NCBiotech Awards $3.3 Million in Grants, Loans in Latest Quarter

The North Carolina Biotechnology Center awarded 32 grants and loans totaling $3,304,543 to universities, bioscience companies and nonprofit organizations 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

Eight bioscience companies received Small Business Research Loans totaling $1,850,000 to advance their research, product development, commercial viability and funding efforts.

  • Cytex Therapeutics (DBA CytexOrtho) of Durham received $250,000 to help support a first-in-human clinical trial for its bioabsorbable, acellular, flexible, form-fitting hip resurfacing implant designed to stimulate cellular infiltration and restoration of natural cartilage tissue, bone structure and joint function.
  • Epigenos Biosciences of Morrisville received $250,000 to develop a precision epigenetic medicine for Friedreich’s Ataxia, a rare, progressive genetic disease that results in poor neurological development and cardiac complications.
  • GeneVentiv Therapeutics of Raleigh received $250,000 for proof-of-concept studies of its gene therapy for both major forms of hemophilia (types A and B), a genetic bleeding disorder.
  • Phinite of Clinton received $250,000 to optimize a sludge drying system that converts hog waste into a dried fertilizer product.
  • Plakous Therapeutics of Winston-Salem received $250,000 to support an Investigational New Drug filing for an orally delivered regenerative medicine therapy, Protego-PD, for the prevention of necrotizing enterocolitis, an inflammatory intestinal disease occurring in premature, low-weight babies.
  • Quadridox of Hillsborough received $250,000 to develop an X-ray diffraction imaging scanner for pathology applications including cancer detection.
  • SelSym Biotech of Raleigh received $100,000 for production, biocompatibility/safety studies and stability evaluation of SymClot, a hemostatic hydrogel to treat uncontrolled bleeding.
  • Triangle Biotechnology of Chapel Hill received $250,000 to optimize the performance and stability of reagents used in acoustic sonication, or sound energy,  technologies for better DNA sequencing in scientific research. 

Portfolio companies raise $81.4 million

Nineteen bioscience companies that previously received loans from the Biotech Center raised over $81 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 almost half of that total was Durham-based Baebies, which raised over $37.5 million in venture capital and another $1.2 million in two research grants from the National Institutes of Health. The company specializes in newborn screening and pediatric testing for congenital disorders using digital microfluidics and other technologies that require small volumes of plasma, whole blood or saliva.

Two other companies raised substantial venture capital. Contego Medical of Raleigh raised over $15 million, and Deep Blue Medical Advances of Durham raised over $7 million. Contego develops novel medical devices for cardiovascular and peripheral vascular procedures that protect against embolism, a blockage in blood vessels. Deep Blue Medical develops medical devices for repairing hernias.

Partnership Development Grants

The Town of Holly Springs received two Partnership Development Grants for life sciences projects in collaboration with expanding companies. 

One award for $100,000 will help launch the Amgen Biotech Experience, a global science-education program, at Holly Springs High School. The program helps teachers bring biotechnology into their classrooms and aims to inspire local high school students to pursue life sciences careers through hands-on experiences. Amgen plans to create 355 new jobs in Holly Springs.

Another award for $200,000 will help increase awareness of biomanufacturing and life sciences careers. This partnership with FUJIFILM Diosynth Biotechnologies will facilitate professional development and experiential learning opportunities for middle school and high school teachers and students in Wake County schools, strengthening the local workforce development ecosystem. FUJIFILM Diosynth Biotechnologies plans to create 725 new jobs in Holly Springs.

University grants

Eight universities received grants totaling just over $1.1 million to advance bioscience research.

Five universities received FLASH Grants, which support creative ideas that show early indications of commercial potential.

