Emerging UNC startups
Therapeutics and Platform Technologies
They are developing the first effective gene therapy for hemophilia patients who are unable to respond to current therapies due to inhibitors caused by antibodies formed by the body in response to prior treatments. They are also working on gene therapy solutions for rare ocular diseases.
Founders: Matt Hirsch, Chengwen Li, Brian Gilger, Brian Sutton
The company has developed a proprietary platform, OrthoMab, to generate bispecific antibodies with customizable molecular properties from any two antibody sequences. OrthoMab antibodies are more >99% identical to natural human antibodies and are produced with standard antibody production and purification techniques, obviating the need for poorly behaved antibody fragments (i.e. scFv) or complicated post-processing purification steps. Dualogics is actively building a therapeutic pipeline of tolerance-inducing therapies for autoimmune diseases, and immune activating antibodies for oncology applications, including DLA1, a bispecific antibody for the treatment of Type I Diabetes and other T cell mediated autoimmune diseases.
Founders: Brian Kuhlman, Ryan Hallet, Tim Jacobs
Eldec Pharmaceuticals Inc.
Eldec uses proteogenomics to precisely define the lung’s peptidome in both normal and diseased states, followed by a series of high-throughput screening assays and in vivo assays to identify peptides that play a role in the disease process and can serve as therapeutic targets. Their lead program is a first-in-class disease-modifying approach to address persistent pulmonary inflammation in diseases such as asthma, cystic fibrosis and COPD. It is centered around a peptide mimetic that replicates the role of SPLUNC1, a secreted airway protein, that controls plasma membrane protein levels of the Orai1 calcium channel.
Founder: Rob Terran
Enzerna Biosciences has developed a proprietary platform technology to engineer sequence-specific RNA endonucleases. It is designed to treat disease by degrading toxic RNA in a programmable way distinct from CRISPR/Cas DNA editing technology. The technology is particularly suited to address nucleotide expansion disorders such as Huntington’s Disease.
Founder: Zefeng Wang
Drug and biotech company developing novel RNA interference-(RNAi)-based and antisense oligo therapeutics for “non-druggable” oncogenes such as KRAS. The team has developed therapies that potently bind to mutant KRAS sequences while sparing wild-type KRAS and is optimizing different delivery platforms including ligand-conjugated approaches.
Founder: Chad Pecot
Company focused on developing dCas9 Chemical Epigenetic Modifiers (CEM) -based therapies for cancer and rare diseases. They have developed a new platform technology to reversibly use endogenous cellular machinery to activate (or repress) any gene using novel bifunctional molecule sets. The core technology allows epigenetic sculpting with CEMs and is dose dependent and reversible.
Founder: Nathaniel Hathaway
Eppin Pharma is an emerging pharmaceutical company focused on developing a safe, effective short-term, non-hormonal oral male contraceptive pill. Their lead candidate is a small organic compound that binds to EPPIN, a protein on the surface of human sperm, resulting in the loss of sperm motility. They are in the process of developing an oral formulation of the drug for further testing and continue experiments to elucidate the mechanism of action of our contraceptive drug.
Founders: Michael G. O’Rand, Jeffrey A. Handler, and Katherine G. Hamil
Falcon Therapeutics has created a new class in gene modified cell therapy to address the large unmet need of targeting and killing solid tumor cancers. A patient’s own skin cells are converted into Trilogy cells, which possess the unique ability to detect tumor cells, migrate directly to those cancerous cells and then kill them. They target not only target cancer cells in the primary tumor, we also target metastatic cancers that have traveled to other areas of the body. Their lead indication for human trials is ovarian cancer, while GBM and triple-negative breast cancer are indications that are also included as part of their pipeline.
Founder: Shawn Hingtgen
Glycan Therapeutics, LLC
Glycan Therapeutics possesses a unique patented technology to synthesize heparin and heparan sulfate oligosaccharides for medical uses. The company is developing new drug therapies based on a novel synthetic carbohydrate technology platform. The platform technology can be used to synthesize an anticoagulant drug, like synthetic heparin, as well as design heparin-like oligosaccharides for research and development for other medical applications. They are the leader in the development of enzymatically synthesized sulfated oligosaccharides for a variety of indications.
