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September 22, 2008

North Carolina Biotechnology Center Loans $347K to Start-ups

Filed under: Other Regional News — admin @ 10:12 am

RESEARCH TRIANGLE PARK, N.C. — The North Carolina Biotechnology Center is supporting the war on illness by providing $347,000 in loans.

Projects funded will advance development of a super-miniature, armor-piercing cancer weapon, a dengue fever vaccine, an antidote to nerve gas and pesticide poisoning, and a synthetic spider silk.

The companies that have secured these low-interest loans are Raleigh-based NanoVector and Arbovax, and Charlotte-based Countervail Corporation and EntoGenetics.
NanoVector received a 7,000 Small Business Research Loan to continue development of its uniquely-engineered nanovirus. A nanovirus is about 1/10,000th the width of a human hair and is increasingly sought to fight cancer.

NanoVector believes the unique virus, developed by North Carolina State University scientists, can be loaded with chemotherapy agents and selectively deployed to the nucleus of unsuspecting cancer cells - including those elusive cancer stem cells often blamed for new tumor formations. Once the virus senses it’s inside the cancer cell, this “nano barge” opens a protective cargo bay and releases the chemotherapy payload, killing the surrounding cancerous cell.

NanoVector scientists believe their virus, which typically affects plants, solves many of the problems that have so far thwarted other researchers who have been looking for a nano particle that can selectively deliver therapeutics. They say this is the first that can survive in the patient’s bloodstream, protect the drug cargo, enter a targeted cell, sense cell entry and release the drug cargo with just enough delay to ensure that the cell nucleus dies.

Arbovax got a Small Business Research Loan for 0,000 to help the company tweak a dengue fever virus that can be used in developing a vaccine for the deadly disease. The company is seeking to produce a mutant virus incapable of reproducing in a mammalian cell while still producing a robust immune response to protect those who get the vaccine.

Bill Basinger Jr., CEO of Charlotte-based Countervail Corporation, received a ,000 Business Development Loan to help the firm commercialize a drug for use as an antidote for military nerve gas and pesticide poisoning. The company plans to use the funding to help it prepare a submission to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration for clinical trial approval.

David Brigham, founder of EntoGenetics, the other Charlotte company to receive a Business Development Loan, got ,000 to bootstrap his early-stage company to finalize patents and develop its proprietary process for making spider silk.

Because it is super strong, spider silk has many potential industrial and medical uses. However, spiders can’t be domesticated for high-quantity silk production. EntoGenetics’ technology may yield a faster solution.

These awards add to the more than million awarded to more than 100 North Carolina biotechnology companies since 1989. On average, the companies have brought in about 0 for every dollar loaned by the Biotechnology Center.

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