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NCBiotech Awards $3.6 Million in Loans, Grants in Latest Quarter

By Barry Teater, NCBiotech Writer

The North Carolina Biotechnology Center awarded 47 loans and grants totaling $3.6 million to universities, bioscience companies and other entities in the fourth quarter of its 2016-2017 fiscal year ending June 30.

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

Six bioscience companies received a total of $1.6 million from three loan programs.

Company Inception Loans

Two companies received Company Inception Loans totaling $150,000. These loans support business startup and related activities to help position new companies for early stage funding or partnering.

AestasRx of Lewisville received $75,000 to develop a diagnostic test that can provide early detection of Alzheimer's disease before appearance of clinical symptoms. 

Emergo Therapeutics of Chapel Hill received $75,000 for preclinical studies of drugs it is developing to treat acute inflammatory conditions caused by infections and autoimmune diseases.

Strategic Growth Loans

Two companies received Strategic Growth Loans totaling $1 million. These loans match angel group or venture capital investments for the development of products or technologies that have already established technical proof-of-concept but need further corporate development support.

Camras Vision of Durham received $500,000 for early clinical feasibility trials of a novel shunt it is developing for the treatment of glaucoma. 

Locus Biosciences of Research Triangle Park received $500,000 for the development of narrow-spectrum antimicrobials for infectious diseases, including the drug-resistant bacterium Clostridium difficile, using proprietary CRISPR technology. 

Small Business Research Loans

Two companies received Small Business Research Loans totaling $450,000. These loans support business inception and research critical to the development of products, processes, or tools with clear commercial potential.

Lindy Biosciences of Durham received $200,000 for process scale-up and stability testing of biotherapeutics produced by microglassification technology. That allows these drugs to be administered subcutaneously, with a short needle into the tissue layer between the skin and the muscle, rather than intravenously. The goal is to lower medical costs and improve patient comfort. 

RFPi of Greenville received $250,000 to develop a prototype of a device to visualize blood flow and perfusion in outpatient clinical settings for wound-care management and other indications.  

Industrial Internship Program

Ten companies received Industrial Internship Program awards of $3,000 each to sponsor business or bioscience interns: Baebies of Durham, Chiesi USA of Cary, Clinical Sensors of Research Triangle Park, Gilero of Morrisville, Kepley Biosystems of Greensboro, Lindy Biosciences of Durham, NovaTarg of Research Triangle Park, Panaceutics of Research Triangle Park, Redbud Labs of Chapel Hill and Surgilum of Wilmington.

Economic Development Awards

Two counties received four Economic Development Awards totaling $350,000 for bioscience industrial recruitment projects.

  • Durham County received three awards totaling $250,000 for three projects.
  • Wake County received $100,000 for one project.

Presidential Initiative Award

The Pitt County Development Commission received a $36,100 Presidential Initiative Award for the purchase of a tablet press and capsule-filler equipment to assist in the oral solid dose training initiative, a part of the North Carolina Pharmaceutical Services Network. The Network supports workforce development and training needs in response to the growth and expansion of two contract development and manufacturing operations in Greenville: Patheon and Metrics Contract Services, a division of Mayne Pharma. 

Biotechnology Innovation Grants

Three universities received five Biotechnology Innovation Grants totaling $494,321. These grants are for research that enables commercialization of early stage life science inventions at universities.

  • Duke University Medical Center (DUMC) received $98,000 for studies to be conducted by Arno Greenleaf, Ph.D., to develop targeted therapies for breast and ovarian cancers, particularly triple-negative cancers that lack three of the most common cellular receptors that current hormonal therapies attack.
  • North Carolina State University received $96,321 for the development of a different way of identifying and manufacturing new types of antibiotics. The research project by Gavin Williams, Ph.D., uses bacteria and other microbes designed and engineered to detect new antibiotics, and then to make large quantities of the antibiotics.
  • The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill received $100,000 to support the work of Barbara Vilen, Ph.D., to develop a new way of restoring immune system regulation to treat systemic lupus, a chronic autoimmune disease that affects about 45,000 North Carolinians.
  • UNC-CH received $100,000 for research by Robert Tarran, Ph.D., to develop novel peptides that relax and reduce inflammation in the airways of asthma patients.
  • UNC-CH received $100,000 for research by Leslie Parise, Ph.D., to develop a drug that inhibits the protein CIB1, which is believed to promote cancer cell survival in triple-negative breast tumors.

