RESEARCH TRIANGLE PARK – The North Carolina Biotechnology Center awarded 17 grants and loans totaling $1.3 million to universities, bioscience companies and non-profit organizations in the second quarter of its fiscal year.

The awards, made in October, November and December 2021, will support life science research, technology commercialization and entrepreneurship throughout North Carolina. The funding will also help universities and companies attract follow-on funding from other sources.

Company loans

Four bioscience companies received Small Business Research Loans totaling $1 million to advance their research, product development and commercial viability.

  • SonoVol of Durham received $250,000 to help commercialize a robotic ultrasound imaging instrument that allows researchers to navigate inside a living laboratory animal for “whole-body” imaging.
  • Ideal Medical Technologies of Asheville received $250,000 to help fund two Phase 1 clinical trials of its FUSION medical device, designed to provide glucose control for critically ill and diabetic patients.
  • NeuroGT of Durham received $250,000 to develop a gene therapy candidate for treating mucopolysaccharidosis IIIB, also called Sanfilippo syndrome type B, a lysosomal storage disorder that results in severe progressive neurological disease.
  • Clarus Biologics of Chapel Hill received $250,000 to develop a genetically modified RNA alphavirus as a vaccine adjuvant for enhancing the immune response.

Portfolio companies raise $26.8 million

Six bioscience companies that previously received loans from the Biotech Center raised more than $26.8 million in follow-on funding from other sources in the second quarter, according to research by the Biotech Center’s Life Science Intelligence staff.

Accounting for almost half that amount was Cell Microsystems, which raised over $12.6 million in venture capital. The Durham-based company provides research tools that enable scientists to image, identify and isolate viable single cells and clonal colonies.

Three other Durham-based companies that struck venture capital deals were CivaTech Oncology, $7.9 million; IMMvention Therapeutix, nearly $3 million; and Panaceutics, $2 million.

Also, InnAVasc Medical of Durham raised $1 million in debt financing, and Tellus Therapeutics of Research Triangle Park received a $182,000 research grant from the National Institutes of Health.

University grants

Four universities and one non-profit organization received grants totaling $310,040 during the second quarter to advance bioscience research. The awards were given through two programs: FLASH Grants, which support creative ideas that show early indications of commercial potential, and Translational Research Grants, which fund projects that explore potential commercial applications or initiate the early commercial development of university-held life sciences inventions.

North Carolina State University (NC State) received a $110,000 Translational Research Grant to test a novel production process for potentially reducing the high cost of making plasmid DNA, a critical component in the manufacturing of gene therapies and mRNA vaccines.

Eleven FLASH Grants totaling $200,040 were awarded:

  • East Carolina University received $19,195 to develop a model of Black Gill parasitic infection of wild shrimp.
  • NC State received $13,197 to optimize next-generation DNA sequencing analysis for diagnosis of viral tumor diseases in chickens.
  • NC State received $20,000 to develop a novel technology that will enable breeders to introduce new traits into sweet potatoes to accelerate crop improvement. The knowledge and technology from this work could be translated to other economically important crops.
  • NC State received $20,000 to demonstrate the utility of a rapid, high-throughput fluorescent approach for evaluating the toxicity of PFAS compounds, which are widely used to make consumer and industrial products.
  • NC State received $17,000 to research the application of tobacco in controlling internal parasites in turkeys and reducing the pathogens in poultry litter.
  • NC State received $12,477 to identify microbes that can improve the production of protein-rich animal and fish feed, thereby drastically reducing land use, freshwater consumption and greenhouse gas emissions associated with traditional agricultural and aquacultural practices.
  • NC State received $20,000 to optimize blueberry tissue culture methods and identify the most efficient transformation methods for regenerating and developing new blueberry cultivars.
  • The University of North Carolina Charlotte received $20,000 to discover key mechanisms underlying the symbiotic relationship between coral and dinoflagellate algae, providing valuable information for coral reef restoration efforts.
  • The University of North Carolina Wilmington received $19,430 to develop transgenic corals, which have the potential to revolutionize the restoration of coral reefs, which are declining due to multiple threats.
  • UNC Wilmington received $19,300 to develop a new, naturally derived, non-toxic therapeutic agent against equine encephalitic virus infections, which currently have no specific therapies.
  • The American Chestnut Foundation, based in Asheville, received $19,441 to compare genetic diversity in wild and current breeding populations of American chestnut trees, which were decimated by a fungal blight a century ago. Breeding a genetically engineered blight-resistant tree with wild trees could enable the blight-resistant population to adapt to a changing climate.

Event grant

One non-profit organization, the North Carolina Academy of Science, based in Raleigh, received a $3,000 Biotechnology Event Sponsorship grant for its annual meeting, which nurtures collaboration and professional development for student scientists and professional researchers in biological sciences and beyond. Undergraduates, graduate students and experienced scientists will share their research through symposia and poster sessions as well as discussions of scientifically sound solutions to relevant problems.

(C) N.C. Biotech Center