Annapolis-based Pharm­Athene, a life sciences firm specializing in biodefense, agreed last week to combine with Seattle-based biotech company Theraclone Sciences in what executives are calling a merger.

PharmAthene chief executive Eric I. Richman said the arrangement fits with the company’s long-term plan to diversify beyond government customers, a move he said should help the company’s shares to be valued higher on Wall Street.

“The commercial market offers shareholders upside,” he said. “Biodefense companies typically are not valued as greatly as companies that are developing commercial products.”

The combined firm will be known as PharmAthene and continue to trade on the NYSE MKT under the ticker symbol “PIP.”

The all-stock transaction will give the joint firm a portfolio of four clinical-stage drug candidates, including two vaccines used to prevent and treat Anthrax exposure, as well as treatments for the seasonal flu and cytomegalovirus, or CMV, infections.

The combined company plans to develop treatments and vaccines for infectious diseases and cancer for both the commercial and government markets. In addition to the four clinical-stage drugs, four others are in earlier stages of development.

The merger announcement comes as PharmAthene continues to battle Siga Technologies over royalties from a smallpox drug. A Delaware judge has previously ruled in PharmAthene’s favor, delivering the company a handsome settlement, but the dispute is currently caught up in appeals. A final resolution may not be reached until next year, Richman said.

“From my perspective, this was an opportunity that we could not ignore,” Richman said. “While we believe very firmly there’s value in the Siga litigation, we don’t know exactly when [the revenue will materialize] and we don’t know the value of that revenue stream.”

However, the merger is expected to add value immediately, Richman said.

Clifford J. Stocks, the chief executive of Theraclone, will head the new company. Richman will become a director on the combined company’s board.

A wholly owned subsidiary of PharmAthene will merge into Theraclone in an all-stock transaction. PharmAthene will issue shares of common stock to Theraclone stockholders such that they own 50 percent of the company.

Richman said the combined company will count roughly 80 employees and maintain operations in both Annapolis and Seattle.

Will work for pay

Want to make it on your own as a freelance technologist? Elance, a Web site that connects companies with freelancers in areas such as marketing, writing, mobile development or design, has data that might interest you.

The Web site found companies in the area shell out the most money for Web programers, followed by software application developers, mobile app developers, Web site designers and graphic designers.

Those with skills in HTML coding, Adobe Photoshop and Illustrator and 3-D animation and modeling are in particular demand, according to Elance.

But technologists in Washington might find self-employment less lucrative than their counterparts in other cities, Elance reports.

Washington ranked eighth on a list of the top 10 cities by earnings. Freelancers earn the most in New York, followed by Los Angeles, Chicago, Austin, San Diego, Miami and Seattle. Washington comes out ahead of Williamstown, Mass., and Minneapolis on the list. Where’s San Francisco? The heart of Silicon Valley ranked No. 11.

REDI, set, pitch

Rockville Economic Development Inc. has narrowed the list of finalist in its StartRight business plan competition, an annual contest where woman-owned businesses vie for cash and other prizes to help grow their ventures.

The finalists will present to a panel of judges later this week and the winner will be announced Aug. 29 at the organization’s Power Conference. You’ll also be able to vote for your favorite on www.capbiz.biz later this month.

Take a look at the finalists:

Baltimore-based Advancing Synergy offers a platform where low and moderate income women battling cancer can find information and support.

Artis Scarvz, of Frederick, makes scarves that hold their shape.

Autonomy Engine, of Marriottsville, is a repeat contestant. The firm provides voice monitoring and speech training software.

Silver Spring-based Capital City Sweets & Treats creates gluten-free baked goods.

Bethesda’s Farm to Freezer harvests, freezes and sells organic products, including tomato sauce, mixed vegetables and ratatouille.

Jai’s Dream, of Germantown, is an online retailer specializing in bedding for youngsters.

Mercaris, of Silver Spring, provides data services and an online trading exchange for organic and natural agricultural commodities.

Beltsville-based Naveenum aims to develop sensors that detect sleep disorders.

ReaderRap in Bethesda is a review and marketing Web site for self-published books.

Richmond-based Runway Wheels offers mobile consignment for apparel.

Staff writer Mohana Ravindranath contributed to this report.