By Paula C. Squires
Intrexon Corp., a Blacksburg-Montgomery County synthetic biology company, made CNN.Money’s list of the “10 Largest Venture Capital Deals of Q2.”
Tied in the No. 10 spot with Square — a San Francisco provider of mobile payment solutions — Intrexon was acknowledged for getting $100 million in a Series E investment round of funding in the second quarter. Investors included Radford-based venture capital firm Third Security LLC and Intrexon’s Chairman and CEO Randal J. Kirk, Third Security’s founder. All told, Kirk and his investment fund have pumped about $200 million into the company, which has yet to put a drug on the market.
Located in the Virginia Tech Corporate Research Center, Intrexon was founded in 1998 by molecular geneticist Thomas Reed. At its Web site, Intrexon says it is working with key partners across five divisions — human therapeutics, protein production, industrial products, agricultural biotech and animal science — to deliver better products through control over living cells.
High on its list of goals is a major play in the field of gene therapy. To bolster that effort, Intrexon announced a partnership in January with Ziopharm Oncology Inc., based out of New York and Maryland. Ziopharm, a small molecule, late-stage oncology drug development company, said it would develop and commercialize DNA-based therapeutics using Intrexon’s technology. “Ziopharm plans to leverage this technology for next-generation products targeting key pathways used by cancers to grow and metastasize,” Ziopharm’s CEO and Chief Medical Officer Jonathan Lewis, said in a statement announcing the deal, which gave Kirk a 12 percent stake in Ziopharm and a seat on the company’s board of directors.
Kirk told Virginia Business that he’s convinced “Intrexon holds the lead position in the design and fabrication of rationally designed complex transgenes, which I believe is the key industrial capability to have in the rapidly developing world of synthetic biology.“ Kirk expects the field to deliver “even more value to the world over the next fifteen years than was so impressively brought to the world by the semiconductor, computer and software industries from 1984 to 1999. In essence, mankind is broadly and, for the first time, in a position to engineer biological solutions ... and that is going to significantly impact just about every industry.“
If Intrexon ends up with a blockbuster, it won’t be the first time Kirk has fingered a winner. In 2007, he became a billionaire, reaping $1.2 billion when he sold New River Pharmaceuticals — a company with an attention-deficit disorder drug — to Shire for $2.6 billion. Earlier this year, Forbes estimated Kirk’s worth at $2.2 billion.
In a tie for the No. 1 spot on CNN.Money’s list is Living Social of Washington, D.C. A rival to online coupon company Groupon, it raised $400 million in April, but CNN noted that only about $200 million could qualify as investment funding.
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