Seeking to help startup life science firms across the state, the North Carolina Biotechnology Center is rolling out a new loan program.

The one-time loans, available up to $250,000, must be matched by an investment in the company by a venture capital fund or an angel network.

“We see a growing need for this kind of ‘bridge’ money,” said Ken Tindall, the Biotechnology Center’s senior vice president of science and business development, in a statement. “This new loan is the latest example of the North Carolina Biotechnology Center responding to help meet the critical financing needs of early-stage biotechnology companies.”

Called Strategic Growth Award, the program seeks to fill a funding gap between early seed-stage funding and the next round of investment.

Companies must be based in North Carolina and focused on life sciences, natural products or agriculture, veterinary, environmental or industrial efforts.

The funds can be used for hiring non-executive employees, to help secure patent rights, to pursue business development and licensing opportunities. Previous Biotechnology Center loans, which date back 20 years, had been limited primarily to research.

“The SGA money can’t be used for physical facilities or to compensate corporate executive officers, though these restrictions don’t extend to the matching investments,” the Biotechnology Center said in a press release.

Over the years the Biotech Center has handed out 136 grants and loans totaling nearly $16 million to 92 companies. In turn, those firms have leveraged the funding into another 400 grants, loans, matches and other funding worth more than $1.2 billion, according to Biotech Center figures.

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