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North Carolina Biotechnology Center Awards $1.5 Million In Quarter, Loan Recipients Net $77 Million



7/30/2014 3:48:51 PM

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Companies Getting NCBiotech Loans Turning External Funding Into Products, Jobs

RESEARCH TRIANGLE PARK, N.C. July 30, 2014 – The North Carolina Biotechnology Center awarded more than $1.5 million in the fourth quarter of its 2013-2014 fiscal year, while the Center’s loan recipients brought in more than $77 million in outside funding during the period.

NCBiotech approved 22 loans and grants in nine programs to institutions and organizations across the state during the quarter running from April through June, 2014.

For the full year, NCBiotech awarded 78 loans and grants totaling $6,308,186.The awards program supports life science entrepreneurship, technology commercialization and growth, and lays the groundwork for major add-on funding.

On average, every dollar NCBiotech loans to young life science companies is met with $117 in additional funding to those firms from disease philanthropy and government grants, angel and venture investment and other financial support. Every grant dollar is met with an average $28 in additional funding.

Recent examples of loan follow-on funding and support activities include:

Asklepios BioPharmaceutical (Chapel Hill) announced in April that Baxter is acquiring its affiliate Chatham Therapeutics for $70 million upfront, with additional milestone payments possible in the future. Through the transaction, Baxter receives full rights to Chatham’s gene therapy for hemophilia B, which went into early-stage clinical trials when Baxter and Chatham initiated a collaboration around this product in 2012. Baxter also gains access to Chatham’s preclinical hemophilia A program. The gene therapy field has regained momentum recently as a result of regulatory approval for the first gene therapy in Europe and encouraging clinical results for gene therapies across a range of indications. NCBiotech awarded two loans to Asklepios (in 2004 and 2005), totaling $165,000.

Benson Hill Biosystems (RTP) announced that it has received a pair of Phase 1 Small Business Technology Transfer grants from the National Science Foundation. These grants will fund Benson Hill’s research focused on improving the photosynthetic efficiency and productivity of plants. Benson Hill’s ultimate goal is to increase yields for a wide range of crops, and the company has announced industry partnerships around potatoes and sugarcane in 2014. NCBiotech awarded a $50,000 Company Inception Loan to Benson Hill in 2012.

KeraNetics (Winston-Salem) was awarded a $999,304 Phase II U.S. Army Small Business Innovation Research contract that will fund a clinical trial of KeraStat in thermal burn patients. This product has the potential to accelerate burn closure time and reduce burn surface area in both military and civilian settings. Beyond KeraStat, KeraNetics is developing a series of keratin-based products with applications ranging from bone repair to drug delivery. NCBiotech awarded a $150,000 Small Business Research Loan to KeraNetics in 2010.

Zen-Bio (RTP) received two large National Institutes of Health grants totaling more than $1.9 million to support its development of therapies to treat metabolic diseases such as diabetes. NCBiotech awarded Zen-Bio two loans more than a decade ago, and the company continues to grow its research product and service offerings.

In 2014, NCBiotech observed its 30th anniversary as a global leader in life science job creation. The Center has been distributing grants and loans since soon after it was established in 1984, helping North Carolina become the nation’s third-largest life science cluster. There are now more than 600 life science facilities across in the state, employing more than 60,000 people earning an average salary exceeding $78,000.

This latest round of awards includes:

$50,000 for a Company Inception Loan

CILs of up to $50,000 support business inception and related activities to help new life science companies position themselves for start-up and early-stage funding or partnering.

NIRvana Sciences (Cary) is developing novel near-infrared dyes for researchers to use in laser analysis of cells. The company will use the CIL to add staff and position itself for an equity investment.

$250,000 for a Strategic Growth Loan

The SGL, recently increased to a maximum of $500,000 from the previous cap of $350,000, helps biotech companies bridge the early-stage funding gap and position themselves for private investment. SGL funds must be matched by one or more organized angel funds or networks, or venture capital funds with significant life science investing experience.

bioMASON (RTP) has developed a biomanufacturing process to produce masonry products at ambient temperatures using recycled materials, thereby saving natural resources and reducing greenhouse gas emissions. The company will use SGL funds to refine its manufacturing process and to deliver product to its first customer.

$549,226 for five Small Business Research Loans

These loans of up to $250,000 fund research that advances small life science companies’ development of commercially viable technologies/products. The loans help companies reach specific and meaningful research milestones that position them to obtain additional funding from private and public sources.

$75,000 for Agile EndoSurgery (RTP) to test its articulated surgical instruments in preclinical wound closure studies.

$74,226 to Camras Vision (RTP), which is developing an implanted device for the treatment of glaucoma. The company will use SRL funds to conduct preclinical testing with its device for safety and for prevention of infection.

$75,000 to MindSkid Labs (Wilmington), to finalize design and development of its RoboMarker cornea-marking device that can increase the speed and accuracy in marking the cornea for ideal lens placement during cataract surgery, and to help the company then file for regulatory approval.

$75,000 for Panacea BioMatx (RTP) to help the company develop an automated process for manufacturing customized dietary supplements.

$250,000 to T3D Therapeutics (RTP) to support development of a clinical-stage oral drug to treat cognitive decline in Alzheimer's disease.

