NCBiotech Awards $2.2 Million in Grants, Loans in Latest Quarter

The North Carolina Biotechnology Center awarded 87 grants and loans totaling $2,283,930 to universities, bioscience companies and non-profit organizations in the third quarter of its fiscal year.

The awards, made in January, February and March, 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 loans

Six bioscience companies received Small Business Research Loans totaling $1,350,000 to advance their research, product development, commercial viability and funding efforts.

  • AGEYE Technologies, a Raleigh-based company that uses artificial intelligence and digital technology to help indoor farms become sustainable and scalable, received $100,000 for the development of a small-scale automated experimentation module that customers can independently use to optimize their growing systems. The mobile plant growth module provides real-time inferencing of phenotypic plant data and environmental growth factors to produce predictive insights in a commercial setting.  
  • Bex Vision of Durham received $250,000 to develop a monoclonal antibody therapy for advanced dry age-related macular degeneration caused by degeneration and death of retinal cells.
  • QATCH Technologies of Durham received $250,000 to fund development of a high-throughput version of its nanovisQ instrument, an injectability screening tool that enables biopharmaceutical formulation developers to optimize formulations early in the drug-development process. The company is pioneering the use of acoustofluidic devices to measure viscosity of formulations at very low volumes.
  • Phase Inc. of Cornelius received $250,000 to refine its proprietary 3D printer and to develop its direct-to-consumer microfluidic chips. The company has developed a novel method for 3D printing of polydimethylsiloxane microfluidic chips that eliminates the need for molds and extended cure times, allowing for rapid chip prototyping and production for biomedical applications.
  • Vizma Life Sciences of Chapel Hill received $250,000 to develop an automated benchtop hyperpolarization instrument and its first accompanying hyperpolarized injectable agent, pyruvate, that will enable existing magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scanners to also image metabolic function.
  • Integrated Precision Biosystems (IPB) of Chapel Hill received $250,000 for preliminary specifications, design and assembly of the required hardware components for a fully automated metabolomics analyzer as a turnkey solution for metabolomics workflow in scientific labs.
Portfolio companies raise $6.7 million 

Eight bioscience companies that previously received loans from the Biotech Center raised more than $6.7 million in follow-on funding from other sources in the third quarter, according to research by the Biotech Center’s Life Science Intelligence staff.

Leading the way was Chapel Hill-based IMMvention Therapeutix, which raised $2 million in venture capital, and Greenville-based Perfusio, which raised about $1.6 million in venture capital. 

Isolere Bio of Durham was acquired for an undisclosed amount by Donaldson Co. of Minneapolis.

Dignify Therapeutics of Research Triangle Park, Eldec Pharmaceuticals of Durham, EpiCypher of Research Triangle Park, InSoma Bio of Durham and NabGen of Durham received federal grants totaling about $3.1 million.

Industrial Internships

Fifty-eight companies received 59 grants totaling $206,500 from the Industrial Internship Program.

The program provides internship opportunities for undergraduates, graduate students and recent graduates in business administration or the life sciences. These internships provide real-world work experience that helps students transition to careers in North Carolina's life sciences sector while participating companies gain valuable assistance with a broad range of product and business development activities.

University grants

Six universities received 14 FLASH Grants totaling $346,699. These grants support creative ideas that show early indications of commercial potential.

