Shareholder buys TransGenRx assets in bankruptcy

Advocate staff file photo by TRAVIS SPRADLING -- The equipment and intellectual property of TransGenRx has been acquired by a major shareholder in bankruptcy court. The Baton Rouge biotech company was founded in 2002 using technology licensed from the LSU Agricultural Center. Show caption
Advocate staff file photo by TRAVIS SPRADLING -- The equipment and intellectual property of TransGenRx has been acquired by a major shareholder in bankruptcy court. The Baton Rouge biotech company was founded in 2002 using technology licensed from the LSU Agricultural Center.

A major shareholder will buy the intellectual property and equipment of Baton Rouge biotech firm TransGenRx for $400,000, U.S. Bankruptcy Court records show.

Judge Douglas D. Dodd approved the sale to ProteoVec Holding on Thursday.

ProteoVec is controlled by Wade Martin Svendson, a major shareholder in TransGenRx, as well as being a secured and unsecured creditor of the biotech firm.

Svendson could not be reached for comment Tuesday, but he said in August he hoped to resurrect the business.

TranGenRx, founded in 2002, provided development and production services for recombinant proteins, antibodies, cell therapies and vaccine products for preclinical and clinical materials.

The company, like most startups, struggled financially. By May 31, when TransGenRx asked the bankruptcy court for protection from its creditors, the company owed $7.9 million to investors, lenders and others.

The company lists the value of its assets at $4.5 million. Bankruptcy court records show TransGenRx has no ongoing business operations or insurance, can’t pay its lease and had to lay off all 25 of its full-time employees, who are owed $56,000.

An operating report filed with the bankruptcy court shows TransGenRx lost more than $211,000 during the three months it was attempting to reorganize.

After TransGenRx’s efforts to secure new financing failed, the company asked Dodd for permission to auction the remaining assets.

The auction took place in the Baton Rouge bankruptcy court on Sept. 26. ProteoVec was the only bidder.

TransGenRx began with technology licensed from the LSU AgCenter. Originally, the company planned to use genetically altered chicken eggs to produce insulin. The process would have cost a fraction of traditional methods.

The company couldn’t make the process work. Eventually, TransGenRx shifted to more traditional cell-culture techniques.

In 2009, TransGenRx announced it had won a contract to make human-growth hormone for Laboratorio Pablo Cassara SRL, an Argentine drug maker.

TransGenRx said the contract was worth as much as $30 million.

TransGenRx’s largest unsecured creditors include the Louisiana Department of Economic Development, $1.2 million; TransWestTech LLC of Three Forks, Mont., $875,000; LSU System Research & Technology Foundation, $691,531 (which TransGenRx disputes); Business First Bank, $300,000; and the LSU Agricultural Center, $125,000.