NCBiotech Awards $1.9M in Grants, Loans in Latest Quarter

NCBiotech headquarters in RTP
NCBiotech headquarters in RTP.

The North Carolina Biotechnology Center awarded 21 grants and loans totaling more than $1.9 million to universities and biosciences companies and other entities in the fourth quarter of its fiscal year.

The awards, made in April, May and June, 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

Five biosciences companies received Small Business Research Loans totaling $1 million to advance their research, product development and commercial viability.

  • Belhaven Biopharma of Raleigh received $250,000 to fund in vivo studies of its first drug candidate, a dry-powder, intranasal epinephrine for treating anaphylaxis, a severe allergic reaction.
  • EncepHeal Therapeutics of Winston-Salem received $150,000 to screen for a clinical drug candidate that mitigates cardiotoxicity risk. The company is developing small-molecule atypical dopamine transporter inhibitors as a cocaine-substitution therapy.
  • Helixomer of Raleigh received $100,000 to support production of its novel anticoagulant and reversal agent for use in pre-clinical studies and bioanalytical assay development.
  • NabGen of Durham received $250,000 to develop a scalable biomanufacturing process and begin pilot production of its molecules. The company’s technology can transiently “block” neutralizing antibodies that can impede the effectiveness of gene therapies. 
  • RainBIO of Raleigh received $250,000 to support the initial stages of process development, manufacturing and regulatory filing for a recombinant adeno-associated virus gene therapy strategy for preventing and reversing vision loss frequently associated with lysosomal storage disorders.

Economic Development Award

Durham County received a $100,000 Economic Development Award to support employee training and undergraduate internships for local students at GRAIL’s new laboratory in Research Triangle Park. GRAIL is an innovative healthcare company focused on detecting cancer early when it can be cured.

Portfolio companies raise $90 million  

Fourteen biosciences companies that previously received loans from the Biotech Center raised $90.6 million in follow-on funding from other sources in the fourth quarter, according to research by the Biotech Center’s Life Science Intelligence staff.

Accounting for more than half of that amount was Durham-based Humacyte, which received up to $50 million in the form of a secured debt financing facility from Silicon Valley Bank, with $20 million funded at closing. Humacyte is developing universally implantable bioengineered human tissues and organs. 

Another Durham company, Baebies, raised $9.5 million in equity through a Series B venture capital financing that has totaled nearly $28.3 million to date. Baebies provides newborn screening and pediatric testing for a wide range of medical conditions.

A third Durham company, Isolere Bio, a spinout of Duke University, raised $7 million in seed funding from lead investor Nortpond Ventures. The funding will support development, scale-up and commercialization of Isolere’s purification technology for adeno-associated virus vectors used in gene therapy.

Advanced Animal Diagnostics of Morrisville also raised $7 million in venture capital to develop its platform for fast, point-of-care diagnostic and data systems in animal and human health. Mountain Group Partners led the round, which included new investors Alexandria Venture Investments and Herbert Group Ltd. as well as Intersouth Partners of Durham, Murphy Family Ventures of Wallace, Burlington-based Labcorp and others.

University grants

Eight universities received 15 grants totaling $843,961 during the fourth quarter to advance biosciences research. 

The awards were given through three programs: FLASH Grants, which support creative ideas that show early indications of commercial potential; Translational Research Grants, which fund projects that explore potential commercial applications or initiate the early commercial development of university-held life sciences inventions; and Innovation Impact Grants, which support the purchase of research equipment for core facilities, fostering innovation. 

Universities received nine FLASH Grants totaling $175,765:

  • Appalachian State University received $20,000 to test two approved drugs, procarbazine and dasatinib, to see if they inhibit the cholesterol reactions of the enzyme cytochrome P450 27A1, while maintaining the enzyme’s role in vitamin D3 metabolism. An emerging strategy for treating breast cancer is the reduction of 27-hydroxyholesterol levels by inhibiting the enzyme.
  • Appalachian State received $19,543 to develop nano-reactor technology that can manufacture peptides faster at commercially relevant scales while retaining necessary purity.
  • East Carolina University received $20,000 to develop a novel therapeutic vaccine platform that will target SARS-CoV-2 viruses during active infection, regardless of the strain. The therapeutic is designed to block viral replication and facilitate virus-specific immune responses.
  • North Carolina Agricultural and Technical State University received $18,000 to design a device for removing the environmental contaminant PFAS from water.
  • The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill received $20,000 to develop a new patient-friendly, dosage-delivery method for oral administration of therapeutic microbes to treat gastrointestinal diseases.
  • The University of North Carolina Charlotte received $20,000 to develop a new method for separating and analyzing carbohydrates, including glycans attached to proteins. Carbohydrates are capable of enormous structural diversity, and many important biological pathways (likely including SARS-CoV-2 cell entry) exploit this.
  • UNC Charlotte received $18,222 to develop software that will allow scientists to quickly incorporate information from recently published scientific discoveries into their new research.
  • UNC Charlotte received $20,000 to study key determinants of protein expression in malaria, helping to identify potential targets for novel malaria therapeutics.
  • The University of North Carolina Wilmington received $20,000 to synthesize and test inhibitors of a critical microbial enzyme in an attempt to discover new antibacterial or antifungal compounds.

Universities received five Translational Research Grants totaling $531,020:

  • Duke University Medical Center received $106,642 to develop a flexible therapeutic needle delivery system designed to navigate within the bony spinal column.
  • East Carolina University received $110,000 to develop a new molecule that may cause the immune system to recognize and eliminate melanoma tumors.
  • North Carolina State University received $110,000 to investigate a novel biomaterial that mimics platelet function to treat bleeding following traumatic injury.
  • UNC-Chapel Hill received $110,000 to develop a new speech therapy device to help patients with speech impediments.
  • UNC-Chapel Hill received $94,378 to develop a new method of delivering X-rays for dental computed tomography.
  • One university, NC State, received a $137,176 Innovation Impact Grant to support the purchase of a state-of-the-art, fast-scanning microscope for its Cellular and Molecular Imaging Facility. This equipment will significantly accelerate the rate of capturing research data and will serve researchers from multiple departments at the university.
Barry Teater, NCBiotech Writer
Thu, 07/29/2021 - 15:56