On Thursday August 6th, all-star startups from Durham will square off in the final round of The Big Pitch regional competition. They will have 5-minutes to pitch their treatment, technology or therapy. Only one winner will take home the Pennant and advance to the National Championships being put on by LaunchBio.

The Big Pitch debuted in Durham on March 1, 2018 as a partnership with WRAL TechWire. The event was a hit and LaunchBio took the quick pitch concept on the road to San Diego and Cambridge. However, the COVID-19 outbreak threw LaunchBio a curve-ball in March 2020. LaunchBio began offering its popular ‘Larger Than Life Science’ programs virtually over Zoom. The webinars for life science entrepreneurs were met with enthusiasm, averaging 300+ registrations. LaunchBio has expanded its fan base across the country, and internationally.

With another home run under its belt, the LaunchBio team decided to have some fun with The Big Pitch. The team reinvisioned the event as a summer series challenging all-stars from Cambridge, San Diego and Durham to score points for their technology, treatment or therapy in the quest to become the series champion and for the title of the most promising startup in LaunchBio’s vast national network. The National Champion will take home a generous prize package thanks to The Big Pitch sponsors.

The Big Pitch draws on audience participation to select a fan favorite. However, it’s up to three investor judges to make the final call and determine which startup will represent the region at the National Championship event. That startup will go head-to-head against the winner of the San Diego pennant, Primordial Genetics, and the Cambridge pennant winner, Nutrimedy.

The Big Pitch regional pennant is sponsored by Kymanox, Novocure, NCBiotech and Scientist.

So… what are the prizes?

The Prize

Thanks to our generous sponsors, the winner of the Pennant will take home:

The Competition

Meet the companies who will go head-to-head for the Durham Pennant.

  • CasTag Biosciences Inc.

CasTag Biosciences provides custom CRISPR Knock-In research kits for functional study of proteins of interest in cells or tissue. Proteins are labeled endogenously with antibody epitope tags or fluorescent proteins to visualize them with unprecedented specificity and ease. CasTag scientists’ complete vector design and reagents come prepackaged in Adeno-associated virus (AAVs) for immediate usage, effectively cutting down customers’ development time.

The North Carolina Biotechnology Center portfolio company has raised enough money with its NCBiotech loan to hire a recent Fuqua Business School graduate as the business development lead, and a former postdoc to run the lab part-time while he looks for a job in industry.

  • IMMvention Therapeutix Inc.

IMMvention Therapeutix is focused on improving the lives of patients with inflammatory diseases of huge unmet needs such as rheumatoid arthritis, osteoarthritis, gout, and Alzheimer’s. A portfolio company of the by North Carolina Biotechnology Center, IMMvention is discovering and developing first-in-class therapies that inhibit the inflammation caused by activation of inflammasomes. The company’s platform involves creation of small-molecule inhibitors of multiple inflammasome receptors, to improve upon the current first-generation single receptor inflammasome inhibitors.

IMMvention is initially targeting rare inflammatory diseases such as Still’s disease, affecting people with systemic arthritis, and COVID-19-associated hyper-inflammation that leads to acute respiratory distress syndrome and mortalities. IMMvention was co-founded in 2017 by scientists from the School of Medicine and Eshelman School of Pharmacy at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. IMMvention has been funded to date with NCBiotech loan support, NIH SBIR grants/contracts, and pharmaceutical company collaborations.  The company is raising its first venture funding to progress its novel small-molecule preclinical therapeutics pipeline to the clinic.

  • PhosphoGam Inc.

PhosphoGam , another NCBiotech portfolio company, is developing allogeneic cell immunotherapies using gamma/delta T-cells to treat a variety of cancers.

NCBiotech awarded the Durham startup a $250,000 Small Business Research Loan in 2018 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

  • Praetego Inc.

Praetego is an early stage pharmaceutical company focused on glucose dysregulation. Praetego’s novel small molecules, Amadorins, offer the possibility of systemic protection from glucose damage.

The Amadorins, developed through a proprietary assay, inhibit formation of advanced glycation end products at the earliest stages. They play an important role in diabetic complications like retinopathy, nephropathy, neuropathy, cardiomyopathy and in some other diseases such as rheumatoid arthritis and osteoporosis.

By interrupting the cascade at the first step of oxidative breakdown, Amadorins offer the greatest promise of protection by limiting disease progression. The Praetego leadership team pioneered the research leading to the discovery of Amadorins and offers extensive technical and operational experience in developmental stage drug companies.

  • TreeCo

TreeCo, founded by two North Carolina State University researchers, is setting out to revolutionize the forestry industry by combining insights from tree genetics with the power of genome editing. The company identified several unique gene targets that could confer significant trait improvements in stress resistance, or for improved conversion of wood into a particular fiber or chemical product.