NC Biotech Center fuels growth, research in life sciences with $1.75M in grants, loans

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The North Carolina Biotechnology Center awarded 18 grants and loans totaling $1,755,181 to universities, bioscience companies and nonprofit organizations in the third quarter of its fiscal year.

The awards, made in January, February, and March, will support life sciences research, technology commercialization and entrepreneurship throughout North Carolina. The funding will also help universities and companies attract follow-on funding from other sources.


Four bioscience companies received loans totaling $1.25 million to advance their research, product development, commercial viability, and funding efforts.

Three of those companies received Small Business Research Loans totaling $750,000.

  • APIE Therapeutics of Morrisville received $250,000 to perform genetic toxicology studies and prepare for a pre-Investigational New Drug meeting with the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA). The company is developing anti-fibrotic therapeutics to treat chronic diseases including scleroderma, a disabling autoimmune disorder that causes vascular damage and fibrotic scarring in organ systems.
  • Artiam Bio of Morrisville received $250,000 to perform animal dose-ranging studies and produce GMP (Good Manufacturing Practices) material in preparation for an Investigational New Drug filing with the FDA. The company is developing small-molecule drugs to treat non-alcoholic steatohepatitis, the most common liver disease in Western industrialized countries.
  • Oncurie of Raleigh received $250,000 to evaluate the systemic administration of mTRAP compounds in murine breast cancer models. These mTRAP compounds are engineered to gather, polymerize, and immobilize near cancer cells to deliver targeted radionuclide therapy to treat metastatic breast cancer.

A fourth company, Altis Biosystems of Research Triangle Park, received a $500,000 Strategic Growth Loan. The loan will support development and commercialization of two new expanded-capability platforms of the company’s “intestine-on-a-chip” technology, RepliGut LTC and RepliGut 2D Crypt, to better support drug discovery for chronic intestinal conditions such as Crohn’s disease.


A dozen bioscience companies that previously received loans from the Biotech Center raised $102.4 million in follow-on funding from other sources in the third quarter, according to research by the Biotech Center’s Life Science Intelligence staff.

Accounting for about two-thirds of that was Durham-based Biomason, which raised over $65 million in Series C venture capital. The company uses natural microorganisms to grow sustainable, structural biocement. The technology emits less carbon dioxide – a plant-warming greenhouse gas – than the production of traditional Portland cement used in concrete.

Two other companies also raised eight-figure investments in the quarter.

Durham-based Baebies secured nearly $12 million in debt financing. The company specializes in newborn screening and pediatric testing for disorders using digital microfluidics and other technologies that require small volumes of plasma, whole blood, or saliva.

Locus Biosciences of Morrisville raised more than $10.5 million in venture capital (followed by an additional $24.5 million after the third quarter, for a total Series B fundraising round of $35 million). The company will use the funding to advance its lead drug candidate, a gene-edited bacteriophage targeting E. coli bacteria that causes urinary tract infections, into a phase 2/3 clinical trial. Locus is a clinical-stage biotechnology company developing precision medicines for therapeutic indications across infectious disease and inflammatory diseases.


The City of Greensboro received a $100,000 Partnership Development Grant to support the construction of a Customer & Community Experience Program facility at Syngenta’s North America Crop Protection headquarters. This space will allow for a wide range of community groups and local associations to engage in interactive and experiential virtual tours of the facility’s R&D, digital agriculture, and product lifecycle operations.

Syngenta plans to invest $68 million to upgrade its facilities in Greensboro.


Universities received grants totaling $388,206 during the third quarter to advance bioscience research.

Four universities received FLASH Grants, which support creative ideas that show early indications of commercial potential.

  • Duke University Medical Center received $20,000 to develop an anesthesia-free tip for a portable, at-home intraocular eye pressure device for the management of glaucoma.
  • East Carolina University received $5,259 to develop a personalized medicine approach to help individuals who stutter.
  • North Carolina State University received $20,000 to develop a device to help women suffering from pelvic pain or pain associated with vaginal intercourse with their pelvic floor physical therapy exercises at home to reduce their pain and improve sexual health.
  • The University of North Carolina Wilmington received $13,000 to develop a predictive model of possible interventions for better integration of pharmacogenetic testing, by using artificial intelligence to analyze healthcare data.

Two universities received Translational Research Grants, which fund projects that explore potential commercial applications or initiate the early commercial development of university-held life sciences inventions.

  • East Carolina University received $110,000 to develop a recombinant protein therapeutic to stabilize and protect heart tissue following coronary artery bypass surgery. The goal is to reduce cardiac-related hospital readmissions and improve patient outcomes.
  • Duke University Medical Center received $110,000 to develop a novel fluorescent assay for diagnosing heparin-induced thrombocytopenia, a devastating complication of commonly used blood thinners that is difficult to diagnose. Current testing requires  the use of radioactive materials, so some medical centers can’t perform the test on-site, and need to ship samples to off-site laboratories, thereby incurring longer processing times.
  • Duke University Medical Center also received $109,947 to develop a more-accurate and reliable medical device for measuring eye pressure to diagnose and monitor the treatment of glaucoma, the leading cause of irreversible blindness, which affects over 76 million people globally.


Three universities and one nonprofit organization received Biotechnology Event Sponsorships, which support events, meetings or conferences that promote information sharing and personal interaction focused on life sciences research, business or education.

  • Science Happens 4 Me, a nonprofit educational organization, received $2,275 for The Inventor’s Workshop, a five-week summer enrichment program for minority, middle school-aged girls that provides hands-on STEM based learning activities related to biology, physics, chemistry and biotechnology.
  • Duke University received $3,000 for the Evolutionary Medicine Summer Institute, which introduces evolutionary concepts to topics in human, animal, and plant health while training students, researchers and practitioners in computational methods used in evolutionary research.
  • Duke University received $3,000 for the North Carolina Chapter of the Society of Research Administrators’ annual meeting, which provides educational workshops, professional development opportunities and the latest comprehensive information to research administrators across North Carolina.
  • North Carolina State University received $3,000 for HITS (High-Throughput Discovery Science & Inquiry-Based Case Studies for Today’s Students), an annual summer workshop focused on the use of high-throughput approaches for scientific discovery.
  • The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill received $3,000 for the Integrative Vascular Biology & UNC McAllister Heart Institute Research Symposium, which provides opportunities for established and emerging cardiovascular scientists to present and discuss their most recent cutting-edge research in cardiovascular biology and related disciplines.
  • UNC-CH received $2,700 for the 16th Annual Biomedical Engineering Innovation Symposium, a showcase for UNC/NCSU Biomedical Engineering senior design and graduate students to present their projects on rehabilitation, biological process, medical textiles, imaging, medical device engineering, and more.

(C) N.C. Biotech Center

Original Article Source: WRAL TechWire