The North Carolina Biotechnology Center awarded $1,683,000 in five loans and a grant during the second quarter of its 2014-2015 fiscal year.

NCBiotech provided $1,333,000 in loans to five young life science companies during the second fiscal quarter ended Dec. 31.

It also awarded a $350,000 tranche on a previously established $2.5 million grant to help in the rollout of the NC Marine Bio-Technologies Center of Innovation (MBCOI).  MBCOI is a non-profit established on the coast in 2013 to help create jobs through marine biotech commercialization.

The Biotech Center’s awards programs support life science entrepreneurship, technology commercialization and growth, and lay the groundwork for major add-on funding.

On average, every dollar NCBiotech loans to young life science companies is met with $118 in additional funding to those firms from disease philanthropy and government grants, angel and venture investment and other financial support. Every grant dollar is met with an average $28 in additional funding.

In fact, for the most recently ended quarter, the Center identified more than $24 million in outside funding raised by companies that had previously gotten NCBiotech loans. That quarter, ending Dec. 31, 2014, capped a robust calendar year in which NCBiotech’s loan recipients attracted at least $309 million in external funding.

The latest round of loans includes:

$50,000 in a Company Inception Loan

CILs of up to $50,000 support business inception and related activities to help new life science companies position themselves for start-up and early-stage funding or partnering.

Spyrix, a Chapel Hill spinout from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, is developing a treatment for cystic fibrosis. The loan is intended to help position the company for outside investor and foundation funding and to help with preclinical development of its product.

$958,000 for two Strategic Growth Loans

The SGL helps biotech companies bridge the early-stage funding gap and position themselves for private investment. SGL funds must be matched by one or more organized angel funds or networks, or venture capital funds with significant life science investing experience.

  • Baebies, a young Durham company, was awarded $500,000 to help it develop its products to diagnose health risks in infants from a single dried blood spot, using a technology called digital microfluidics. This loan supports the company’s newborn screening tests for three devastating disorders (Pompe, biotinidase deficiency and galactosemia).
  • Bioptigen, of Morrisville, was awarded $458,000 to support late-stage development and clinical testing needed for FDA approval of its intrasurgical optical coherence tomography device for real-time guidance of ophthalmic surgery.

$325,000 in two Small Business Research Loans

These loans fund research that advances small life science companies’ development of commercially viable technologies/products. The loans help companies reach specific and meaningful research milestones that position them to obtain additional funding from private and public sources. Recipients include:

  • Dignify Therapeutics was awarded $250,000. The Research Triangle Park company is developing a novel drug to help people with spinal injuries clear their bladders and bowels when they choose to do so. The loan will support studies of the drug’s safety and help Dignify develop a final formulation of the remedy, for use in clinical trials.
  • Eppin Pharma, a Chapel Hill spinout from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, was awarded $75,000 to help in its development of a reversible, oral, non-hormonal male contraceptive pill. This money will help support toxicology and other testing of the company’s lead drug candidate and help position Eppin to seek additional funding from investors, federal grants and foundations.

Examples of some success during the most recent quarter include:

  • Advanced Animal Diagnostics announced a $15 million Series C financing to accelerate commercialization of its QScout MLD test that enables the early detection of mastitis in dairy cows. Studies indicate that implementation of this test provides for healthier cows and improves farmers’ financial returns. NCBiotech awarded a $20,000 early-stage loan to the Durham company in 2006, and AAD has since grown to more than 40 employees.
  • Entegrion announced a $7.8 million U.S. Department of Defense grant to fund the company’s work on Stasix, a freeze-dried battlefield replacement for blood platelets that can have a three-year shelf life. Normally these blood particles cannot be used more than a week after being drawn from a donor.  NCBiotech awarded Entegrion a $150,000 Small Business Research Loan in 2003, and the company has since attracted $88 million in contracts from various units in the U.S. Department of Defense.  According to Entegrion’s Executive Vice President Richard Martin, “The financial assistance provided by NCBiotech early in the development of Stasix was instrumental to securing proof-of-concept data for that technology.  This type of financial support is critical during the start-up period of a life science company, when attracting equity capital is extremely difficult.” 
  • KeraNetics hosted a grand opening of its new headquarters in Winston-Salem, with guests including then-Secretary of Commerce Sharon Decker and NCBiotech CEO Doug Edgeton.  The new facility incorporates lab, manufacturing and office space to accommodate a growing workforce as the company moves toward commercialization of its keratin-based product for wound care. NCBiotech first funded KeraNetics through a $150,000 Small Business Research Loan in 2010 and has since funded an Industrial Fellow at the company and awarded a recent $250,000 loan in part to scale up manufacturing in the new facility.
  • SafeRay Spine’s Lessray system was selected by a panel of surgeon judges as the Best New Technology for Spine Care in 2014 (Orthopedics This Week Spine Technology Awards). The Durham company won the award on the basis of Lessray’s “originality, clinical relevance, and likelihood of improving patient outcomes.” Lessray is an FDA-cleared software-based medical device that enables a reduction in radiation exposure to patients and clinicians from fluoroscope imaging by 90 percent while still providing high quality images. NCBiotech awarded a $50,000 Company Inception Loan to SafeRay in 2013, and SafeRay presented at NCBiotech’s quarterly Angel Investor Lunch event in January 2015.

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Editor’s note: Veteran journalist Jim Shamp is director of public relations for the North Carolina Biotechnology Center.

(C) NC Biotechnology Center