The North Carolina Biotechnology Center awarded 11 grants and loans totaling $2,125,000 to universities, bioscience companies and other organizations in the fourth quarter of fiscal year 2018 ending June 30.

The awards will support life science research, technology commercialization and job creation throughout North Carolina and help universities and companies attract additional funding from other sources.

Company loans

Four companies received $1.5 million in loans to support their growth and development.

  • PhosphoGam of Durham received a $250,000 Small Business Research Loan to support preclinical proof-of-concept studies in mice. The cell therapy company is focused on exploiting the potent antitumor activity of human gamma/delta T cells for the cellular immunotherapy of cancer.
  • Cell Microsystems of Research Triangle Park received a $250,000 Small Business Research Loan to support the commercialization of its patent-protected, automated system for the non-destructive sorting, isolation and characterization of single cells, a novel tool for basic research.
  • FLAG Therapeutics of Raleigh received a $500,000 Strategic Growth Loan to support an Investigational New Drug filing with the U.S. Food and Drug Administration and completion of a Phase 1 safety study of a novel small molecule for treating glioblastoma, a malignant brain tumor with an extremely poor prognosis.
  • Akros Medical of Durham received a $500,000 Strategic Growth Loan to support the commercialization of its FDA-cleared FibuLink, an implant assembly for stabilizing repaired ankle joints.

Company follow-on funding

The fourth quarter was a robust funding period for life science companies in North Carolina, with 51 companies raising $489.5 million from public and private sources.

Of that total, $174 million went to 11 companies that previously received loans from NCBiotech.

Leading the way for those portfolio companies was Morrisville-based Humacyte, which received a $150 million equity investment from Fresenius Medical Care in return for an ownership stake in Humacyte and exclusive global rights to commercialize Humacyl, the company’s bioengineered blood vessel technology. The investment came on the heels of a $75 million Series C preferred stock financing in the prior quarter.

Humacyte has raised nearly $500 million since its founding in 2004. The Biotech Center awarded the company a $150,000 Small Business Research Loan in 2006, helping position it for the follow-on investments.

Other NCBiotech portfolio companies with major financings in the fourth quarter were Durham-based Emergo Therapeutics, which raised $12 million in venture capital, largely from North Carolina investors, and Research Triangle Park-based Camras Vision, which raised $5.7 million in venture capital.

For the 2018 fiscal year ending June 30, portfolio companies raised about $353 million, substantially more than the $203 million raised in 2017.

Grants awarded

Three universities received six NCBiotech grants totaling $525,000 in the fourth quarter to advance bioscience research.

Three Biotechnology Innovation Grants totaling $300,000 were awarded to support research studies that explore potential commercial applications of early-stage university inventions:

  • Duke University received $100,000 to optimize a new, low-cost cancer therapy using a gel ethanol solution to treat head and neck cancers in low-resource communities.
  • The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill received $100,000 to improve a hospital “couplet care” bassinet for better mother-infant safety and wellness. The grant will support design refinements, identification of regulatory strengths and weaknesses, collection of preliminary safety and comfort data from mother-infant pairs, and commercialization.
  • The University of North Carolina at Greensboro received $100,000 to develop a knee arthrometer for measuring the angles of joint movements and improving diagnostic accuracy and injury risk screening.

Three Technology Enhancement Grants totaling $225,000 were awarded to university research projects that will strengthen the universities’ licensing positions for commercially promising inventions.

  • Duke University received $75,000 to develop an imaging-based biomarker for predicting patient outcomes and biological properties of breast cancers, potentially improving diagnosis and treatment.
  • UNC-CH received $75,000 to demonstrate the safety of UNC-discovered proteins used to protect the effectiveness of protein-based medicines that are frozen or dried before reaching patients.
  • UNC-CH received $75,000 to develop a fluorescent marker of phospholipase C isozymes (PLCs) for use in assay development, drug discovery and disease diagnosis. Disregulation or misactivation of PLCs contribute to diseases including cancer, atherosclerosis and rheumatoid arthritis.

NCBiotech also awarded the City of Burlington a $100,000 Economic Development Award to support a confidential bioscience industrial recruitment project.

Copyright NC Biotech Center 2018