded a contract worth almost $449.9 million to develop technology for the Army’s Ground Combat Vehicle Infantry Fighting Vehicle at facilities in Troy; Detroit; Waltham, MA; and Madison, AL.

The Sterling Heights, MI-based General Dynamics Land Systems was awarded a contract worth $439 million to develop technology for the Army’s Ground Combat Vehicle Infantry Fighting Vehicle at facilities in Sterling Heights; Detroit; Dallas, TX; Plano, TX; and Taunton, MA.

Work on both projects is expected to be completed in June 2013.


Metabolic Solutions Raises Another $6.8M

Kalamazoo, MI-based Metabolic Solutions Development, a developer of drugs to treat Type 2 diabetes, raised another $6.8 million in equity-based financing, according to a July 29 filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission. Twenty-three investors participated in the sale. Most of the financing is being used for expenses related to converting the company to an LLC structure, CEO Stephen Benoit said.

ZeaChem Teams With Chrysler on Ethanol

ZeaChem, the developer of cellulosic ethanol technology, said today it has agreed on a memorandum of understanding, the first step toward a strategic alliance, with Auburn Hill, MI-based Chrysler Group. Terms of the agreement weren’t disclosed. ZeaChem, which runs an R&D facility in Menlo Park, CA, said one of the goals will be “to strengthen the credibility among regulators and American consumers of cellulosic ethanol as a cost-effective green transportation alternative.”

Ann Arbor SPARK snags $250K in accelerator funding

The U.S. Commerce Department‘s Economic Development Administration last week announced a $250,000 grant award to Ann Arbor SPARK. The funding will support development of a business accelerator model that can be used by communities throughout the U.S.

Ann Arbor SPARK’s model will assist emerging businesses with marketing and development plans, as well as commercialization strategies, according to the organization. Initially, it said, the model will be deployed in Washtenaw and Wayne counties in Southeast Michigan, expanding to communities across Michigan that wish to start their own accelerator programs.


Obama Announces $45M in Grants to MI Companies

President Barack Obama today announced that six Southeast Michigan-based companies would receive grants totaling approximately $45 million from the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) to develop technologies used to make vehicles more fuel efficient. He made the announcement during a tour of Johnson Controls‘ advanced battery manufacturing facility in Holland, MI.

The Michigan companies receiving funding are Ford ($2.7 million), General Motors ($14 million), Chrysler ($10 million), Denso ($2.6 million), Vehma International of America ($10 million), and United States Automotive Materials Partnership ($3 million).

The DOE is awarding a total of $175 million to 40 projects in 15 states, which builds on the President’s recent announcement of fuel-efficiency standards for cars and light trucks of 54.5 miles per gallon by 2025.

A123 Inks GM Production Deal

It looks like A123 Systems is seeing some payoffs from the lithium-ion battery manufacturing facility it opened in Livonia, MI, late last year. Waltham, MA-headquarted A123 (NASDAQ: AONE) has nabbed a production contract from General Motors to provide the battery packs for an upcoming line of electric vehicles from the automaker, GM announced. The battery packs will be produced at the Livonia site. General Motors, which was previously testing the A123 technology in a development agreement with the company, did not disclose the financial terms of the production contract or which vehicles the A123 battery packs will power.


UM Awarded Nuclear Research Grants

The U.S. Department of Energy announced yesterday it awarded the University of Michigan nearly $3.5 million in research grants, aimed at developing cutting-edge nuclear energy technologies and training and educating the next generation of leaders in the U.S. nuclear industry.

The university received a total of four awards in the areas of fuel cycle research and development, advanced modeling and simulation, and transformative research.

The DOE awarded a total of $39 million to 51 projects at colleges and universities across the nation as part of its Nuclear Energy University Programs, which work to leverage the research and development capabilities of American educational institutions to enhance U.S. leadership in the global nuclear energy industry.

Ventower Debuts Wind Turbine Plant

Ventower Industries, the Monroe, MI-based fabricator and supplier of utility-scale wind turbine towers, opened the doors yesterday to its new, 115,000-square-foot manufacturing facility with direct dock access to Lake Erie. The high-tech plant is the culmination of four years of planning that came to fruition in part thanks to local, state, and federal incentives.

The location of this new plant is key, as Ventower is targeting original equipment manufacturers and other customers throughout the Great Lakes and Atlantic regions by touting its readily accessible waterborne, rail, and truck transportation options—a legitimate selling point when you’re shipping an object as large as a utility-scale wind tower.

Ventower will begin production later this month for tower deliveries through the end of this year and during 2012.