$30,000 in one Presidential Initiative Award

Bent Creek Institute, based at The North Carolina Arboretum near Asheville, works to grow natural biotechnology products research, manufacturing, and farming jobs in North Carolina. Bent Creek Institute has previously launched the US Botanical Safety Laboratory, a non-profit botanical testing and formulation services network. Next, Bent Creek will spin off two for-profit companies to manufacture agriculturally-derived value-added nutraceutical and biopharma products for export to global markets, including China. Funds awarded will be used to establish these new companies, providing resources for the initial early stage activities that are necessary to move forward. These synergistic endeavors are expected to grow jobs and revenue in the North Carolina natural products sector.

$21,000 to sponsor seven Industrial Interns

The NCBiotech Industrial Internship Program provides three months of funding for students or recent graduates from North Carolina-based academic programs in business administration or the life sciences. These internships provide real-world work experience for the interns, critical to helping them transition from academia to careers in biotechnology. Each company is awarded $3,000 to help support its internship. The following companies participated in this program this quarter:

Cempra (Chapel Hill) hired Ryan Le to support commercialization of its antibiotic products by researching the health economics associated with treating community acquired bacterial pneumonia.

Chiesi USA (Cary) hired Jonathan Mitchell to support the company's marketing activities for a hospital cardiovascular product, including analysis of sales trends and development of promotional materials.

Clinical Sensors (Durham) hired Haley Fowler to conduct market research and competitive analysis that will support commercialization of the company's point-of-care diagnostic test for sepsis, a potentially life-threatening condition resulting from bacterial infections.

Galaxy Diagnostics (RTP) hired Natasha Pinto to develop physician and consumer education materials supporting the expansion of the company's infectious disease testing services.

Gilero Biomedical (RTP) hired Jared Little to support the development and commercialization of novel medical devices, including 3D modeling, prototyping, testing, and preparation of regulatory documents.

KeraNetics (Winston-Salem) hired Corrie Sapp to conduct laboratory testing to characterize the potential commercial applications of the company's product candidates.

Panacea BioMatx (RTP) hired Michael Brown to assist with the development and standardization of the company's dietary supplement manufacturing process.

$200,000 in two Collaborative Funding Grants

These grants of up to $100,000 are jointly sponsored by NCBiotech and the Kenan Institute for Engineering, Technology and Science at North Carolina State University. They support university-company partnerships that help move the companies’ technology toward the marketplace. The grants pay for post-doctoral fellows or technicians in university labs to conduct research on a project of commercial interest. University investigators and companies first form the collaboration and then apply together through the university. This quarter’s grants were:

$100,000 to Duke University -- A partnership between Duke School of Medicine Associate Professor Daniel Laskowitz, M.D., Ph.D., and Cerenova will investigate a small nerve protecting protein that shows promise for the treatment of stroke and brain hemorrhage.

$100,000 to UNC Charlotte – University scientists led by Bao-Hua Song, Ph.D., assistant professor of biological sciences, will partner with those from Monsanto in a novel approach to identifying genes that could protect against soybean cyst nematode, a devastating soybean parasite. The goal is to develop soybeans that can withstand the infection.

$188,231 for two Biotechnology Research Grants

These grants of up to $100,000 support novel research projects that have the potential to strengthen biotechnology research and development at academic and non-profit research institutions in the early stages of building their research capacity. The grants this quarter were:

$100,000 to UNC Greensboro to support research by Mitchell Croatt, Ph.D., assistant professor of organic chemistry, into a drug that might help protect nerve cells from being killed by oxidation after a stroke.

$88,231 to the Wake Forest University Institute for Regenerative Medicine Translational Science Institute, to support work by Professor James Williams, D.V.M., in testing the effectiveness, safety and commercial potential for using a protein called a chemokine to treat bladder problems.

$160,283 for an Institutional Development Grant

The IDG program provides research equipment or core facilities that serve multiple investigators. Research-extensive universities must have at least six investigators involved, and non-research-extensive universities must have at least three. This grant went to Duke University for an automated sample preparation workstation to maximize use of existing DNA sequencing equipment. Lead investigator Gregory Wray, Ph.D., professor of biology and evolutionary anthropology, said this will add to researchers’ productivity and scientific accomplishments in studies on conditions ranging from brain tumors and breast cancer to cholera resistance.

$84,340 for two Technology Enhancement Grants

This grant program grant provides awards of up to $50,000 to universities or other N.C. research institutions through their technology transfer offices. The grants fund commercially promising research studies to enhance the institution’s licensing position. These grants included:

$50,000 to North Carolina State University to develop and demonstrate a novel, precise and state-of-the-art method for editing DNA in selected genes. This technology has applications in food safety, medical research, gene therapy and agricultural biotechnology.

$34,340 to the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill to develop diagnostic blood test to identify cardiac surgery patients for whom surgery would increase their risk for developing acute kidney injury.

NCBiotech is a private, non-profit corporation supported by the N.C. General Assembly. Its mission is to provide long-term economic and societal benefits to North Carolina by supporting biotechnology research, business, education and strategic policy statewide.

Contact: Jim Shamp, director of public relations, at jim_shamp@ncbiotech.org or 919-541-9366. Visit the Biotechnology Center's website at www.ncbiotech.org.

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