5 NC startups advance in LaunchBio’s national pitch event

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RESEARCH TRIANGLE PARK – LaunchBio is hosting The Big Pitch, a virtual quick pitch competition for the most promising startups in the U.S.

CasTag Biosciences, Immvention Therapeutix, PhosphoGam, Praetego and TreeCo have been selected by the community to represent Durham, where LaunchBio has an office, and North Carolina’s up-and-coming life sciences talent.

Each startup will submit a pre-recorded pitch which the judges and audience will view live during the virtual pitch event on August 6. Judges will select the winner with the strongest pitch and most promising product idea.

The Durham Pennant winner will advance to the National Championship, where it will compete with the winning startups from Cambridge and San Diego. The official winner will be awarded the grand prize on August 20.


  • 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 enables intracellular targeting of molecules to immune cells without use of surface receptors/ligands and with increased potency and reduced off-target toxicities via their AceIMMune platform. The NCBiotech portfolio company has validated the technology preclinically in in multiple in vivo models of cancer, autoimmune diseases and infectious diseases. It is compatible for use with most molecules and peptides and allows tunable drug release kinetics.

The company has initiated program exploration in controlling/suppressing COVID-19- related “cytochrome storm syndrome (CSS)”/Acute Respiratory Distress Syndrome that causes fatalities. Recent evidence shows that COVID-19 cytokine storm is similar to many hyper-inflammatory diseases the company was already exploring with its multi-inflammasome inhibitors.

  • 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

  • Praetgo 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.

LaunchBio’s Big Pitch is sponsored by Novocure and Scientist

Original Article Source: WRAL TechWire