The North Carolina Biotechnology Center has given $50,000 awards to support the commercial development of discoveries made by scientists at UNC-Chapel Hill, N.C. State University and UNC-Charlotte, the center announced Tuesday.

The Technology Enhancement Grants support advancement of five inventions that Biotech Center officials believe have significant market potential.

The funds go to technology-transfer officials at the three campuses. The grants fund research studies that are designed to achieve commercial milestones defined by businesses interested in licensing the resulting technologies.

These awards differ from typical academic research grants in that they support commercially driven studies and are awarded to technology transfer officers responsible for licensing the invention rights, rather than to the inventors themselves.

The five recipients are:

  • Rob Whitehead, Ph.D. (North Carolina State University) – formulation and characterization of a new class of fluorescent dyes to use in labeling molecules and diagnosing diseases (Jon Lindsey, Ph.D., inventor)
  • Jackie Quay, Ph.D. (University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill) – studies relating to the safety and effectiveness of using a novel, biodegradable, extremely small carrier – a nanoparticle – to deliver genetic “off switches” – and therapies siRNAs (Leaf Huang, Ph.D., inventor)
  • Kelly Sexton, Ph.D. (NC State) – development and validation of a live salmonella vaccine to protect poultry (Hosni Hassan, Ph.D., inventor)
  • Brad Fach (University of North Carolina Charlotte) – proof-of-concept studies to demonstrate the utility of a novel microwave drying procedure for the preservation and long-term storage of vaccines (Gloria Elliott, Ph.D., inventor)
  • Henry Nowak (UNC at Chapel Hill) – preclinical development and characterization of a new class of therapies, called neuroamides, for the treatment of epilepsy and diabetic neuropathy (Harold Kohn, Ph.D., inventor)


“There are very few funding sources available to clarify the commercial potential of an unlicensed academic invention,” said Rob Lindberg, senior director of the center’s Business Acceleration and Technology Out-licensing Network (BATON) program. Lindberg also oversees the Technology Enhancement Grant program.

“These sorts of commercialization-focused studies are usually not funded by potential licensees and typically don’t qualify for grants from traditional sources of academic research funding,” he added. “But our program helps tech transfer professionals acquire the license-enabling data to establish early commercial milestones of interest to licensees.”

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