NanoBio Licenses RSV Vaccine Tech

Ann Arbor, MI-based NanoBio today announced it has licensed an antigen from the National Institutes of Health (NIH) that it says represents a significant step forward in the development of a vaccine for respiratory syncytial virus (RSV). Currently, there are no approved vaccines for RSV, an infection that sends 75,000 to 125,000 infants under 1 to the hospital each year in the United States. The agreement provides NanoBio with global rights to NIH’s new RSV antigen, which the Ann Arbor company will incorporate into a nose spray vaccine, using its proprietary oil-and-water nano-emulsion technology.


GM Puts $7.5M into Sunlogics

Sunlogics, a Rochester Hills, MI-based developer of thin-film photovoltaic arrays for solar energy farms, revealed today (PDF) that it has collected $7.5 million in equity-based financing from Detroit-based General Motors Ventures. GM also committed to buy solar charging canopies for Chevrolet dealerships and other GM facilities, and to purchase power from large-scale solar arrays built by Sunlogics. The company said the funding will help it to open a manufacturing facility in suburban Detroit employing 200 people, and another in Ontario employing 110 workers. “GM’s solar expansion and financial commitment provides a firm foundation for the growth of Sunlogics business worldwide and will bring more sustainable green energy to GM operations,” Sunlogic CEO Michael Matvieshen said in a statement.


750k for Are You A Human?

Are You A Human?, the developer of an alternative to the ubiquitous CAPTCHA human-verification test that is designed to block spammers, has raised a $750,000 Series A financing round, according to a press release.

Detroit Venture Partners, whose CEO Josh Linkner showcased Are You A Human?  last week as one of the firms it had chosen to fund(without revealing the size of the deal), led the round, which also included the University of Michigan’s student-run Frankel Commercialization Fund, as well as First Step Fund. Are You A Human?, founded in 2009 by University of Michigan students, will use the investment for product development, beta testing, and customer recruiting.


MI’s Augment Ventures Announces First Investment

Augment Ventures, a new early-stage venture capital fund in Ann Arbor, MI, today announced it has closed its first round of funding and made its first investment in Aperia Technologies, a cleantech company developing an automatic tire inflation device for trucks.

“Augment, which has an overall fund goal of $20 million, will invest in transformational cleantech and IT companies with high caliber and passionate teams,” said Sonali Vijayavargiya, Augment Ventures’ founder and managing director.

Augment will be working closely with the San Francisco-based Aperia Technologies to recruit local fleet operators in Michigan to participate in their nationwide on-road testing program.


Accelerate Michigan Open For Business

Accelerate Michigan Innovation, the state’s top competition for high tech entrepreneurs, is now accepting applications. The contest will award $1 million in cash prizes plus business services to winners in November. Deadline for applications is August 10, for students September 21. To apply, click here.

Beringea Finds Exit For Steak Group

Beringea, a venture capital/private equity firm in Farmington Hills, said it has sold Steak Group to Dentsu for an undisclosed amount. Steak, a digital medial firm, employs 94 people in New York, London, and Melbourne, Australia.


Ann Arbor Spark Pats Its Back

Ann Arbor SPARK says it has attracted 13 new companies to the region and helped 29 businesses to expand in the region last year. The business accelerator also said it helped secure $151 million in new investment commitments and create over 1,400 new jobs.

Staebler To Oversee TechTown

Wayne State University named Ned Staebler as its vice president of economic development. Staebler, a former official with the Michigan Economic Development Corp., will oversee the TechTown research park in Detroit.


Ann Arbor Spark Names Board

Ann Arbor SPARK named the following community leaders to its board: Ric DeVore, regional president of PNC;Marty Kahn,CEO of ProQuest; Mike Miller, head of Google’s local office;Conan Smith, Washtenaw County commissioner and executive director of Michigan Suburbs Alliance;Thomas Zurbuchen, director of University of Michigan’s Center for Entrepreneurship, and Dr. Susan Martin, president of Eastern Michigan University.


GM Recieves $10M Credit For IT Center

The Michigan Economic Development Corp. awarded a $10 million to General Motors for the possible redevelopment and expansion of the company’s Cadillac Building in Warren, MI. Under the plan, GM would spend $130 million to house its information technology laboratory and operations and consolidated data centers in the facility.


Cobalt Adds $20M for Biofuel Refinery

Cobalt Technologies, the Mountain View, CA-based maker of butanol from woody biomass sources, said it has raised $20 million in a Series D financing. The round was led by The Whittemore Collection, and included Pinnacle Ventures, Malaysian Life Sciences Capital Fund, VantagePoint Capital Partners, Life Sciences Partners, @Ventures, Harris & Harris, and Burrill and Company. it has raised $20 million in a Series D financing round. The money will be used to help Cobalt build a cellulosic biorefinery in Alpena, MI, which it says is the world’s first to produce butanol, an industrial chemical.

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