Founder: Jian Liu
Their AceIMMune platform enables intracellular targeting of molecules to immune cells without use of surface receptors/ligands and with increased potency and reduced off-target toxicities. The 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.
Founders: Eric Bachelder, Kristy Ainslie, and Jenny Ting
Inhalon Biopharma Inc.
The company seeks to advance “muco-trapping” monoclonal antibodies for use in treating and preventing respiratory infections. The lead product is an inhalable antibody for treatment of RSV infections, which infects over 2.5M children in the U.S. each year and is the leading cause of viral infection mediated hospitalization.
Founder: Sam Lai
Initos Pharmaceuticals, LLC
Initos Pharmaceuticals is developing a platform delivery technology for nucleic acid therapeutics to develop agents to enhance intracellular delivery of oligonucleotides, peptides and proteins to key tissue sites. The technology uses a series of oligonucleotide enhancing compounds (OECs) to enhance the pharmacological activity of anti-sense, splice-switching and siRNA-based oligonucleotides. The company is evaluating their OEC platform for correction of RNA splicing defects in cystic fibrosis and for blocking overproduction of mucins in airway diseases such as COPD and asthma
Founders: Rudy Juliano, William Janzen
Irex Pharma LLC
Irex utilizes a novel panel of assays to discover and optimize small molecule inhibitors of a new target required for mucus overproduction, with indications in cystic fibrosis and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease
Founders: Carla Ribeiro and Emily Hull-Ryde
Far-red responsive caged compound for targeted delivery of a therapeutic
Mucommune is a privately held company seeking to advance “muco-trapping” monoclonal antibodies for use in reinforcing female reproductive health. The technology is based on engineering the Fc region of IgG antibodies to interact with mucins which enables antibodies to immobilize viral and bacterial pathogens in different mucosal secretions. Mucommune’s lead product is a non-hormonal contraceptive vaginal ring that releases muco-trapping mAb that can block sperm from reaching the egg by trapping it in cervicovaginal mucus.
Founder: Sam Lai
Using a novel protein technology, NabGen has developed a co-therapy designed to overcome pre-existing immunity and re-administration barriers of gene therapies based on adeno-associated virus (AAV) vectors. The treatment targets neutralizing antibodies (NAbs) against the vector. The co-therapy can be administered separately immediately prior to AAV gene therapy delivery, or in formulation with AAV.
Founders: Chengwen Li, Charlie Askew
New startup focused on development of gene therapy products for treating mucopolysaccharidosis (MPS) disorders and related rare neurogenetic diseases.
Founder: Haiyan Fu
Uses polymer conjugation technologies to deliver macromolecules to the brain
OncoTrap is based on the drug target-binding protein molecules developed by using in vitro protein selection and protein engineering. The company aims at applying these affinity molecules to trap the immunosuppressive signals in the microenvironment of diseased tissues for the immunotherapy of major solid tumors and autoimmune diseases. Their product pipeline include OT-1, a therapy that targets chemokine protein CXCL12 to treat pancreatic ductal adenocarcinoma; OT-2, which targets programmed cell death protein 1 (PD1) in pancreatic cancers; OT-3 to trap a cytokine in tumor sites,;and OT-4, a polymer-based self-assembly system that is designed to deliver siRNA against Kras mutant (G12D) to the cancer cells.
Founder: Rihe Liu and Leaf Huang
Panacise Bio Inc.
Panacise Bio aims at developing the technology platforms for the next generation Pro-CAR-T-cells that are activated in tumor microenvironment and therefore can be used for the treatment of various solid tumors.
Founder: Rihe Liu
Renovion is a pre-clinical stage pharmaceutical company with a therapy for chronic inflammatory airway diseases. The company is currently developing Arina-1 as the first FDA-approved therapy for patients who have received a lung transplant and expanding approval into other indications, including CF, COPD, asthma, VAP, ARDS and other diseases.
Founder: Carolyn Durham
Reveris Therapeutics aims to develop highly efficacious, nontoxic small molecule inhibitors to treat triple negative breast cancer (TNBC). Their approach is to discover and develop targeted therapeutics that interfere with non-oncogene addiction. Because these non-oncogenic proteins are not required for normal cell survival, they have tremendous potential as safe and effective targets.
