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NCBiotech Awards $2.5M In Q3, Loan Recipients Net $192M

High Point University biochemistry major Miranda Zupp (left) works with Prof. Heather Miller, Ph.D., in the cell culture lab being boosted with a grant from NCBiotech. Photo courtesy of High Point University

The North Carolina Biotechnology Center awarded nearly $2.5 million in the third quarter of its 2013-2014 fiscal year, while the Center’s loan recipients brought in more than $192 million in outside funding during the period.

NCBiotech approved 25 loans and grants in seven programs to institutions and organizations across the state during the quarter running from January through March, 2014. The awards program supports life science entrepreneurship, technology commercialization and growth, and lays the groundwork for major add-on funding.

On average, every dollar NCBiotech loans to young life science companies is met with $117 in additional funding to those firms from disease philanthropy and government grants, angel and venture investment and other financial support. Every grant dollar is met with an average $28 in additional funding.

Recent examples of loan follow-on funding and activities include:

  • Aerial BioPharma sold the worldwide rights to its ADX-N05 (except in certain Asian countries) to Jazz Pharmaceuticals for $125 million upfront and up to $272 million milestone payments, as well as royalties. The deal came after ADX-N05’s strong results in a Phase 2b narcolepsy trial last year. NCBiotech awarded a $250,000 Small Business Research Loan in 2012 to Aerial, a developer of drugs to treat central nervous system disorders.
  • Argos Therapeutics completed a $49.6 million initial public offering, taking part in a wave of recent biotech IPOs. Argos has its AGS-003 in a Phase 3 trial in kidney cancer patients, and the company also has an HIV drug in mid-stage clinical trials as part of its pipeline of personalized immunotherapies. NCBiotech provided a $10,000 loan to Argos (previously known as Merix Bioscience) to help it develop in 1999.
  • Shure Foods is a Greenville company that has developed patented technology to produce restructured, raw crabmeat products that can revive the N.C. crab fishery by lowering process costs and improving yields. By efficiently extracting crab meat in raw form, the process benefits crab fisheries, processors, distributors, chefs – and ultimately, consumers. Shure Foods exhibited at several regional seafood shows during the quarter and will be launching its newly branded Succulent Crab product on the Outer Banks this summer.  NCBiotech awarded a $30,000 Company Inception Loan to help launch Shure Foods in 2009. The Center also provided a $100,000 Collaborative Funding Grant to Tyre Lanier, Ph.D., professor of food science at North Carolina State University, to help Shure Foods ensure consistent quality in its crabmeat.
  • T3D Therapeutics raised $660,000 in angel funding to advance its promising early-stage Alzheimer’s disease drug candidate. T3D’s drug is based on the growing body of evidence indicating that Alzheimer’s disease may be a third form of diabetes in which loss of insulin in the brain causes neurodegeneration. NCBiotech awarded a $50,000 Company Inception Loan to T3D in 2013.
  • NCBiotech loan portfolio companies BioKier and Nova Synthetix, both of Chapel Hill, and CanDiag of Charlotte were among five presenting companies at the February CED Life Science Conference. Reflecting the diversity of NCBiotech’s loan recipients, BioKier’s novel drug candidate for Type 2 diabetes is in early human trials, CanDiag is developing a novel test for the early detection of breast cancer, and Nova Synthetix is working on a non-toxic castor plant for enhanced production of castor oil, which is used as a high value chemical feedstock.

In 2014, NCBiotech observes its 30th anniversary as a global leader in life science job creation. The Center has been distributing grants and loans since soon after it was established in 1984, helping North Carolina become the nation’s third-largest life science cluster. There are now more than 600 life science facilities across in the state, employing more than 60,000 employees earning an average salary exceeding $78,000.

The third quarter’s grants and loans from NCBiotech brought the year-to-date statewide total to $4,775,106. The latest include:

$1,664,925 in 11 Institutional Development Grants

The IDG program provides research equipment or core facilities that serve multiple investigators. Research-extensive universities must have at least six investigators involved, and non-research-extensive universities must have at least three. Recipients this quarter include:

