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Home News NCBiotech Awards $2.75 Million in Grants, Loans in Latest Quarter

NCBiotech Awards $2.75 Million in Grants, Loans in Latest Quarter

NOTE: Company loan awardees include Sonokine Biosciences and Upstream Biotechnology, Duke start-ups founded out of the labs of Dr. Herbert Kim Lyerly (Surgery, SOM) and Professor Xinnian Dong (Biology, Trinity), respectively. Translational Research Grant awardees include projects helmed by Associate Professor Justin Pollara (Surgery, SOM), Professor Qianben Wang (Pathology, SOM) & Dr. Hongyan Wang (DUHS), Assistant Professor Michael Tadross & postdoc Victoria Goldenshtein (BME, Pratt), and Dr. Joseph Fernandez-Moure (Surgery, SOM) & PhD candidate Jacob Peloquin (BME, Pratt). Also mentioned is the capital raise of inSoma Bio, a start-up helmed by Stefan Roberts out of the lab of Professor Ashutosh Chilkoti (BME, Pratt). This article first appeared on the NC Biotechnology Center website, written by Barry Teater.

The North Carolina Biotechnology Center awarded 31 grants and loans totaling $2,764,811 to universities, life sciences companies and non-profit organizations in the fourth quarter of its fiscal year.

The awards, made in April, May and June, will support bioscience 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

Four life sciences companies received loans totaling $1.25 million to advance their research, product development, commercial viability and funding efforts.

FreeFlow Medical Devices of Durham received a $500,000 Strategic Growth Loan to develop a hemodialysis catheter that uses a proprietary coating to reduce clotting, clogging and infection.

Four companies received Small Business Research Loans:

Helixomer of Raleigh received $250,000 to advance a novel RNA-based anticoagulant therapy with reversal agents for intravenous use in human healthcare.

Sonokine Biosciences of Chapel Hill received $100,000 to develop a catheter that enhances drug delivery to improve the treatment of primary and metastatic cancers.

Upstream Biotechnology of Durham received $200,000 to demonstrate a gene-expression system in plants that responds to pathogen signals to release anti-microbial proteins only when needed, eliminating off-target side-effects.

Raleigh Biosciences of Raleigh received $200,000 to develop a platform that optimizes gene expression and transformation of elite plant germplasm using artificial intelligence, single-cell analysis and spatial transcriptomics.

Portfolio companies raise $44.7 million  

Seventeen life sciences companies that previously received loans from NCBiotech raised $44.7 million in follow-on funding from other sources in the fourth quarter, according to research by NCBiotech’s Life Science Intelligence staff.

Accounting for over half of that total was Raleigh-based Contego Medical, which raised $23 million in venture capital funding. The company develops novel medical devices for cardiovascular and peripheral vascular procedures.

Other companies raising venture capital during the quarter were Opus Genetics of Durham, $4 million; InSoma Bio of Durham, $2.1 million; and Verinetics of Research Triangle Park (RTP), $907,185.

EpiCypher of RTP led the way in federal research funding, winning six grants totaling more than $5 million.

Partnership Development Grants

Transylvania County received a $40,000 Partnership Development Grant to support Raybow Pharmaceutical’s expansion in Brevard. The funds will support two summer interns and purchase 50 seats for the Society of Chemical Manufacturers & Affiliates’ chemical manufacturing training (ChemOps) over two years. Thirty of the seats will go to job seekers and other community members, and 20 seats to current Raybow employees.

University grants

Seven universities were awarded 19 grants totaling $1,443,323 to advance bioscience research.

Six universities received eight Flash Grants, which support creative ideas that show early indications of commercial potential.

  • East Carolina University (ECU) received $27,500 to identify bioactive peptides with regenerative capabilities to promote scarless remodeling in adult tissues.
  • North Carolina State University (NC State) received $20,000 to develop a novel method for transgene-free gene editing of tomatoes.
  • NC State received $17,038 to develop a sensor technology system that can continuously measure water uptake and apple tree growth throughout the growing season to give growers a valuable tool to precisely irrigate and track the health of apple trees.
  • The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill (UNC-CH) received $20,000 to develop a clinically useful assay that will help guide personalized treatment decisions for patients with head and neck cancers positive for the human papillomavirus.
  • The University of North Carolina Charlotte received $27,500 to compare salt-tolerant and salt-sensitive genotypes of sand beans, a wild relative of soybean, to better understand the salt-tolerance mechanism.
  • The University of North Carolina Wilmington received $27,490 to evaluate the use of Salicornia virginica, a salt-tolerant halophyte plant, as an alternative protein source in a sustainable aquafeed for black sea bass.
  • Wake Forest University received $27,500 to develop a new way of treating Gram-positive bacterial infections by interfering with the biosynthesis of bacillithiol, the major low-molecular weight thiol found in these species.
  • Wake Forest received $26,000 to identify specific and essential biochemical reactions in bacteria that can be targeted for novel antibiotic development.

