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NCBiotech Awards $1.6 Million in Latest Quarter

By Barry Teater, NCBiotech Writer

The North Carolina Biotechnology Center awarded 14 loans and grants totaling $1.6 million to companies, universities and other bioscience entities in the third quarter of its 2016-2017 fiscal year ending March 31.

The awards support life science research, technology commercialization and entrepreneurship throughout North Carolina and help universities and companies attract additional funding from other sources.

Company Loans

Three companies received loans totaling $575,000 to support the development and commercialization of new technologies.

  • Dualogics of Chapel Hill received a $75,000 Company Inception Loan to identify and pursue relationships with strategic partners and investors in support of its platform technology for directing a monoclonal antibody to more than one target. 
  • Polarean of Durham received a $250,000 Small Business Research Loan to develop a technology for enhancing magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) in biomedical research, using hyperpolarized xenon gas. The funding will support automation of the polarizer device to improve the device's safety, workflow and medical economics.
  • NovaTarg Therapeutics of Research Triangle Park received a $250,000 Small Business Research Loan to support the completion of investigational new drug (IND)-enabling studies and IND filing for a novel drug for the treatment of type 2 diabetes. In early lab and animal studies, NovaTarg has found its lead drug candidate, a biguanide called NT1195, to be more potent and safer than the most widely prescribed drug for the disease.

Company Follow-on Funding

Nine bioscience companies previously funded by NCBiotech loans raised almost $25.7 million in follow-on funding from other sources during the quarter.

Leading the way was Benson Hill Biosystems of Research Triangle Park. The crop-improvement company raised $18.5 million in venture capital equity funding.

University R&D Grants

Five universities received seven Institutional Development Grants totaling just under $1 million for biotechnology-research infrastructure including equipment and core facilities that serve multiple scientists.

  • Duke University received $199,903 to acquire an advanced mass spectrometer system for characterizing proteins, peptides, DNA and RNA. The system will support a wide range of research projects including studies of novel polymers for solar energy conversion, discovery of new drugs and diagnostics for human health, and new ways to manipulate plant growth.
  • North Carolina Agricultural & Technical State University received $161,892 to acquire an enhanced darkfield optical microscope and hyperspectral imaging system for observing and characterizing nanoscale materials in a wide range of biological and composite samples. The equipment will enable researchers at NCA&T and the University of North Carolina Greensboro to study the possible impact of nanoscale materials on humans and the environment.
  • The University of North Carolina Asheville received $76,527 to acquire a flow cytometer for cell-biology research at UNC-Asheville and surrounding institutions and for collaboration with F(x) Immune Diagnostics, a local biotechnology company. 
  • The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill received $130,460 for an advanced acoustic sonication system for high-throughput nucleic acid fragmentation, biospecimen processing and drug discovery. UNC scientists are developing new methods to identify therapeutic targets and mutations within patient tumor cells, a personalized medicine approach that requires large numbers of tumor samples to be processed. The Covaris LE220 focused-ultrasonicator will significantly decrease biospecimen processing times, thereby accelerating discovery of new treatment and diagnostic biotechnologies.
  • UNC received $124,000 to acquire a JANSi high-throughput automated protein crystallization imaging system for structural biology studies by university and industrial scientists. The system will enable studies of the basic building blocks of living material, especially proteins and nucleic acids, at the molecular and atomic levels.
  • UNC received $106,169 to acquire an Attune NxT four-laser acoustic focusing flow cytometer with autosampler for measuring specific cellular components such as proteins or DNA in studies of cancer, autoimmunity and infectious diseases.
  • Wake Forest University Health Sciences received $200,000 to strengthen X-ray crystallography in the Wake Forest Innovation Quarter. A next-generation, solid-state X-ray detector will allow researchers to determine the three-dimensional structure of molecules including proteins in support of new drug development.

Meeting and Event Grants

Three scientific entities received Biotechnology Event Sponsorships or Biotechnology Meeting Grants totaling $21,189.

  • North Carolina State University received $3,000 for "Art's Work in the Age of Biotechnology: Shaping our Genetic Future.” The April 7 event examined past, current and future impacts of art and design in public conversations about genetic engineering.
  • The North Carolina Marine Bio-Technologies Center of Innovation received $8,189 for the South Atlantic and Gulf Coast Shellfish Workshop. The meeting will bring together entrepreneurs in the shellfish industry to share ideas on best practices and forge new partnerships. The goal is to help participants improve business models and learn how to approach investors, either directly or by the Fish 2.0 Global Competition.
  • The Society for In Vitro Biology received $10,000 for its forum on developmental processes of animal and plant biotechnology and their applications to science and society.

Grantsmanship Training Grant

The UNC General Administration received a $5,000 Grantsmanship Training grant to support UNC researchers’ attendance at the U.S. Department of Defense’s Military Medicine Partnership Conference.

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