NCBiotech Awards $1.6 Million in Grants, Loans in Latest Quarter

The North Carolina Biotechnology Center awarded 37 grants and loans totaling more than $1.6 million to universities, bioscience companies and other organizations in the third quarter of its fiscal year.

The awards, made from Jan. 1 to March 30, will support life science research, technology commercialization and entrepreneurship throughout North Carolina. The funding will also help universities and companies attract follow-on funding from other sources.

Company awards

Three companies received Small Business Research Loans totaling $750,000. The loan program supports business inception and research leading to the development of products, processes or tools with clear commercial potential.

  • TregTherapeutics of Chapel Hill received $250,000 to initiate pre-Investigational new drug studies of a novel vaccine for multiple sclerosis. 
  • Redbud Labs of Research Triangle Park received $250,000 to commercialize microfluidic chip technology that supports molecular diagnostic test platforms. 
  • Eldec Pharmaceuticals of Chapel Hill received $250,000 for Investigational New Drug-enabling activities to advance novel peptide therapeutics for pulmonary disease.

AveXis received a $100,000 Economic Development Award to support hands-on training for its new gene therapy manufacturing facility in Durham County. The company plans to create 400 new jobs in Research Triangle Park, including engineers, manufacturing and quality control personnel, and supply chain specialists.

Nine companies received $3,000 each from the Industrial Internship Program to sponsor industrial internships for undergraduates, graduate students and recent graduates in business administration or the life sciences. Recipients were Redbud Labs, EG Gilero of Morrisville, Chiesi USA of Cary, Kepley BioSystems of Greensboro, Cohesion Phenomics of Spindale, and Lindy Biosciences, Higgs Boson Health, InnAVasc Medical and EpiCypher, all of Durham.

Portfolio companies raise $26M in follow-on funding

Eleven bioscience companies that previously received loans from the Biotech Center raised about $26 million in follow-on funding from other sources in the quarter, according to research by the Center’s Life Science Intelligence staff.

Accounting for most of that total was Morrisville-based Locus Biosciences, which signed a collaboration and license agreement with Janssen Pharmaceuticals that will bring it $20 million in initial payments to develop, manufacture and commercialize CRISPR-Cas3-enhanced bacteriophage products. 

The total amount raised by all North Carolina life science companies in the third quarter was $306 million. Leading the way was Durham-based Precision BioSciences, which raised $126.4 million in an initial public offering of stock, followed by Brevard-based Gaia Herbs, which raised $40,343,344 in venture capital. 

University grants

Five universities throughout the state received 10 grants totaling $690,826 to advance bioscience research. The awards were given through two programs: Flash Grants and Institutional Development Grants.

Five Flash Grants totaling $111,511 were awarded to support creative ideas that exhibit early indications of commercial potential as life science technologies. 

  • North Carolina State University received $23,826 to develop a precise ocular injection device that allows efficient drug delivery to the eye. It would use a minimally invasive, pain-free, and simple approach that could be superior to eye drops, which require frequent self-administration and result in poor drug absorption.
  • NCSU received $24,000 to test an implantable scaffold that recruits, reprograms and releases CAR-T cells inside of patients for cancer immunotherapy, possibly eliminating costly and laborious cell manipulation outside of the body. 
  • NCSU received $23,015 for the production optimization and scale-up of a new, chemically modified RNA anticoagulant as a safer alternative to currently used drugs (such as warfarin) for surgery and disease treatment. 
  • NCSU received $24,000 to engineer a prototype DNA hard drive for storing massive amounts of digital information that current electronic storage media technologies can’t handle. 
  • The University of North Carolina Wilmington received $16,670 to develop novel, biological probes for the detection of protein aggregates associated with early stage Parkinson's disease. 

Five Institutional Development Grants totaling $579,315 were awarded for the purchase of major research equipment or instrumentation serving multiple investigators.

  • Campbell University received $89,964 to purchase a multicolor flow cytometer to bolster and expand interdisciplinary research. The instrument will be used to study metabolic, inflammatory and infectious disease processes and to better understand how pharmaceutical compounds and environmental factors impact cellular function.
  • NCSU received $149,868 to purchase an X-ray irradiator cabinet for cell and small-animal research that will enable projects in regenerative medicine, neurobiology, cancer biology, radiotherapeutics, bioengineering and materials science.
  • NCSU received $150,000 to purchase a state-of-the-art X-ray diffractometer for determining the precise structure of small-molecule compounds. The instrument will serve more than 50 research groups across the state for a variety of projects including the synthesis of new antibiotics, HIV drugs and cancer therapeutics.
  • The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill received $150,000 to purchase a four-channel cryoprobe for the magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scanner in the Small Animal MRI Core Facility. The equipment will shorten scan time while greatly improving data quality of rodent brain scans, helping studies of brain cancer, stroke, Parkinson's disease and fetal alcohol spectrum disorder.
  • Western Carolina University received $39,483 to purchase a microplate reader that will allow researchers at WCU and in the western part of North Carolina to collect scientific data rapidly and efficiently using UV-visible and fluorescence-based methods.

In addition, three Biotechnology Meeting Grants totaling $18,000 were awarded to two universities and one nonprofit organization for national or international meetings held in North Carolina. 

Eleven Biotechnology Event Sponsorships totaling $22,069 were awarded to seven universities and two nonprofit organizations to host events primarily for North Carolina audiences.

Barry Teater, NCBiotech Writer
Tue, 05/07/2019 - 16:42