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NCBiotech Awards $2.5M in Latest Quarter, $7.5M for Year

By Barry Teater, NCBiotech Writer

The North Carolina Biotechnology Center awarded 36 loans and grants totaling nearly $2.5 million to universities and bioscience companies during the fourth quarter of its 2015-2016 fiscal year ending June 30.

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

The latest quarter closes out a fiscal year in which the Center made 92 awards totaling about $7.5 million. Of those awards, 18 were company loans totaling $3.7 million and 74 were university grants totaling $3.8 million.

A brief overview of the Center's overall loan history, and the follow-on funding totals for NCBiotech portfolio companies, is in an adjacent news story.

Company Loans

The Center awarded six company loans totaling $1.2 million in the fourth quarter of FY2016.

  • TARGET PharmaSolutions of Chapel Hill received a $500,000 Strategic Growth Loan to help the company develop its unique database to improve pharmaceutical development through a better understanding of patients and their reactions to new drugs.

Three companies received Company Inception Loans totaling $225,000:

  • Avila of Durham received $75,000 for the manufacturing and commercial launch of the company's lead product, the Rapid Hair Removal Pad, a Class II medical device that improves the odds of resuscitation when used prior to defibrillation in cardiac arrest patients.
  • f(x) Immune Diagnostics of Candler received $75,000 for the development, validation and market launch of a diagnostic test for pneumococcal pneumonia.
  • Ribometrix, a UNC spinout in Chapel Hill, received $75,000 to prepare for its first round of equity financing.

Two companies received Small Business Research Loans totaling $500,000:

  • Eppin Pharma of Chapel Hill received $250,000 to optimize drug bioavailability and assess the animal safety and efficacy of its lead compounds, intended to provide an orally delivered, safe, reversible, non-hormonal male contraceptive.
  • Panacea BioMatx of Morrisville received $250,000 for the development of a Good Manufacturing Practice (GMP) analytical method for personalized drug formulation manufacturing.

University Grants

The Center awarded 13 major grants totaling about $1.2 million in the fourth quarter of FY2016.

Four Technology Enhancement Grants totaling $293,627 were awarded:

  • Duke University (Technology Transfer Officer Karthikeyan Gopalakrishnan on behalf of Ashutosh Chilkoti, Ph.D., principal investigator) received $75,000 to figure out how best to manufacture a new compound that could be attached to biological drugs to make them longer-acting.
  • Duke University Medical Center (Technology Transfer Officer Charles Hallford, on behalf of Howard Levinson, M.D., principal investigator) received $75,000 to develop a novel hernia mesh that avoids the complications caused by current meshes on the market.   
  • The University of North Carolina Greensboro (Technology Transfer Officer L. Staton Noel, on behalf of Olav Rueppell, Ph.D., principal investigator) received $68,627 to test a natural substance that triggers in honey bees a natural defense mechanism against varroa mite infestations, a factor in declining bee health.
  • Wake Forest University Health Sciences (Technology Transfer Officer Julie Watson, on behalf of Sean Murphy, Ph.D., principal investigator) received $75,000 to establish production procedures, product-release criteria and storage conditions for a new biomaterial that in early studies has appeared to be safe and effective in treating burns and wounds.

The Center awarded two Collaborative Funding Grants totaling $200,000:

  • Duke University Medical Center (Stefan M. Goetz) received $100,000 to build and test an improved transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS) device – an electronic device applied to the head that is currently used to treat depression, but might offer therapeutic and research benefits for other applications. The grant was provided in partnership with Magstim, a British company that would commercialize the device. 
  • N.C. State University (Lokendra Pal) received $100,000 for the development of recyclable, bio-based coatings for food-packaging papers as an alternative to non-renewable coatings containing latex, fluorochemicals and chromium.  

Seven Biotechnology Innovation Grants totaling $691,205 were awarded:

  • Duke University (Ashutosh Chilkoti) received $100,000 for the design of a new polymer that, when attached to peptide and protein drugs, does not produce an undesirable antibody response in patients. 
  • East Carolina University (Stefan Clemens) received $100,000 for the clinical testing of a new therapy for restless leg syndrome that doesn’t lose efficacy over time as current dopamine-based treatments do.
  • NCSU (Reza A. Ghiladi) received $99,998 for the development of light-activated cellulose coatings with anti-infective properties for use in novel, renewable, biodegradable, anti-microbial consumer staples.
  • NCSU (Lucian A. Lucia) received $100,000 for the development and testing of a novel biosorption material – made from bio-based feedstocks considered as waste – that can remove metals such as lead and arsenic from drinking water.
  • The NCSU Center for Marine Sciences and Technology (David B. Eggleston) received $91,207 to test emerging reef soundscape technology for improving oyster larval settlement in commercial hatcheries.
  • WFU Health Sciences (Thaddeus J. Wadas) received $100,000 for the development of new technology intended to improve the safety and delivery of clinical positron emission tomography (PET) scans and foster better patient care through personalized medicine strategies. 
  • WFU Health Sciences (William H. Gmeiner) received $100,000 for the development and testing of a next-generation fluoropyrimidine chemotherapy drug to treat colon cancer.

Other Awards

Other awards made in the fourth quarter of FY2016 include:

Eleven Industrial Internship Program awards of $3,000 each to sponsor business or bioscience interns at the following companies: BaseTrace, bioMASON, Chiesi USA, Gilero, NovaTarg Therapeutics, Panacea BioMatx, Rheomics (now called Redbud Labs), SafeRay Spine, SmartGene, Surgilum and Tecan US.

Four Biotechnology Event Sponsorships totaling $10,960 to support events hosted by NCSU, UNC-CH, Western Carolina University and Winston-Salem State University.

Two Biotechnology Meeting Grants totaling $12,700 to support scientific meetings hosted by UNC-CH and WFU Health Sciences.

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