NC Biotech Center awards over $1.4 million in grants and loans

RESEARCH TRIANGLE PARK – The North Carolina Biotechnology Center awarded 23 grants and loans totaling more than $1.4 million to bioscience companies, universities and nonprofits in its fiscal first quarter.

The awards, presented in July, August and September, will support life science research, technology commercialization and entrepreneurship throughout North Carolina. The funding will also help companies attract follow-on funding from other sources.

Business loans

Three bioscience companies received small business research loans totaling $450,000 to advance their research, product development and commercial viability.

  • Coprata of Durham has received $100,000 to support market access and reimbursement strategy planning, as well as a pilot program that will provide patient feedback on a prototype of its automatic stool collection 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 has received $250,000 to support the 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 more than 40 known rare diseases.
  • Raleigh’s Animal Cancer Dx has been awarded $100,000 to develop a prototype microfluidics-based screening test 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 C. elegans worm to detect volatile organic compounds in dog urine.

Portfolio companies raise $256 million

Twenty-five bioscience companies that had previously received loans from the Biotech Center raised $256 million in follow-on funding from other sources in the first quarter, according to a study by staff at the Biotech Center’s Life Science Intelligence.

Greensboro’s Piedmont Animal Health, which was sold in July to Dechra Pharmaceuticals of Northwich, England, for $210 million in cash, accounted for most of that total. In two decades, Piedmont has developed more than 30 pet medicines sold by major global brands.

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

T3D Therapeutics of Research Triangle Park has also raised over $6 million in venture capital as well as over $1 million in grants 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, has won eight NIH grants totaling nearly $5.4 million. The company develops reagents and tools to study chromatin regulation and enable epigenetics-driven drug development.

University scholarships

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

Two universities received Innovation Impact Grants totaling $243,927:

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

Three universities received translational research grants totaling $439,786:

  • Duke University Medical Center has received $109,837 to design and test RNA-targeting drugs to treat atherosclerosis, the leading cause of coronary heart disease and stroke.
  • North Carolina State University has received $110,000 to develop a new gene-editing method for use in gene therapy applications to treat a wide range of genetic diseases.
  • UNCW was awarded $109,949 to develop methods for preparing thermostable solutions of naked mRNA and mRNA lipid nanoparticles that will eliminate the need for ultra-cold chain mRNA transport and storage.
  • 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 has received $11,714 to develop a humanized gastrin-releasing peptide monoclonal antibody for the possible treatment of pulmonary fibrosis and early lung injury, and the prevention of chronic lung disease.
  • NC State received $18,753 to establish a new microspore culture system to create inbred tomato plants as breeders.
  • UNC Asheville was awarded $23,359 to build a library of Staphylococcus aureus bacterial strains with controllable expression of genes of functional interest important to pathogenesis and drug discovery researchers.
  • UNC-CH has received $19,363 to develop a gene therapy treatment for uveal melanoma to preserve vision and/or prevent metastasis.
  • UNC Charlotte received $27,500 to further develop DNA and RNA-based nanoparticles capable of delivering therapeutic agents into cells, such as delivering antibiotics for the treatment of bacterial meningitis.
  • The University of North Carolina at Greensboro has received $26,175 to develop a self-recharging battery made from live photosynthetic purple bacteria.
  • UNCW received $26,258 to create a method of assembling a protein pore through a cell membrane for use in drug or antibiotic delivery.
  • UNCW received $26,258 to develop new daptomycin-related antibiotics with reduced toxicity and lower cost.

Grants for events and meetings

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

  • Duke University Medical Center received $8,000 for “The Rulebreakers: Extraordinary Stories in Lipid Biology,” a conference on the impact of lipid and lipoprotein metabolism on the development and treatment of cardiometabolic diseases. The conference also featured a joint event with the NC Diabetes Research Center that explored common themes in metabolic disease.
  • 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, and biodegradable nanomaterials—to make more sensitive diagnostics and more effective drugs.
  • UNC-CH received $5,000 for the third annual interdisciplinary nutritional science symposium, “Diet and Chronic Unresolved Inflammation: Implications for Obesity-Associated Outcomes.” The symposium addressed the critical need for rigorous interdisciplinary and translational food and nutrition approaches to prevent and treat chronic inflammation associated with metabolic diseases.
  • Sigma Xi, the Scientific Research Honor Society, received $2,000 for the NC Science Policy Bootcamp, a four-day interactive forum to introduce participants to science policy with top leaders from science, industry and government agencies.

Partnership Development Grant

NCBiotech awarded the City of Greenville a $100,000 Partnership Development Grant to expand the Pharma K12 program. It offers local high school graduates the opportunity to train in Pitt Community College’s NC Pharmaceutical Services Network ([email protected]) and interview for a career at Thermo Fisher Scientific. The expansion of the program will strengthen Thermo Fisher Scientific’s talent pool and community engagement in Pitt County as the company plans to create 290 jobs at its Greenville manufacturing facility.

(C) NC Biotechnology Center

About Evelyn C. Heim

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