Founders: Leslie Parise, Tina Leisner, Justin Black
Company that targets gut bacteria with small molecule therapeutics. The company is advancing a first-in-class approach to improve the treatment of serious lower gastrointestinal (GI) diseases as well as mitigate the debilitating lower GI side effects associated with various cancer, pain and immunosuppressive therapies.
Founder: Dr. Matthew Redinbo
Cytokine-polymer bioconjugate that acts as an cancer immunotherapy for solid tumors
Medical Device, Diagnostic, and Dental
Accunovo Biotechnologies, Inc.
Accunovo focuses on developing novel targeted PET imaging probes, through a combination of the biomarker-binding molecules developed in the Liu lab and PET imaging molecules developed in the Li lab, for targeted imaging of cancer for early diagnosis.
Founder: Rihe Liu and Zibo Li
Advanced Chemotherapy Technologies, Inc.
Advanced Chemotherapy Technologies (ACT) is developing an implantable device to infuse chemotherapy drugs directly into the pancreas, targeting difficult-to-reach tumors while largely sparing surrounding tissues, organs and blood vessels. The device, about the size of a quarter, would be implanted in the pancreas with electrical leads running to the abdomen. The device would drive chemotherapy into the tumor using electrical currents that pass through the drug solution, a process called iontophoresis. The technology would convert patients with locally advanced non-resectable disease into candidates for surgical resection, by shrinking the tumor away from these vital structures, improving quality of life and extending survival.
Founders: Jen Yeh, Joseph DeSimone, and James Byrne
AnelleO is a medical device company that is developing a 3D printed intravaginal ring that can be used as a platform for treating a wide range of women’s health conditions. Their first product, AnelleO PRO involves the only single administration of progesterone for infertility. Their technology enables controlled drug-release kinetics with up to 100% drug release, as well as rapid manufacturing and custom sizing. The manufacturing method allows for formulation of biologics and drug combinations not possible with traditional technologies.
Founder: Rahima Benhabbour, Rima Janusziewicz
Assure Technologies has developed a novel, simple, and affordable medical device called PrecyngeTM (a precise syringe) that utilizes the volumetric process to provide consistently accurate measurements for a variety of drug preparations. PrecyngeTM allows for easy and precise dose measurement, regardless of medication weight, specific gravity, or syringe size. Integrating this manual device into the current volumetric process increases its universality and affordability.
Founder: Stephen Eckel
BM Polytech, LLC
BMPolytech develops and commercializes a new class of materials, tissue-mimetic Brush-like Polymer Networks. This material-design platform developed at UNC-Chapel Hill is based on solvent-free non-leachable materials that precisely replicate the mechanics of biological tissue. Implants made of BMPolytech polymers feel like tissue by being simultaneously soft and firm. They won’t dry, freeze, or leak, and hence remain invariant and functional over time. This combination of solvent-free and tissue-like mechanics is vital for the safety of permanent biomedical devices including breast implants, intraocular lenses and vascular grafts. Further, this platform allows injectable-implant technology, which enables non-invasive administration into hard-to-reach body parts.
Founder: Sergei Sheiko
Modular light sheet illumination system designed for high-resolution imaging
Perotech is developing sensitive X-ray detectors and imaging arrays which are more sensitive, lower cost, compact and easy to use compared to the existing products in the market. Perotech’s X-ray detectors are based on new perovskite materials that enable lower X-ray dosing while providing high imaging resolution and thus have the potential of making X-ray testing much safer in medical diagnosis imaging. The company aims at capturing the unprecedented opportunity to commercialize the perovskite related technologies including perovskite radiation detectors, photodetectors and solar cells.
Founder: Jinsong Huang
PrimeNeuro is developing a software solution for the early prediction of Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) using objective, MRI-based biomarkers in infants as young as 6 months old. This technology has the potential to greatly improve the quality of life of patients and families affected by the syndrome. ASD affects approximately 1 in 59 children in the United States. A lack of objective, early biomarkers means that many children are diagnosed later in life and miss a critical window during infancy and early childhood when interventions may be more effective. The software being created by PrimeNeuro uses deep learning algorithms that will provide clinicians with a yes/no result for whether an infant will progress onto the Autism Spectrum at 6 months of age. The company is also developing tools to support parents as they manage the chronic stress of raising a child with ASD.
