NCBiotech Awards $1.4 Million in Latest Quarter

The North Carolina Biotechnology Center awarded 23 grants and loans totaling over $1.4 million to bioscience companies, universities and nonprofit organizations in the first quarter of its fiscal year.

The awards, made in July, August and September, will support life sciences 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 $450,000 to advance their research, product development and commercial viability.

  • Coprata of Durham received $100,000 to support market access and reimbursement strategy planning, and a pilot program that will provide patient feedback on a prototype of its automated stool-sampling toilet. The company’s “smart toilet” technology is designed to analyze fecal biomarkers and other data to detect chronic gastrointestinal diseases such as inflammatory bowel disease.
  • Enzerna Biosciences of Morrisville received $250,000 to support in vivo validation of two lead therapeutic candidates for Huntington’s disease and myotonic dystrophy. The company uses a proprietary gene editing platform to recognize and repair specific genetic defects responsible for over 40 known rare diseases.
  • Animal Cancer Dx of Raleigh received $100,000 to develop a microfluidics-based screening test prototype and conduct validation studies. The company is focused on a non-invasive method of canine cancer screening using the highly sensitive olfactory system of the worm C. elegans to detect volatile organic compounds in dog urine.

Portfolio companies raise $256 million  

Twenty-five bioscience companies that previously received loans from the Biotech Center raised $256 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 Greensboro’s Piedmont Animal Health, which was sold in July to Dechra Pharmaceuticals of Northwich, England, for $210 million in cash. Over two decades, Piedmont developed more than 30 companion-animal medicines sold by major global brands.

The next-largest deal during the quarter saw Durham-based Entegrion raise nearly $13.9 million in venture capital. The company provides solutions for clinical diagnosis and management of hemostasis, the body’s response to bleeding.

T3D Therapeutics of Research Triangle Park also raised over $6 million in venture capital along with over $1 million in grant funding from the National Institutes of Health (NIH). The company is developing potential treatments for Alzheimer’s disease, Huntington’s disease and other neurodegenerative diseases.

EpiCypher, also of Research Triangle Park, secured eight NIH grants totaling nearly $5.4 million. The company develops reagents and tools for studying chromatin regulation and enabling epigenetics-focused drug development.

University grants

Universities received research grants totaling $863,093 from three programs.

Two universities were awarded Innovation Impact Grants totaling $243,927:

  • The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill received $148,182 to support the purchase of a state-of-the-art mass spectrometer for its biomarker mass spectrometry facility. The instrument will enable the measurement of metals in biological samples.
  • The University of North Carolina Wilmington (UNCW) received $95,745 to purchase an upgrade for a mass spectrometer in its marine science core facility. The upgrade will allow researchers to determine where specific compounds are localized in tissues and solid samples.

Three universities received Translational Research Grants totaling $439,786:

  • Duke University Medical Center received $109,837 to design and test RNA-targeting drugs to treat atherosclerosis, the leading cause of coronary artery disease and stroke.
  • North Carolina State University received $110,000 to develop a novel method of gene editing for use in gene therapy applications to treat a wide range of genetic diseases.
  • UNCW received $109,949 to develop methods of preparation of thermostable solutions of naked mRNA and mRNA lipid nanoparticles that will eliminate the need for ultra-cold-chain transportation and storage of mRNA.
  • UNCW also received $110,000 to develop an isometric neck strength assessment tool.

Seven universities received Flash Grants totaling $179,380:

  • Duke University Medical Center received $11,714 to develop a humanized anti-gastrin-releasing peptide monoclonal antibody for the possible treatment of pulmonary fibrosis and early lung injuries, and the prevention of chronic lung diseases.
  • NC State received $18,753 to establish a novel microspore culture system to create inbred tomato plants as breeding stock.
  • UNC Asheville received $23,359 to construct a library of Staphylococcus aureus bacteria strains with controllable expression of functionally important genes of interest for pathogenesis and drug-discovery researchers.
  • UNC-CH received $19,363 to develop a gene therapy treatment of uveal melanoma to preserve vision and/or prevent metastases.
  • UNC Charlotte received $27,500 to further develop DNA- and RNA-based nanoparticles that can deliver therapeutic agents into cells, such as delivery of antibiotics for the treatment of bacterial meningitis.
  • The University of North Carolina Greensboro received $26,175 to develop a self-charging battery made from live photosynthetic purple bacteria.
  • UNCW received $26,258 to create a method for assembling a protein pore through a cellular membrane for use in drug or antibiotic delivery.
  • UNCW received $26,258 to develop novel daptomycin-related antibiotics with reduced toxicity and lower cost.

Event and meeting grants

Three universities and one nonprofit organization received grants totaling $28,250 to sponsor regional events or national meetings in the life sciences. 

  • Duke University Medical Center received $8,000 for “The Rulebreakers: Extraordinary Stories in Lipid Biology,” a conference about the impact of lipid and lipoprotein metabolism on the development and treatment of cardiometabolic disease. The conference also featured a joint event with the N.C. Diabetes Research Center that explored common themes in metabolic diseases.
  • North Carolina State University received $6,750 for the Food Animal Innovation Summit, a gathering of experts from industry and academia to exchange ideas and solutions in animal agriculture.
  • UNC-CH received $6,500 for the Nanomedicine and Drug Delivery Symposium, an annual event for researchers developing next-generation delivery vehicles -- targeted, responsive, biodegradable nanomaterials -- to make diagnostics more sensitive and drugs more effective.
  • UNC-CH received $5,000 for the third annual Interdisciplinary Nutrition Sciences Symposium, "Diet and Chronic Unresolved Inflammation: Implications for Obesity-Associated Outcomes." The symposium addressed the critical need for rigorous interdisciplinary and translational approaches to diet and nutrition to prevent and treat chronic inflammation associated with metabolic diseases.
  • Sigma Xi, the Scientific Research Honor Society, received $2,000 for the N.C. Science Policy Bootcamp, a four-day interactive forum to introduce participants to science policy with top state leaders in scientific, industry and governmental agencies.

Partnership Development Grant

NCBiotech awarded the City of Greenville a $100,000 Partnership Development Grant to expand the Pharma K12 program. It provides local high school graduates the opportunity to train at the NC Pharmaceutical Services Network at Pitt Community College (PSN@PCC) and interview for careers at Thermo Fisher Scientific. The expansion of the program will strengthen Thermo Fisher Scientific's talent pipeline and community engagement in Pitt County as the company plans to add 290 jobs to its manufacturing facility in Greenville.

Barry Teater, NCBiotech Writer
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