The North Carolina Biotechnology Center awarded more than $1.63 million in 18 loans and grants to propel the life science sector statewide during the quarter ended December 31, 2015.

The total included nearly $600,000 awarded in the inaugural round of the Biotechnology Innovation Grant (BIG) program.

BIG funding provides up to $100,000 to advance early-stage life science inventions at North Carolina research institutions that have significant commercial potential. The program is designed to help clarify whether an invention warrants a “go” or “no-go” decision on the pursuit of intellectual property protection and/or further commercialization activities.

The first BIG awards went to:

  • Chris Kepley, Ph.D., at the University of North Carolina Greensboro, $99,951, for developing a prototype device for faster and more accurate blood glucose measurement at the bedside to improve patient care for diabetics and reduce healthcare costs.
  • Hasan Jameel, Ph.D., at North Carolina State University, $99,960 for optimizing a process for converting lignin and residues from pulp and paper and bio-refinery operations into renewable and environmentally friendly adhesive products.
  • Stephen Kelley, Ph.D., at NCSU, $99,951 to optimize technology for producing biofuel from low-cost agricultural and forest residues. This naturally oxygenated fuel, when blended with diesel fuel, can improve the combustion process and reduce pollutant emissions.
  • Ines Batinic-Haberle, Ph.D., at Duke University Medical Center, $100,000 for developing a drug that acts as a radioprotectant, preventing radiation-induced side effects in patients undergoing prostate cancer treatment.
  • Maciej Mazurowski, Ph.D., at Duke, $100,000 for testing and validating an MRI-based technology that has the potential to quickly and inexpensively predict breast cancer patient outcomes and thus improve treatment of breast cancer.
  • Wolfgang Liedtke, M.D., Ph.D., at Duke, $100,000 for developing drugs that can be applied to the skin to treat eczema, excess scarring and scleroderma.

Company Follow-on Successes

During the latest quarter, eight bioscience companies previously funded by NCBiotech loans raised more than $154 million in follow-on funding from other sources.

Most notable among these was Humacyte, a Morrisville-based Duke spinout which raised $150 million in a Series B private stock offering. The regenerative medicine company got its first loan support through a $150,000 Small Business Research Loan in 2006.

Portfolio company bioMASON closed on $1.5 million as part of an ongoing offering. The Research Triangle Park company has developed a biomanufacturing process to produce masonry products at ambient temperatures using recycled materials, thereby saving natural resources and reducing greenhouse gas emissions.

NCBiotech helped bootstrap BioMASON with its initial office space and two loans totaling $300,000. In 2013 the company won the Cradle to Cradle Product Innovation Challenge, as well as the $670,000 Postcode Lottery Green Challenge and a $150,000 federal SBIR grant. It was also the recipient of a large angel fund investment.

Others accumulating follow-on funding during the quarter included:

  • Raleigh biotech company Agile Sciences, spun out of North Carolina State University with the help of three NCBiotech loans totaling $275,000, landed $832,651 in funding during the most recent quarter from the National Institutes of Health. That was on top of some 20 other grants worth more than $5.7 million, most from NIH and one from the One North Carolina Fund.
  • Akros Medical landed $560,000 in venture capital investment, hard on the heels of a $75,000 NCBiotech loan. The Durham company is completing design of its first product, a medical device for orthopedic surgery, and preparing for a commercial launch later in 2016.
  • Entegrion received $526,474 in debt financing during the quarter. NCBiotech awarded Entegrion a $150,000 Small Business Research Loan in 2003, and the RTP company has since attracted about $100 million in venture capital, collaborations, debt financing and contracts from various units in the U.S. Department of Defense.
  • Inanovate, an RTP cancer diagnostics company that has been awarded $658,000 in four loans from NCBiotech since 2008, received $502,408 in venture capital investment the past quarter. The company has also received about $1.7 million in NIH grants to support its nanotechnology-based work.
  • KinoDyn, a Durham cancer therapy company, received $349,999 in venture capital investment. NCBiotech awarded the company a $250,000 loan in 2014.
  • Rheomics, a 2010 UNC spinout that was also bootstrapped with two NCBiotech loans totaling $325,000, won a $50,000 grant in the fall 2015 statewide NC IDEA competition. The company  is developing technologies to measure fluid viscosity and cell membrane rigidity. These technologies will be incorporated into biomedical instruments designed to diagnose clotting disorders and cancer spread.

Other Q2 Awards

Other NCBiotech awards made in the most recent quarter include:

  • A $250,000 Small Business Research Loan to BioFluidica, a Chapel Hill company developing a product using liquid biopsies for cancer detection.
  • A $75,000 Company Inception Loan for Locus Biosciences, a Raleigh bioscience spinout of North Carolina State University.
  • A $75,000 Company Inception Loan for MAA Laboratories, also of Raleigh. The startup is pursuing the commercialization of an anticancer drug.
  • Two Technology Enhancement Grants totaling $125,000. One, for $50,000, was awarded to Duke University Medical Center, to help investigators develop a new line of antibiotics. The other, for $75,000, went to North Carolina State University to help in development of a delivery system for antimicrobials.
  • A Collaborative Funding Grant for $100,000, with a $40,000 match from Syngenta, was awarded to Yiping Qi, Ph.D., at East Carolina University, who is working to enhance and increase the efficiency of gene insertion techniques in plants. The technology could be used to improve agricultural crops to feed the world’s growing population. The funding helps support a postdoctoral scientist to work with Qi.
  • A $350,000 final tranche in the Marine Bio-Technologies Center of Innovation (MBCOI) grant series. NCBiotech created MBCOI to advance the market potential and translation of marine-related research in North Carolina into products and services. MBCOI is headquartered in Wilmington, with satellite offices in Morehead City and RTP.
  • A Presidential Initiative Award grant for $45,000 to the Mission Healthcare Foundation to help support a demonstration project in Western North Carolina, using personalized medicine testing in a primary care setting to help predict which drug therapies might be most effective and/or have the fewest side effects for individual patients. This kind of personalized medicine could enhance patient outcomes, decrease costs of care, and increase economic growth for our state.
  • Four Biotechnology Event Sponsorships totaling $12,000. Host organizations are Appalachian State University, Cleveland Community College, the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and the UNC Institute of Marine Sciences.

(Note: Veteran journalist Jim Shamp is director of public relations for the North Carolina Biotechnology Center.)

(C) N.C. Biotechnology Center