Founders: Brad Bower and Sam Tetlow
Pulvinar Neuro, LLC
Pulvinar Neuro provides cutting-edge neurotechnology to brain researchers. The company develops and markets a portable device for non-invasive brain stimulation research. Their solution uses transcranial direct current stimulation (tDCS) and transcranial alternating current stimulation (tACS) for brain stimulation.
Founder: Flavio Frohlich
Sapere Bio (formerly Healthspan)
Sapere Bio is developing a diagnostic test for determining a patient’s “molecular age” that will improve risk assessment and patient outcomes. The company integrates their proprietary sample collection methods, reproducible and precise measurement of senescense biomarkers and development of algorithms to predict adverse health outcomes and guide clinical care. AKI-Sapere is the first in a series of blood tests being developed to stratify patients by risk of devastating adverse events following cardiac procedures.
Founders: Norman Sharpless, Natalia Mitin
Sinogate Medbio specializes in the application of next-generation DNA sequencing for cancer genomics. It has developed AML-MutationCounter as a duplex-consensus NGS test for residual and recurrent leukemia. This test provides oncologists a better measure of residual disease burden following chemotherapy and can guide a decision to transplant bone marrow or not. It can also be used to monitor recurrence after transplantation and estimate the risk of therapy-induced leukemia after chemotherapy for colon and breast cancer.
Founder: William Kauffmann
Hardware and software for 3D volumetric ultrasound imaging
SOVE is developing an innovative orthodontic system to solve the problems frequently encountered with esthetic orthodontic systems. Current invisible orthodontic systems are uncomfortable, often require removal of healthy enamel to slenderize teeth, have visible components on the front of the teeth and do not result in ideal tooth position. The company’s 2Insight system solves these challenges with a unique, two-stage process: “archwire first, aligner second,” resulting in a faster, more precise, hygienic, minimally invasive, 100 percent esthetic orthodontic treatment. In addition to improving treatment for existing candidates, 2Insight makes it possible to use an invisible orthodontic appliance on segments of the population that previously were not candidates for invisible braces.
Founders: Christina Jackson Ching-Chang Ko
Research Tools/Data Analytics
AI Tracking Solutions, LLC
AI Tracking Solutions (AITS) is combining machine learning and artificial intelligence to provide cloud-based, fully automated video tracking analysis software to microscopy community. Their technology focuses on an artificial neural network that can perform convolutions in space and time to infer particle locations. AITS’ cloud-based software algorithms provide rapid and truly objective analysis, are expected to popularize particle tracking as a tool for big data imaging techniques and development of advance microscopy and particle sizing instruments. The software can accurately and fully automatically track entities from nanoparticles to viruses to bacteria to cells and generates individual traces and statistical analysis of the traces.
Founder: Sam Lai
Altis Biosystems, Inc.
Altis Biosystems has developed a proprietary stem cell platform that recreates the human intestinal epithelium in a 2D or 3D layer of intestinal stem and differentiated cells, which can be used for compound screening, microbiome research and disease modeling. Unlike other systems, the Altis platform is high-throughput, reproducible, and produces normal human intestinal tissue, making it a more physiologically relevant in vitro human intestinal model for compound testing.
Founders: Nancy Allbritton, Yuli Wang, Michael Biron, Chris Sims, Scott Magness
Path BioAnalytics (PBA) is a precision medicine company dedicated to the advancement of next-generation of treatments for individuals living with respiratory disease. PBA couples a personalized 3D cell culture system with extensive in-house clinical datasets from a broad cross-section of individuals to provide an innovative platform for drug development. Their organoid technology provides a miniature model of the airways that is unique to the person who provided the cells to grow the organoid. They are composed of differentiated epithelial cells, mimicking the polarization, epithelial structure, and composition of the airways. PBA is utilizing its technology to advance internal and external drug programs for a range of diseases. The company’s internal development programs are focused on cystic fibrosis, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease and pulmonary fibrosis. PBA’s patient-centric, precision medicine approach to drug development allows the company to de-risk R&D decisions, improve the efficiency of clinical testing, and ultimately produce more effective medications for targeted patient populations.
