Biotech Center Awards $2.3 Million in Grants, Loans in Latest Quarter

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The North Carolina Biotechnology Center awarded 19 grants and loans totaling more than $2.3 million to universities, bioscience companies and nonprofit organizations in the second quarter of its fiscal year.

The awards, made in October, November and December 2022, will support life sciences research, technology commercialization and entrepreneurship throughout North Carolina. The funding will also help universities and companies attract follow-on funding from other sources.

Company loans

Four bioscience companies received Small Business Research Loans totaling $850,000 to advance their research, product development and commercial viability.

  • Amalgent Therapeutics of Greenville received $250,000 to perform animal studies and prepare for a pre-Investigational New Drug (IND) meeting with the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for its fixed-dose oral tablet combination of two FDA-approved drugs, morphine and pramipexole, that enables reduction of morphine to a less addictive dose.
  • Avior Bio of Cary received $200,000 to complete Phase I clinical validation and submit an IND application to the FDA for AV-104, a drug candidate for treating pruritis (itch) in primary biliary cholangitis liver disease. Using an oral thin film technology, AV-104 has been shown in animal and human trials to be safe and more efficacious than traditional intravenous or oral forms of the drug.
  • InGateyGen of Elizabeth City received $200,000 to expand its technical and human resources for scaling up production of gene-edited peanut lines. Using CRISPR gene knockout technology, the company is developing an allergen-free peanut with undetectable allergen Ara h1-3 protein.
  • Lacuna Medical of Durham received $200,000 to complete benchtop and biocompatibility studies that will facilitate FDA clearance of its Galaxy Catheter, the first catheter to feature a unique coiled shape that is expected to reduce the incidence of catheter obstruction and dislodgement.

Two bioscience companies with technical proof-of-concept for products received Strategic Growth Loans totaling $1 million. The loans, matched by equal or greater funding from angel investors or venture capital firms, will help the companies commercialize their products.

  • Belhaven Biopharma of Raleigh received $500,000 for clinical trial material scale-up and production, IND preparation and filing, and a pilot human clinical trial for its dry powder intranasal epinephrine for treatment of anaphylaxis.
  • inSoma Bio of Durham received $500,000 to scale up GMP (Good Manufacturing Practices) production, finalize pre-clinical data and solidify the reimbursement and regulatory strategies for follow-on trials for its biopolymer Fractomer, which helps plastic surgeons perform breast reconstruction procedures for patients undergoing mastectomy.

Portfolio companies raise $36 million

Three bioscience companies that previously received loans from the Biotech Center raised more than $36 million in follow-on funding from other sources in the second quarter, according to research by the Biotech Center’s Life Science Intelligence staff.

  • Tellus Therapeutics of Durham raised $35 million in a Series A round of venture capital. The company is developing a treatment for white matter brain injury in preterm infants and other treatments for newborns in the neonatal intensive care unit.
  • EpiCypher of Research Triangle Park received $1,024,329 in research funding from the National Institutes of Health. The company is provides tools and services for epigenetics and chromatin biology research and drug development.
  • Animal Cancer Dx of Raleigh received a $50,000 SEED grant from NC IDEA, a private foundation that supports entrepreneurial companies in North Carolina.

Altogether, 25 life sciences companies across North Carolina raised over $735 million during the quarter from state and federal grants, venture capital, debt financing and exit deals. Accounting for over half of that total was the acquisition of Greenville-based Metrics Contract Services, a global contract manufacturing and development organization, by Catalent Pharma Solutions for over $480 million. That deal was announced last August.

University grants

Three universities received four grants totaling $349,294 during the second quarter to advance bioscience research. The awards were given through two programs: FLASH Grants, which support creative ideas that show early indications of commercial potential, and Translational Research Grants, which fund projects that explore potential commercial applications or initiate the early commercial development of university-held life sciences inventions.

The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill (UNC-CH) received a $19,993 FLASH Grant to test biochar as a treatment for household greywater and septic field effluent to reduce overloading of septic systems. This low-cost, sustainable treatment could be a solution for failing septic systems which adversely affect environmental and human health.

Three universities received Translational Research Grants totaling $329,301.

  • Duke University received $109,845 to investigate a gene therapy treatment for alternating hemiplegia of childhood, a debilitating disease that often results in pain, developmental delays and early death.
  • North Carolina State University received $109,456 to develop a gene therapy treatment for uveitis, a vision-threatening inflammatory disease of the eye, in humans and animals.
  • UNC-CH received $110,000 to develop a novel ultrasound technology to treat chronic wound infections.

Presidential Initiative Award

The North Carolina Central University Foundation received a $100,000 Presidential Initiative Award to address workforce equity in biomanufacturing. The university and its Biomanufacturing Research Institute and Technology Enterprise Institute will deploy a network of bioprocessing training hubs using the established infrastructure at 10 of North Carolina’s 11 Historically Black Colleges and Universities and the lone historically American Indian University. The short course consists of five online biomanufacturing modules taken prior to attending a two-week, hands-on, lab-based, bioprocessing course.

Biotechnology Meeting Grants

East Carolina University received an $8,500 Biotechnology Meeting Grant for the Carolina Cannabinoid Collaborative Meeting, an annual conference for scientists who study or are interested in learning about the field of cannabinoids.

Biotechnology Event Sponsorships

Four universities and one nonprofit organization received Biotechnology Event Sponsorships totaling $13,363 for biotechnology meetings and events.

  • The North Carolina Branch of the American Society for Microbiology received $1,745 for its annual meeting, which develops and maintains research dialogue among scientists and academic and research institutions across the state in the field of microbiology.
  • ECU received $1,268 for its 24th annual Neuroscience Symposium, which engages academia, the general public and businesses from eastern North Carolina and surrounding counties in presentations about current research and clinical studies involving neuroscience.
  • NCSU received $3,000 for the North Carolina Coastal Conference, designed to discuss a wide range of critical issues across North Carolina, including community perspectives, social sciences, marine renewable energy, civic engagement, storm water, hazard communication, public health and fisheries.
  • NCSU received $1,200 for convening a 21st Century IPM Dialogue, an event to identify and synthesize the key values and applications of Integrated Pest Management systems and determine the most effective ways to further research the development and use of those applications in support of sustainable agricultural production.
  • NCSU received $1,500 for the North Carolina Plant Sciences Initiative’s Second Annual Hackathon, designed to accelerate agricultural sustainability using technologies such as machine learning and 3D printing.
  • UNC-CH received $3,000 for the Department of Biochemistry and Biophysics Research Retreat an annual event for presenting innovative research and providing professional development opportunities for graduate students and post-doctoral fellows.
  • The University of North Carolina Wilmington received $1,650 for the State of North Carolina Undergraduate Research and Creativity Symposium, which showcases undergraduate student research and creative work across the state.
Barry Teater, NCBiotech Writer
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