BioMarck Pharmaceuticals, a North Carolina State University spinout company, says its ability to stop excessive mucus production may lead to drugs that capture a large chunk of the $34 billion worldwide respiratory pharmaceutical market.

BioMarck founder Dr. Linda D. Martin, a biology professor at NCSU and co-discoverer of the “Marcks peptide,” which inhibits mucus secretion, told the Council for Entrepreneurial Development’s Capital Connection luncheon about the company.

The Capital Connection luncheons offer companies in the CED’s Capital Connection programs, which include FastTrac and Streak, to pitch their business plans to a panel of investors. BioMark and Innovative Systems Group, which makes software for the paperboard packing industry presented to a group of about 110 Tuesday at Embassy Suites in Cary.

Prior to the presentations, the companies met with a group of 30 individual “angel” investors.

Martin told the luncheon that BioMark needs an A round of $1.3 million, which it says will take it to mid-2004 and allow it to complete all pre-clinical studies required for submitting a new drug application to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. An NDA is the first step in developing new commercial pharmaceuticals and leads to a series of clinical trials designed to test safety and efficacy.

Hits two respiratory targets

Martin said the patented Marcks peptide not only blocks mucus secretion, it also controls inflammation, another key factor in respiratory illnesses, which include chronic bronchitis, cystic fibrosis, and asthma.

The company intends to develop a product to treat chronic bronchitis first, Martin said, because current treatments do not work well and they anticipate that theirs will. “This is a true paradigm shift,” she said.

Martin said BioMark has applied for a Small Business Innovative Research Grant and expects to raise at least $1 million from grant sources. She said it has already raised $700,000 from individual investors.

Martin quoted one of the top experts in pulmonary diseases, Dr. Steven D. Shapiro, professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School and chief pulmonary and critical care to support the company’s efforts: “The Marcks peptide could revolutionize the treatment of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, asthma, and other related diseases.”

Packaging a $2 million round

Innovative Systems Group, a Raleigh company, seeks $2 million fuel marketing and sales of a software product already fully developed and in use.

Innovative president Tony Marshall told the luncheon the company projects sales of more than $80 million in five years. Marshall said the company’s software products help packaging companies manage operations from design to advanced planning and scheduling, accounting and warehouse management and other tasks.

He told a venture capitalist that the software is designed specifically for the packaging industry, which has certain unique practices that kept it from adopting any of the many more generic similar products already on the market.

Marshall said that paperboard packaging is a $31 billion dollar industry in the U.S. alone, which translates into 3,000 factories.
Innovative plans to sell its software as a service over the Internet for about $15,000 a month. Capturing 20 percent of the market at that rate would result in $100 million a year in sales, Marshall said.

The company already has relationships with two of the industries largest players, Marshall said.

A new pioneer spirit?

Both companies were asking for notably small first round investments.

Following the luncheon, Bud Whitmeyer, a general partner with Research Triangle Ventures, told Local Tech Wire: “People are getting creative. You have to figure out how to raise money in this environment.”

Regarding BioMark, he added, “They have a long road ahead of them with a lot of issues along the way. It would be a tough call for us.”

Speaking of being creative in this environment, David Gessner, executive VP of corporate development at Morrisville start-up, Gentris, said, “You have to learn the skills of barter and collaboration.”

He explained that Gentris, for instance, “picked up $2 million in software that cost us nothing except sharing the adaptations we made to it. It’s like being pioneers of old. If your wagon wheel broke, you asked, what can I trade to fix that wagon?”