​The North Carolina Biotechnology Center awarded 27 loans and grants totaling about $1.8 million to companies and universities across the state during the final quarter of its 2014-2015 fiscal year ending June 30.

Altogether, the Center made 82 loans and grants totaling $6,786,852 during the year just ended.

The awards support life science entrepreneurship, technology commercialization and research statewide, and lay the groundwork for major add-on funding from other sources.

Company Loans

The latest round of company loans includes:

A $250,000 Strategic Growth Loan (SGL) to KindHeart of Chapel Hill, to manufacture its animated porcine-organ surgical simulators used in the testing of medical devices and in the surgical training of medical professionals. SGLs match NCBiotech support with angel group or venture capital investments to fund biotechnology companies that have already established technical proof-of-concept and require further corporate development support.

Three Small Business Research Loans totaling $400,000. These loans fund research that advances small life science companies’ development of commercially viable technologies or products. Recipients this quarter:

  • Kaio Therapy of Raleigh, $75,000 to perform safety and efficacy studies in mice for its novel therapeutic that uses hyperthermia to initiate an immune response against cancer cells.
  • NIRvana Sciences of Research Triangle Park, $250,000 to conduct research on new conjugation chemistry for the fluorescent dyes it is developing for medical diagnostic and imaging applications.
  • Akros Medical of Durham, $75,000 to complete design of its first product, a medical device for orthopedic surgery, preparing the company for a commercial launch in 2016.

A $50,000 Company Inception Loan (CIL) to PHOundry Pharmaceuticals of Research Triangle Park, to support start-up operations. The company, a spin-out of GlaxoSmithKline, is a peptide-based therapeutic company focused on the treatment of diabetes. CILs support business initiation and related activities that are critical to the early start-up of a company.

Company Follow-on Successes

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 capital investment, and other financial support

For the most recently ended quarter, the Center identified one successful “exit” and $31.4 million in outside funding for 19 companies that previously received NCBiotech support. Among the most noteworthy successes:

  • Bioptigen, of Morrisville, announced it will be acquired by Leica Microsystems, a global leader in microscopy and imaging systems based in Germany, for an undisclosed amount. Bioptigen, a 2004 spin-out from Duke University, develops and manufactures eye-imaging equipment and software for ophthalmologists and preclinical researchers. NCBiotech supported Bioptigen with a $17,575 Business Development Loan, a $100,000 Collaborative Funding Grant to Duke in which Bioptigen was a partner, and a $458,000 Strategic Growth Loan.
  • Spyryx Biosciences, of Durham, a developer of therapeutics for obstructive lung diseases such as cystic fibrosis and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), raised $18.1 million in a Series A venture capital financing round from Canaan Partners, Hatteras Venture Partners and 5AM Ventures. Spyryx, a 2013 spinout of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, received a $50,000 Company Inception Loan from NCBiotech in 2014.
  • Contego Medical, of Raleigh, a medical device firm founded in 2005, announced the completion of a $5.6 million Series B financing round led by Hatteras Venture Partners. Contego received a $250,000 Small Business Research Loan from NCBiotech in 2014 for the development of its novel stent and balloon catheter systems that include filters to prevent blockages in arteries.

Sixteen other companies supported by NCBiotech loans raised a combined $7.7 million in venture capital and grant financing this quarter.

Other Q4 Awards

Other NCBiotech awards made in the most recent quarter include:

A $52,000 Industrial Fellowship Program award to Benson Hill Biosystems for the second year of a two-year fellowship by Kerry Caffall, Ph.D. She’s conducting experiments to demonstrate and validate technologies for improved photosynthetic efficiency in plants.

Seven Industrial Internship Program awards totaled $19,500. Recipients are Chiesi USA of Cary, CertiRx of Research Triangle Park, Tecan US of Morrisville, Advanced Animal Diagnostics of Durham, Panacea BioMatx of Morrisville, KeraNetics of Winston-Salem and Rheomics of Chapel Hill.

Three $50,000 Technology Enhancement Grants. These awards support university research and other commercially important activities that will make a technology licensable. Recipients this quarter:

  • North Carolina A&T State University, to develop a method for processing raw peanuts to reduce the likelihood of causing an allergic reaction in sensitive individuals.
  • UNC, to develop a method for the large-scale production of therapeutic antibodies able to recognize and bind two distinct entities simultaneously.
  • UNC, to test a novel method for delivering a therapeutic gene to the brain via inflammatory cells, as a treatment for Parkinson’s disease.

Grants Boost Life Science Inventions, Collaborations

Every NCBiotech grant dollar to a university or nonprofit organization is met with an average $28 in additional funding.

Last quarter, NCBiotech awarded four $100,000 Collaborative Funding Grants. These awards support a university-company partnership that will advance a company’s technology toward the marketplace. Recipients this quarter are:

  • Duke University (Adam Wax), to miniaturize an optical imaging technology so it can be incorporated into the tip of needle or catheter, providing “eyes at the end of a needle,” for testing in two different medical applications: needle biopsy and epidural injection.
  • North Carolina State University (Colleen Doherty), to identify gene sequences that drive daily expression patterns in corn and related plants, potentially increasing yield by improving a plant’s response to temporal (time of day) regulation.
  • UNC (Victoria Bae-Jump), to investigate novel compounds discovered by Novatarg Therapeutics of Research Triangle Park for the treatment of ovarian cancer.
  • UNC (Chengwen Li), to develop humanized viral vectors for delivery of gene therapy to patients with hemophilia B, an inherited disease.

Three Biotechnology Research Grants totaled $298,802. These awards support studies at North Carolina research institutions of early stage life science inventions that have commercial potential. Recipients this quarter:

  • $99,930 to UNC Asheville (Amanda Wolfe) for the development of pharmaceuticals and biocontrol agents with antibiotic capabilities based on organic molecules originally found in nature.
  • $98,872 to UNC Asheville (Jonathan Horton) for identifying genetic fingerprints of medicinal compounds in wild American ginseng populations and developing cultivars to enhance ginseng production in western North Carolina.
  • $100,000 to the University of North Carolina Greensboro (Nicholas Oberlies) for screening fungal cultures for new drug leads that can make serious antibiotic-resistant bacteria less toxic so patients can clear infections.

A $159,834 Institutional Development Grant went to UNC (Joshua Grieger) to buy a bioreactor system that can produce high-quality, large volumes of viral vectors for scientists around the world who are developing gene therapy applications for human clinical trials. Institutional Development Grants provide research equipment for core facilities that serve multiple university investigators.

NCBiotech also awarded three Biotechnology Event Sponsorships and Biotechnology Meeting Grants totaling $16,000 to NCSU, UNC and Wake Forest University Health Sciences.

(C) N.C. Biotechnology Center