  • East Carolina University (ECU) received $27,500 to collect crucial proof-of-concept efficacy data for a novel, sustainable pesticide to address the unmet need of protecting honeybees from the parasitic Varroa mite and pathogenic viruses.
  • ECU received $27,500 to develop a new method of inducing endothelium permeability as a delivery method for cancer therapeutics.
  • ECU received $27,499 to assess the efficacy of a novel drug combination in preventing fibrosis and maintaining nerve function after injury.
  • ECU received $27,200 to develop and test an interactive web-based intervention for parents who endure grief from the loss of a child.
  • High Point University received $27,000 to develop a method to prevent infectious bacterial biofilms from growing on silicone catheters by using a synergistic combination of a physically patterned silicone surface with a chemical treatment to inhibit bacterial biofilm growth.
  • High Point University received $27,500 to develop a new therapeutic cancer treatment using silver, which shows a significant degree of cancer selectivity against malignant peripheral nerve sheath tumors.
  • High Point University received $27,500 to improve the treatment of diabetic foot ulcers by developing a topical gel containing the antibiotic vancomycin.
  • North Carolina State University received $20,000 to conduct proof-of-concept studies for a disruptive technology enabling fast and efficient genetic re-programming of cells and delivery of cellular therapeutics.
  • NC State received $20,000 to develop novel hybrid seeds for specialty crops that will result in hardy plants producing seedless fruits.
  • NC State received $20,000 to propagate elite clonal lines of Fraser fir through a disruptive-technology project to evaluate the potential for generating auto-luminescent Christmas trees.
  • UNC Charlotte received $20,000 to characterize the function and genetic interactions of a novel iron transporter gene that has been linked to increased yield and sugar production in sweet sorghum.
  • UNC Greensboro received $27,500 to investigate the use of legume plants, which form symbioses with rhizobia bacteria to capture and fix atmospheric nitrogen, as an environmentally friendly and cost-effective biofertilizer in forest ecosystems, such as longleaf pine savannas.
  • UNC Greensboro received $20,000 to develop nanomaterials to control pathogenic fungal infections and stem the rise of drug resistant fungi.
  • UNC Pembroke received $27,500 to investigate brain protein clearance systems in order to identify therapeutic regulatory targets using state-of-the-art target deconvolution methods.

Three universities received Innovation Impact Grants totaling $364,324. These grants support the purchase of research equipment for core facilities at academic or nonprofit institutions, fostering innovation within North Carolina’s life sciences ecosystem.  

  • Duke University received $150,000 for its Shared Materials Instrumentation Facility to support the purchase of a high-speed module for its existing atomic force microscope, providing additional capabilities for characterizing the structure and dynamics of biomolecules and cells.
  • NC State received $116,268 to support the purchase of a multi-camera array microscope that will facilitate high-throughput screening of zebra fish, a model species used for immunology, toxicology, neurology and developmental biology studies.
  • UNC Charlotte received $98,056 for its Department of Biological Sciences to support the purchase of a high-throughput sequencing system for genome sequencing projects.
Biotechnology Event Sponsorships

Two universities and two non-profit organization received Biotechnology Event Sponsorships totaling $10,600. These grants provide up to $3,000 to support life sciences-focused events held primarily for a North Carolina audience.  

  • The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill received $3,000 for the Integrative Vascular Biology and UNC McAllister Heart Institute Research Symposium, which provides opportunities for established and emerging cardiovascular scientists to present and discuss their most recent cutting-edge research in cardiovascular biology and other related disciplines.
  • The Organic Growers School received $3,000 for its 30th Anniversary Spring Conference, offering workshops on organic growing and sustainable living with a focus on the growing conditions in Southern Appalachia. The event brings together scientists, growers and those passionate about sustainable living to learn from each other.
  • The North Carolina Academy of Science received $1,600 for its annual meeting, which nurtures collaboration and professional development for student scientists and professional researchers in biological sciences and beyond. Undergraduates, graduate students and scientists share their research through symposia and poster sessions as well as through discussions on scientifically sound solutions to relevant problems.
  • NC State received $3,000 for the Water Resources Research Institute’s annual conference, the premier water-themed conference in North Carolina, featuring water resource management topics, student posters, water-themed student art and facilitated networking opportunities.
Biotechnology Meeting Grants

One university, NC State, received a $5,807 Biotechnology Meeting Grant for the Southern Section Meeting of the American Society of Animal Science. These grants provide up to $10,000 to support national and international life sciences-focused meetings held in North Carolina.

Barry Teater, NCBiotech Writer
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