NCBiotech Awards 11 Grants, Loans in Latest Quarter

The North Carolina Biotechnology Center awarded 11 grants and loans totaling $779,300 to bioscience companies, universities and non-profit organizations in the first quarter of its fiscal year.

The awards, made in July, August and September, will support life science research, technology commercialization and entrepreneurship throughout North Carolina. The funding will also help companies attract follow-on funding from other sources.

Company loans

Three bioscience companies received Small Business Research Loans totaling $750,000 to advance their research, product development and commercial viability.

Gusto Global of Morrisville received $250,000 to test a novel live bacterial therapy designed to overcome immune dormancy (non-response) found in up to 60% of melanoma patients undergoing anti-PD-1 immunotherapy.    

Valanbio Therapeutics of Raleigh received $250,000 to complete formulation optimization, stability and solubility studies for its lead drug candidate, a novel antibiotic against Gram-negative pathogens.

Innatrix of Research Triangle Park received $250,000 to develop the manufacturing process, establish the regulatory pathway, and perform field efficacy trials for protein-based biopesticides to treat late blight fungal disease in potatoes and tomatoes caused by the pathogen Phytophthora infestans.

Portfolio companies raise $269 million  

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Twenty-three bioscience companies that previously received loans from the Biotech Center raised $269 million in follow-on funding from other sources in the first quarter, according to research by the Biotech Center’s Life Science Intelligence staff.

Accounting for most of that total was Durham-based Humacyte, which raised about $245 million in a business combination with Alpha Healthcare Acquisition Corp., a special purpose acquisition company. The proceeds included $175 million from a PIPE (private investment in public equity) financing and $70 million of cash held in the former Alpha Healthcare trust account.

Participating PIPE investors included Fresenius Medical Care, OrbiMed, Monashee Investment Management, Alexandria Venture Investments, UBS O’Connor, Morgan Creek Capital and other healthcare-focused funds.

Humacyte, now publicly traded on the Nasdaq Global Select Market under the symbol HUMA, is a clinical-stage biotechnology platform company developing universally implantable bioengineered human tissue at commercial scale. The company’s Human Acellular Vessels are engineered, off-the-shelf replacement vessels initially being developed for vascular repair, reconstruction and replacement. 

Event and meeting grants

Four universities and two nonprofit organizations received eight grants totaling $29,300 to sponsor regional events or national meetings in the life sciences.  

  • UNC-Chapel Hill received $3,000 to sponsor the 2021 Triangle Cytoskeleton Meeting, a conference featuring networking, a keynote address and presentations by graduate students, postdoctoral fellows and faculty.


  • North Carolina State University received $1,300 for the Center for Integrated Pest Management (CIPM) Showcase, an event to introduce CIPM to stakeholders across the Triangle region. 


  • NC State received $3,000 to host the 2021 Molecular Biotechnology Research Symposium, which allows graduate students, research scientists and engineers to present current research in fields related to molecular biotechnology. The topic this year is Molecular Sensing, Diagnostics and Surveillance. 


  • NC State received $10,000 for the Nutrition, Health and Precision Animal Farming Conference, a three-day event organized by the Animal Health and Nutrition Consortium in collaboration with the Carolina Feed Industry Association and the College of Agriculture Food Animal Initiative. The conference will feature topics about nutrition, feed quality gut health and precision animal farming for commercial food production animals.


  • The North Carolina Association for Biomedical Research received $3,000 for the 10th annual conference, Bridging the Gap: Uniting North Carolina K-16 STEM Education. The Raleigh-based virtual conference will bring together educators, business leaders, government officials and others who play a role in STEM education to share ideas and resources in an effort to strengthen K-16 STEM education throughout North Carolina. 


  • Elon University received $3,000 for the State of North Carolina Undergraduate Research and Creativity Symposium 2021 for students and scientists at Elon University, Catawba College and Livingston College to present topics in biology, biotechnology, bioengineering, molecular and cellular biology and biochemistry.


  • East Carolina University received $3,000 for the Voyages of Discovery Premier Lecture, a lecture series for ECU students, faculty and the public. Dr. Moogega Cooper, a planetary protection scientist with the NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory, will speak on “Diversity in STEAM from a Real-Life Guardian of the Galaxy.” 


  • The Triangle Global Health Consortium received $3,000 for the Eighth Annual Triangle Global Health Conference: Reframing Global Health in a Changing World. Program sessions will include a mix of speakers, panels, workshops, and poster presentations that showcase innovative and adaptive approaches to global health challenges.
Barry Teater
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