Plakous Therapeutics Wins NC BIONEER Venture Challenge


Winston-Salem-based Plakous Therapeutics has won the 2022 NC BIONEER Venture Challenge. The announcement was made at Triad BioNight, a celebration of the region’s life sciences community organized by the North Carolina Biotechnology Center’s Piedmont Triad Office.

As the winner of this year’s first statewide challenge, Plakous will receive $40,000 to be used as it seeks additional funding for the commercialization of its placenta-driven regenerative healing products. 

Two years ago the pre-clinical regenerative medicine company received a grant from the National Institutes of Health of up to $1,725,000 to help it develop its novel therapy targeting a rare disease in premature babies. Its human placenta-derived regenerative therapies is initially focused on Protego-PD, a platform product to treat a devastating and costly disease of premature babies called necrotizing enterocolitis.

“As a startup, we are constantly evangelizing,” said Plakous CEO Robert Boyce. “This is paramount as we seek investors, partners, and team members. The exposure provided through the BIONEER program has already increased awareness of Plakous both within the Triad region and statewide. I am confident that the increase in awareness of Plakous Therapeutics as a promising biotech with sound science and a well-defined market and clinical need will increase the rate of our success.”

Each startup worked closely with mentors throughout the Challenge, gaining expert advice on how to take a product to market from companies and leaders who have been there before.

“The Plakous executive team was highly engaged in all aspects of this venture challenge,” said Nancy Johnston, NCBiotech’s executive director for the Piedmont Triad Region. “They leveraged the resources, listened to their mentors’ expertise and crafted a two-minute pitch to help tell their story. The benefits gained and visibility earned will help them progress toward commercialization.”

Plakous exec team
Plakous founder, president and CMO Scott Washburn (left), CEO Robert Boyce, and
Michael Berger, senior product development engineer, pose with BIONEER award.
-- Photo by Ashley Latham

The BIONEER Venture Challenge began as a regional effort to support local biotechnology startups in southeastern North Carolina. This year, NCBiotech expanded the competition to five of its six regions. The headquarters’ Research Triangle area was not included.

The Challenge provided the regional offices the opportunity to identify and support innovative life sciences research activities across the state. It also allowed entrepreneurs participating in the challenge to progress toward commercialization.

“We had a great selection of applications for this year’s NC Bioneer Venture Challenge, covering a broad range of biotech-related activities,” said Mark Phillips, NCBiotech’s vice president of statewide operations and executive director of the Eastern Office. “The last several months have provided an opportunity for the ventures to receive intense mentoring and an opportunity to work with a coach to refine their pitch in preparation for the challenge, as well as the ability to work with NCBiotech’s Life Science Intelligence unit.

In addition to Plakous’s first-place win, four other companies won various levels of prize money in the NC BIONEER Venture Pitch Showcase:

BIONEER partners provide ecosystem support to finalists

NCBiotech partnered with organizations across the state to support finalists as they prepared for the regional and statewide pitches. These partners include:

  • Agile City
  • East Carolina University
  • Flywheel Coworking
  • Hatch
  • Hatchworks
  • Launch Greensboro
  • Pitt County Economic Development
  • The University of North Carolina Wilmington
  • UNCW Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship
  • Venture Asheville
Mindy Hamlin, NCBiotech Writer
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