Founders: John Mellnik
Red Bud Labs
Redbud Labs manufactures microfluidic components for life science industry. Redbuds products improve the performance of microfluidic consumables in research, drug discovery, and diagnostics. Their core technology is the patented Redbud Posts™, which enable their cartridge-ready components to deliver enhanced microfluidic performance. Redbud Posts are a type of artificial cilia. These microscopic structures, patterned on silicone film, move in the presence of magnetic fields. Redbud Posts induce microscale agitation that defeat diffusion kinetics and laminar flow, enabling faster, more sensitive assays.
Founders: Ricky Spero, Rich Superfine, and Russ Taylor
SeqQuest has developed a software solution for single cell RNA sequencing analysis called RNAQuest. It provides easy to use Cloud based software to graphically analyze RNA sequencing experiments without investing in IT infrastructure. Using SeqQuest, biomedical researchers can transform staggering amounts of data into crucial insights, from identifying cancer causing cells to curing them. The system can generate meaningful graphical presentations of their results including downloadable charts and graphs: PCA, tSNE, hierarchical clustering, heatmaps, jitter- plots, violin-plots, and expression-level ranking.
Founders: Joshua Starmer and Scott Magness
Triangle Biotechnology Inc.
Triangle Biotechnology develops high-throughput, low-cost, user-friendly sonication workflows for biological sample preparation for applications including next-generation sequencing, tissue processing, and cell lysis. Their patented RapidShear™ Nanodroplets sonication reagent enables high-throughput genomic DNA fragmentation workflows in low-cost water bath sonicators.
Founders: Samantha Pattenden, Paul Dayton, Joe McMahon
Social, environmental, & educational startups
BlackInkMetrics is an educational software company focused on developing innovative solutions that serves the needs of teachers and students. The company’s lead product is GradingHelp, which promises to deliver a more efficient grading process to writing teachers and to provide students with better, more useful writing feedback that will improve their writing effectiveness.
Founder: Heidi Schultz
Social enterprise that has developed a software program that optimizes radiation to cancer and spares normal tissue with a simple compensator device. EmpowerRT enables cancer clinics with outdated radiation therapy equipment reduce treatment toxicity at 5-10% of the cost of purchasing modern technology.
Founder: Sha Chang
GoodBowls produces healthy, frozen meal products, designed to provide better access to nutritionally valuable food for lower-income consumers and create economic opportunities for local farmers and food entrepreneurs. The business model focuses on reducing food waste, increasing accessibility and bringing benefits to the farmers whose crops serve as ingredients in the meals. By pricing Good Bowls higher in more affluent retail outlets, the company hopes to sell the product for a food-stamp-accessible price at lower-income centers in food deserts like convenience stores and corner shops.
Founders: Alice Ammerman and Laura Fieselman
Using a combination of proprietary chemistry and equipment, Premirr Plastics has developed a new cleantech system to chemically breakdown PET into a reusable starting material (monomers) for new PET products. Unlike traditional recycling methods that melt the plastic into pellets, Premirr’s system allows for PET plastic waste to be recycled an unlimited amount of times and to its original shape.
Founder: Matthew Parrott and Mark McCreery
Sandbar Oyster Co.
Developed a novel, biodegradable material – Oyster Catcher™ – to overcome problems and create new ways to promote oyster growth and restore/create estuarine habitats. SANDBAR is also bringing innovation and core sustainability to oyster aquaculture by offering forms of Oyster Catcher™ and know-how to produce large quantities of seed oysters derived from the natural spawning of wild oysters. The offspring of these genetically diverse parents possess traits favorable for survival and growth across a wide range of environmental conditions. Forms of Oyster Catcher™ optimized for spat collection can be used in hatcheries or appropriate natural environments as a biodegradable oyster shell substitute.
Founder: Niels Lindquist
STATApps is creating an augmented reality video game called Adventure Squad, which is designed for pediatric hospital patients. The game seeks to engage patients using narrative storytelling and augmented reality to get children out of their beds and walking, thereby improving hospitalizations and patient outcomes.
Founders: Steven King and Richard Hobbs