Three Innovation Impact Grants were awarded to support the purchase of research equipment for core facilities at academic or nonprofit institutions that foster innovation.

  • UNC-CH received $150,000 to support the purchase of equipment that measures cellular metabolism in living cells in real time, enabling better understanding of cell and tissue function in health and disease.
  • UNC-CH received $131,710 to support the purchase of equipment that will expand the capabilities of a cryo transmission electron microscope, allowing imaging of small molecules and proteins at the atomic level. This is the first time this capability will be available in North Carolina.
  • UNC-CH received $89,250 to support the purchase of a high-throughput DNA sequencer that will replace one that is failing and soon will be obsolete. The new sequencer will be used by over 40 researchers and will allow for less expensive sequencing runs.

Eight Translational Research Grants were awarded to fund projects that explore potential commercial applications or initiate the early commercial development of university-held life sciences inventions.  

  • Duke University received $110,000 to develop and test a novel non-viral platform technology for gene therapy applications to treat genetic diseases that currently have no effective treatment or cure.
  • Duke received $110,000 to develop a nanoparticle capable of delivering a safe, RNA-targeting gene therapy for the treatment of prostate cancer.
  • Duke received $109,858 to develop a new screening process called GRIP Display to identify small molecules with potential to treat liver cancer.
  • Duke Medical Center received $109,557 to develop a novel medical device that will allow for minimally invasive surgical stabilization of rib fractures.
  • NC State received $110,000 to develop a clinic-ready physical therapy exoskeletal system using robotics and artificial intelligence techniques to automate physical therapy exercises.
  • NC State received $110,000 to develop a low-cost probiotic yeast engineered to secrete enzymes that will eliminate rumen methanogens, resulting in a dual value proposition: increased animal productivity and reduced methane emissions.
  • NC State received $109,920 to evaluate a new method of deploying spore traps in cucumber farm fields for the early detection of downy mildew spores in order to gather data in real time on the presence of crop disease and the need for fungicidal treatment.
  • UNC-CH received $110,000 to further develop and test a therapeutic to restore lysosomal degradation cellular functions as a treatment for lupus.

Biotechnology Event Sponsorships

Two universities and two non-profit organizations received Biotechnology Event Sponsorships, which provide up to $3,000 to support life sciences-focused events held primarily for a North Carolina audience.  

  • ECU received $3,000 for the 4th Annual ECU Spring Pharma Conference, a two-day event of knowledge sharing and networking targeting the interests of eastern North Carolina’s pharmaceutical community.
  • UNC-CH received $3,000 for the 17th Annual Biomedical Engineering Symposium, showcasing student innovations spanning a variety of fields ranging from at-home patient care to clinical diagnostic instruments, and demonstrating the widespread influence of biotechnology and biomedical engineering and their applications.  
  • The North Carolina Association of County Agricultural Agents received $3,000 for its 2023 Professional Improvement Conference, providing professional development for agricultural extension agents in various aspects of agriculture including livestock production, field crops, fruits and vegetables, turfgrass and ornamental plantings.
  • Science Happens 4 Me received $2,488 for the Fun with Forensics science camp, designed for middle school girls to learn more about the history of forensic science, proper investigatory techniques and crime scene analysis. The students will perform various experiments and study outcomes including fluid analysis, spatter analysis, decomposition rates and much more. 

Biotechnology Meeting Grants

One university and one non-profit organization received Biotechnology Meeting Grants, which provide up to $10,000 to support national and international life sciences-focused meetings held in North Carolina.  

The North Carolina Association for Biomedical Research received $10,000 for the conference The Three I’s (IACUC, IBC & IRB): Biosecurity & Research Integrity. The conference will explore current trends in the responsible conduct of research, partnership, ethics and best practices.

Wake Forest University Health Sciences received $10,000 for the 10th Annual Regenerative Medicine Essentials Course and World Stem Cell Summit. The event will provide a state-of-the-art review of new developments and applications in regenerative medicine.

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