Technology Enhancement Grants

Four universities received five Technology Enhancement Grants totaling $375,000. These grants go to university technology transfer offices to support research and other commercially important activities that will make a technology licensable.

  • Duke University received $75,000 to support the work of scientist Nimmi Ramanujam, Ph.D., to develop a low-cost, portable “pocket” colposcope for visualizing the cervix to detect cervical cancer in women. Her goal is for the system to be significantly less expensive that a traditional colposcope, lightweight, rugged, and capable of being connected to a smartphone for virtual colposcopy, enabling low-cost colposcopy in primary care settings in the U.S. and in developing countries.
  • DUMC received $75,000 to help Tom Tedder, Ph.D., test the ability of a newly developed antibody diagnostic technology to identify new diagnostic and therapeutic targets for autoimmune diseases.
  • NCSU received $75,000 to support the work of John Sheppard, Ph.D., in the use of a novel strain of yeast for more-efficient and cost-effective production of lactic acid for use in pharmaceuticals, foods, textiles and biodegradable plastics based on poly-lactic acid (PLA).
  • UNC-CH received $75,000 for the lab of Samantha Pattenden, Ph.D., to optimize and validate the manufacture and use of nanodroplets for uniform and efficient DNA fragmentation in preparation for next-generation sequencing that is faster and more accurate.
  • Wake Forest University Health Sciences (WFUHS) received $75,000 for the laboratory of Adam Hall, Ph.D., to develop a point-of-care diagnostic device for influenza that uses nanopores, extremely small holes that allow only certain types of viruses or bacteria to pass through, and their DNA to be detected and measured.

Institutional Development Grants

Three universities received four Institutional Development Grants totaling $555,038. These grants are for the acquisition of research equipment and core facilities that serve multiple scientists.

  • Nancie MacIver, M.D., Ph.D., in the Department of Pediatrics at the Duke University School of Medicine, along with five other major users, received $158,000 to acquire an extracellular flux analyzer for studying cellular metabolic pathways in disease and identifying novel therapies. The Seahorse XFe96 will also be available to the wider Duke research community.  
  • DUMC received $155,682 to allow the Duke Human Heart Repository to purchase instruments that will enable researchers to analyze heart tissue samples at high volume and allow more investigators to use rare tissue samples. These research efforts, under the direction of Dawn Bowles, Ph.D., will advance the understanding of heart disease and the development of treatments for patients.
  • UNC-CH received $41,356 for a program under the direction of Martin Costello, Ph.D., to acquire an instrument that is essential to specimen preparation for cryo-electron microscopy, which visualizes super-frozen samples to determine their 3D structures at near atomic resolution.
  • WFUHS, under the direction of Cristina Furdui, Ph.D., received $200,000 for the Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center to acquire a liquid chromatography–mass spectrometry instrument. The instrument will enable the analysis of a wide variety of small molecules naturally present in the body or introduced by consumption of foods, exposure to environmental agents (pathogens, pollutants, pesticides, tobacco products) or the ingestion of medical drugs. By analyzing bodily fluids and other samples, the instrument will allow researchers to investigate disease prevention, causes of disease, development of new treatments and improvement in patients’ quality of life.

Collaborative Funding Grant

NCSU received a $100,000 Collaborative Funding Grant for the laboratory of Sung Woo Kim, Ph.D., to research the use of the feed enzyme xylanase and probiotics to establish and maintain gut health in young pigs as an alternative to antibiotic growth promoters, which are being eliminated under new regulations.

Event & Meeting Grants

Five universities, one community college and one nonprofit organization received 11 Biotechnology Event Sponsorships or Biotechnology Meeting Grants totaling $24,490.

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