  • $196,752 to North Carolina State University to establish a state-of-the-art zebrafish research core facility for use in cancer research, neuroscience, early embryonic development research, heritable disorders research, environmental toxicology studies and immune-related disorders research.
  • $101,088 to Duke University Medical Center for an automated crystal tray imager to differentiate desirable protein crystals from undesirable crystals during imaging studies.  The equipment will allow researchers to save time and increase productivity in structural studies of HIV, drug development and bacterial infection.
  • $149,000 so East Carolina University can buy an ion proton DNA sequencer. The equipment will allow an expansion of its genomics core facility to gather information used in basic biological and biomedical research. The instrument will be used by researchers in two departments and could lead to improvements in crop plants as well as improving understanding of stroke and cellular stress.
  • $157,500 to the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill for a Pall Allegro Single-Use Tangential Flow Filtration system. It will be used in an important step in the purification of high quality drug products for human gene therapy applications.
  • $60,672, also to UNC, for a Bruker SampleJET Dual-Mode Automated Sample Changer. High-throughput technologies are crucial in modern biochemical research. The equipment provides automated, efficient studies involving large numbers of samples for biomedical and biotechnological research. It will help scientists conduct studies of cancer treatments and drug development projects for blood disorders and cardiovascular disease.
  • $195,764 to Wake Forest University Health Sciences to establish a molecular imaging, manipulation, and force measurement core resource at Wake Forest University School of Medicine’s Biotech Place. Researchers throughout the region will use the facility for nanometer-scale imaging, probing, and measurement.
  • $195,960 to Campbell University for a high-resolution mass spectrometer to expedite research in pharmaceutical, life and biological sciences at Campbell and nearby institutions. Coupled with existing instrumentation, it will enhance researchers’ ability to identify and analyze proteins and molecules in support of projects that contribute to human health and that also train students to be on the forefront of research.
  • $135,014 to Appalachian State University to set up a research-grade molecular techniques lab in the A.R. Smith Department of Chemistry, with equipment that will outfit a multi-user facility in the ASU Department of Chemistry.  The purchase enables molecular chemistry research with applications to drug development and  environmental studies. The equipment will be used by researchers across the ASU campus, and will allow students to gain experience with state-of-the-art instrumentation needed to be competitive in today's scientific environment.
  • $195,989, also to ASU, to buy a quantitative computed tomography scanner to analyze changes in bone and skeletal muscle tissue from biotechnological interventions. Studies using this equipment might lead to treatments for muscle inflammation and bone degeneration (osteoporosis), enhancing the strength of ASU's highly respected Exercise Science programs.
  • $200,000 to Duke University Medical Center for an electron paramagnetic resonance spectroscopy system to help researchers develop anti-infectious or anticancer drugs and novel biomaterial.
  • $77,186 to High Point University to help establish a cell culture facility with equipment that will allow users to grow and maintain cells and tissues for use in research and in lab courses.

$170,700 for one Strategic Growth Loan

The SGL, up to $250,000, helps biotech companies bridge the early-stage funding gap and position themselves for private investment. SGL funds must be matched by one or more organized angel funds or networks, or venture capital funds with significant life science investing experience.

CertiRx Corporation of Research Triangle Park is using the loan to expand its business development capabilities and accelerate sales of its technology to prevent diversion and counterfeiting of high-value products such as pharmaceuticals. 

$468,500 in three Small Business Research Loans

These loans of up to $250,000 fund research that advances small life science companies’ development of commercially viable technologies/products. The loans help companies reach specific and meaningful research milestones that position them to obtain additional funding from private and public sources.

  • $150,000 for Lucerno Dynamics (Raleigh) to help the company develop and test its non-invasive device that provides oncologists an analysis of tumor responses to ongoing treatment early in a patient’s course of treatment.
  • $250,000 for Contego Medical (Raleigh) to support development of its devices to protect heart patients from clot damage when doctors re-open their blocked blood vessels.
  • $68,500 for SciKon Innovation (RTP) to help the tissue engineering firm complete development of SciFlow, a system using microfluidics to control and observe the movement of very small amounts of body fluids or solutions containing cells or cell parts to understand their functions or diagnose diseases.

$50,000 for a Company Inception Loan

CILs of up to $50,000 support business inception and related activities to help new life science companies position themselves for start-up and early-stage funding or partnering.

FLAG Therapeutics of Raleigh is using the start-up loan to position itself for more investment funding to help it develop its novel cancer therapies. 

$52,000 for an Industrial Fellowship

Fellow Roopa Yalamanchili is assisting RTP-based Benson Hill Biosystems with plant transformation and characterization for experiments on photosynthesis and yield-enhancing technologies. Benson Hill is developing traits to improve intrinsic yield in crop plants of major economic importance, primarily by focusing on improving plants’ ability to use daylight.

$10,659 for six Biotechnology Event Sponsorships

One of the most valuable services from NCBiotech is its unique ability to make connections and bring people across the state together to spur research, its commercialization, and ultimately companies providing excellent jobs.

  • $659 to Appalachian State University to help support the ASU STEM Expo.
  • $2000 to the North Carolina Association for Biomedical Research to help support the two-day statewide Institutional Animal Care and Use Committee 2014 meeting at NCBiotech’s Hamner Conference Center.
  • $2000 to help support the North Carolina State University Undergraduate Research Symposium.
  • $2000 to NCSU to help support the 8th Annual Biomedical Engineering Symposium held at NCBiotech’s Hamner Conference Center.
  • $2000 to help support the 38th Annual UNC Lineberger Comprehensive Cancer Center Symposium: Epigenetics and Cancer.
  • $2000 to UNC-Chapel Hill to help support NC DNA Day activities at high schools across the state.

$13,000 for two Biotechnology Meeting Grants

These grants help support national or international meetings that advance the understanding or application of biotechnology while also bringing attention to the North Carolina scientific community and promoting information sharing and personal interaction focused on biotechnology research, education, or business. Recipients this quarter were:

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