  • Davidson University received $25,367 to investigate the use of polymers containing usnic acid to increase the antimicrobial properties of polymers for treating microbial infections.
  • East Carolina University received $27,500 to develop small-molecule inhibitors of select human antibody and immune systems.
  • ECU also received $27,500 to develop a rapid screening assay of immune cells’ energy use as an indicator of antibody production.
  • ECU also received $25,249 to develop a delivery system based on micelles for an anti-cancer drug that is not normally soluble, allowing the drug to be administered by injection.
  • ECU also received $27,496 to conduct a proof-of-concept study of a novel imaging technology to rapidly measure pressure pulse waveforms and pulse wave velocity as predictors of arterial wall stiffness.
  • High Point University received $27,500 to develop aminopyrimidines to decrease or eliminate penicillin resistance in methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) bacteria.
  • HPU also received $21,000 to develop a therapeutic compound to treat cancerous peripheral nerve sheath tumors.
  • North Carolina State University received $19,890 to investigate novel proanthocycanidin compounds that may replace antibiotics commonly added to animal feed.
  • NC State also received $20,000 to develop a bioengineered mechano-responsive gel material to treat enterocutaneous fistula, a painful and debilitating opening between the gastrointestinal tract and the skin.
  • NC State also received $20,000 to develop several antibody-based therapeutics that bind to and prevent the tumor-supporting activity of vasoactive intestinal peptide, a signaling molecule with anti-inflammatory properties.
  • The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill received $20,000 to study the potential commercial market for a novel sonotherapy device that treats bacterial biofilms formed in open wounds.

Four universities received Innovation Impact Grants, which support the purchase of research equipment for core facilities at academic or nonprofit institutions that foster innovation.

  • Duke University’s Shared Materials Instrumentation Facility received $150,000 to acquire a surface plasmon resonance instrument for rapid and high-throughput characterization of biomolecular interactions. This equipment will aid researchers in developing new drugs and diagnostic assays.
  • Duke University Medical Center received $150,000 to purchase a small-animal irradiator system that will enable researchers to develop novel radiation treatments and to study radiation effects on normal tissue.
  • Fayetteville State University received $36,216 to purchase an imaging system that will expand research capacity and encourage collaboration at the university.
  • UNC-CH’s Advanced Translational Pharmacology and Analytical Chemistry Lab received $150,000 to purchase a liquid chromatography, triple-quadrupole mass spectrometry system that will provide bioanalytical support for studies at UNC and beyond.
  • UNC-CH also received $111,625 to purchase a microscope for capturing high-resolution images of the gut microbiome, the trillions of microorganisms and their genetic material that live in the intestinal tract and affect health and wellbeing.
  • The University of North Carolina Wilmington received $148,500 to acquire a continuous-flow thermal sterilizer to support the large-scale cultivation capability of the university’s Algal Resources Collection, a repository of living marine microalgae used for a variety of applications such as nutraceutical, pharmaceutical or biomass studies.

One university received a Translational Research Grant, which funds projects that explore potential commercial applications or initiate the early commercial development of university-held life sciences inventions. 

ECU received $110,000 to develop a gene therapy treatment for chronic limb ischemia aimed at reducing major amputation and improving survival.

Biotechnology Meeting Grants

Two universities and one nonprofit organization received Biotechnology Meeting Grants, which support national or international meetings in the life sciences being held in North Carolina.

  • UNC-CH’s Nutrition Research Institute received $10,000 for the Nutrigenetics, Nutrigenomics and Precision Nutrition Short Course.
  • UNC-CH also received $10,000 for the Southeast Society for Developmental Biology regional meeting.
  • Wake Forest University Health Sciences received $10,000 for the 9th Annual Regenerative Medicine Essentials Meeting and the Regenerative Medicine Foundation Stem Cell Summit.
  • The North Carolina Association for Biomedical Research received $6,700 for The Three I’s (IACUC, IBC & IRB): Biosecurity & Research Integrity - Promoting the Responsible Conduct of Research, Partnership, Ethics, Best Practices and the Exploration of Current Trends.
Barry Teater, NCBiotech Writer
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