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$100 million for telecom Calix; TriVascular in clinicals; Dey exit reversed

NORTH BAY – Economic woes will continue to flatten profits and impact staff in the high-tech and biotech sectors, but investors haven't deserted the North Bay.

A clear high-tech highlight going into 2010 is Calix, the Petaluma communications-access equipment maker that raised $100 million in equity and debt financing before filing to take in up to another $100 million with an initial public offering. Calix is growing in anticipation of a flood of federal stimulus funds among its rural and independent telecom carriers.

Meanwhile, Enphase Energy secured $22.5 million and a new lead investor to take it into 2010. The only maker of high-efficiency microinverters, communications and Web-based analytics to maximize energy harvest sees sunny days ahead for the solar industry.

At Sonoma County's largest high-tech employer, Agilent Technologies, belt-tightening measures are paying off. Profits are flat, but the company was able to restore full salaries for the coming year.

In the biotech sector, 2010 starts off with encouraging news. Medtronic CardioVascular's growing share of the drug-eluting stent market helped boost its sales and profits. And although enzyme therapy provider BioMarin slipped back into the red after a year of profitable quarters, sequential gains point to a return to black as soon as the economy allows.

Tiny BioMarin spinoff Raptor Pharmaceuticals Corp. enters the new year as a public company with a dream development partner. The Novato developer of drug-targeting platforms and mid- to late-stage clinical development candidates has agreed to merge with TorreyPines Therapeutics Inc. (Nasdaq: TPTX), most likely retaining the Raptor name, executive team and Novato location.

TriVascular's re-emergence into the abdominal and thoracic aortic stent graft system sector looks to continue its steady march to an eager market. The first human use of both of the products demonstrated significant advances in endovascular aortic technology, and TriVascular's investors rewarded the promising start of clinical trials with an additional $30 million.

"It is very rewarding to see firsthand the clinical benefits of our technology," said Mike Chobotov, Ph.D., president and CEO of the Santa Rosa-based company. "As with the patients treated today, we are confident that, in partnership with clinicians around the world, we will be able to improve many lives."

Starting the year in new, expanded quarters are Sonoma Orthopedics, a maker of bone implant devices, and Relucent Solutions, which provides prototyping and high-tech laser finishing for medical device makers.

A big question mark hangs over Dey LP, the Napa maker of allergy and respiratory therapies that was part of Mylan Laboratories' purchase of German-based Merck's generic business in 2007. Once the largest private employer in Napa, the 500-member staff has been steadily reduced prior to shutting the operation.

But Mylan confirmed recently that manufacturing operations will remain in Napa, employing 300 to 400, for the time being. A memo reportedly released by Dey President Carolyn Myers also spoke of "an effort to consolidate and upgrade our operations, which will enhance our efficiency and give us more control over our portfolio."

At best, the Napa facility could improve and expand its manufacturing to include some of Mylan's other products. For now, the announcement gives Dey some time in Napa.

"We are certainly happy. It is a positive decision to remain in Napa," said Mylan spokesman Michael Laffin.