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Hatteras backs $3 million seed round for UNC spin-out with stem-cell platform

A Triangle spin-out company looking to develop its stem-cell technology has wrapped up a $3.1 million seed investment led by a South Carolina venture capital firm and local investors.

Chapel Hill-based Altis Biosystems this week announced the closing of an oversubscribed seed series investment round led by Greenville-based VentureSouth. According to VentureSouth, it invested “over $1 million as the first and largest investor in the fundraising.”

Other investors in the round included RTP Capital and Durham’s Hatteras Venture Partners, as well as and other partners across the country, including members of the Atlanta Technology Angels and Central Texas Angel Network in Austin.

Altis is one of many spin-out bioscience companies that has emerged from local universities. It spun-out of UNC-Chapel Hill with the mission of making drug discovery faster and safer while reducing the need for animal testing.

The company’s technology is centered around a stem-cell platform that was created as part of a National Institutes of Health (NIH) research award to develop a microfluidic organ-on-a-chip mimic of the human colon.

Using that technology, called RepliGut, the company’s platform produces a layer of human intestinal stem cells of either the small or large intestine. These cells can be used, according to the company, for screening, disease modeling or microbiome research.

“Altis considers its intestinal platform to be the next generation for in vitro testing during drug development,” the company says. “The platform allows scientists to develop safe and more effective drugs using normal human intestinal tissue.”

According to documents filed with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) the investment round included a total of 42 people with no minimum investment requirement. The first date of sale for the round was Dec. 30 of last year.

The company believes its technology can address the industry’s “intense need” for more accurate drug screening methods.

“The inadequacies of current drug development methods, prior to human testing, have left the industry with an unacceptable 88 percent failure rate in clinical trials and $151 billion spent every year on research and development,” the company’s mission statement says.

In a prepared statement, Altis CEO Michael Biron said, “We are particularly pleased to have oversubscribed our fundraising target by nearly 50 percent, despite the challenges of the current global health environment, and are looking forward to deploying this new funding as we accelerate the development and deployment of additional biologically accurate and comprehensive intestinal models with our pharma and biotech partners.”

As part of the funding deal, the company is adding a number of people to its board of directors. They include Joe McMahon, the former CEO of KBI Biopharma and kSep®Systems, Sue Mahony, the former SVP and President of Lilly Oncology, and VentureSouth member Sam Franklin – a nephrologist and UNC graduate.

The investment by VentureSouth marks a growing interest in the Triangle’s biotech industry. The firm has invested in eight Triangle companies in the last year.

Original Article Source: Triangle Business Journal