Emerging UNC startups
Therapeutics and Platform Technologies
Bedrock is an AAV research and development company working on both platform technologies and therapeutic cassettes for diverse genetic diseases.
Founders: Matt Hirsch, Chengwen Li, Brian Gilger, Brian Sutton
BlueSky Polymers is developing new chemistries for high-performance polymer material for 3D printing that can be used in both injection molding and composite materials for major industries, including aerospace, automotive, and oil and gas.
Founders: Ed Samulski, Theo Dingemans
Eldec Pharmaceuticals has developed a novel, first-in-class, broad-spectrum, lung-specific immunomodulator called ELD607. ELD607 beneficially normalizes lung neutrophil levels in 5 different murine lung disease models. By preventing lung-damaging neutrophilia, ELD607 reduces lung damage and increases survival outcomes. In bacterial pneumonia models, a single, inhaled dose of ELD607 significantly reduced lung cytokines, leading to a 90% reduction in lung neutrophilia, increased bacterial clearance, decreased lung damage, and increased survival. These definitive experiments demonstrate that rebalancing the lung’s inflammatory response prevents infection-induced lung damage. The ability of ELD607 to reduce multiple cytokines and neutrophilia via inhibition of Orai1 represents a revolutionary approach to improving outcomes in patients with neutrophilic inflammation. We are currently evaluating ELD607 as a treatment for COVID-19 lung disease.
Founder: Rob Tarran
A 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
Epigenos is 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, Inc.
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, EP055, which 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 and completing toxicology testing in preparation for an IND application.
Founders: Michael G. O’Rand, Jeffrey A. Handler, Katherine G. Hamil
GeneVentiv Therapeutics is an Investigational New Drug (IND) Enabling, gene therapy company advancing a patent-pending, universal cure for Hemophilia A and B with or without inhibitors. Between 22%-35% of hemophilia patients develop inhibitors that inactivate current treatments. There is no competitive gene therapy in development that cures hemophilia patients with inhibitors with a single infusion.
Founders: Damon R. Race, Chengwen Li
Initos Pharmaceuticals is developing a platform delivery technology for nucleic acid therapeutics 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 is an early-stage drug discovery company focused on identifying and commercializing innovative therapeutics for respiratory indications where there is unmet medical need. As a UNC startup, Irex Pharma has access to a stellar team of experts in pulmonary disease, computational, synthetic, and protein chemistry, and drug discovery with extensive experience developing novel therapies for the clinic.
Founders: Carla Ribeiro, Emily Hull-Ryde
LED Radiofluidics, Corp. provides the imaging field easy access to cutting edge photoredox labeling technology. One arm of the company will develop simple and low-cost units that could be easily integrated into a commercial box to interface with existing cyclotrons at the end user’s site. We will also develop affordable agents to synthesize established agents and develop new PET agents. It is difficult to estimate the market potential currently. The other arm of the company will offer novel radiotracer development and uptake studies for pharmaceuticals in the development phase by biotech and pharmaceutical companies. LED Radiofluidics will utilize its novel photoredox labeling technology to help companies study localization of their clinical drug candidates in vivo using animal models (mice, primates, etc.).
Founders: Zibo Li, David Nicewicz
Using a novel protein technology, NabGen has developed a means to overcome pre-existing and re-administration immunity to adeno-associated virus (AAV) vector gene therapy. The treatment targets neutralizing antibodies (NAbs) against this viral vector. The co-therapy can be administered separately, immediately prior to AAV gene therapy delivery, or in combination with AAV gene therapy.
Founders: Chengwen Li, Charlie Askew
NeuroGT is focused on development of gene therapy products for treating mucopolysaccharidosis (MPS) disorders and related rare neurogenetic diseases.
Founder: Haiyan Fu
RainBio is the only ocular gene therapy pioneer focused on blindness in the cornea. Our adeno-associated virus (AAV) vector gene therapy can directly correct cornea cellular function to maintain or restore vision in patients at risk of blindness from a number of diseases. Our groundbreaking first-in-class lead program for corneal clouding in Mucopolysaccharidosis type 1 (MPS1) patients who have vision loss from this rare genetic disease opens up a new field in ocular gene therapy.
Founders: Matt Hirsch and Brian Gilger
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: Matthew Redinbo
Medical Device, Diagnostic, and Dental
Accunovo focuses on improvements in early cancer diagnosis. The Company is developing novel targeted PET imaging probes through a combination of unique biomarker-binding molecules and PET imaging molecules for targeted imaging of cancer, allowing earlier diagnosis and treatment.
Founder: Rihe Liu, Zibo Li
Aerem Innovations is actively addressing the safety of healthcare workers and members of the community by providing simple yet effective personal protective devices. Our main technology is a mask frame designed to improve the comfort of existing face masks by reducing the gaps between a user’s mask material and their face. The device is engineered to be reusable and worn with nearly any mask and has the added benefits of reducing glasses fog and irritation caused by ear loops. Mated with different masks, our frame can be a savings while improving comfort and maintaining safety.
Founders: Devin Hubbard, Nicole Wiley, Ethan Smith, Emiley Joyce
AnelleO is harnessing the advancements in the speed and scale of 3D printing technology for novel solutions in Women’s Health. Intravaginal Rings (IVR) offer a unique platform for sustained delivery of therapeutics – a non-invasive, self-administered and retrievable platform that can deliver drugs over a period of weeks or months. To-date, IVR technology has been limited to a few successes due to inherent limitations of current manufacturing by injection molding or extrusion. The design flexibility, rapid prototyping, and cost-effective manufacturing of digital light synthesis (DLS) 3D printing allows AnelleO to develop and manufacture IVRs specifically matched to the unique characteristics of the molecule and indication. AnelleO’s lead product is AnelleO PRO – a self-administered, non-invasive multi-week alternative to daily progesterone supplementation alongside Assisted Reproductive Technologies (ART) for women undergoing fertility treatment. Beyond progesterone, the AnelleO technology is compatible across a range of small molecules and biologics. Through our proprietary understanding of individual design parameters’ impact on release criteria, AnelleO can match IVRs from our library to target molecules to create the optimum delivery platform.
Assure Technologies, LLC has developed a novel, simple, and affordable medical device called Precynge (a precise syringe) to provide consistently accurate small volume medication measurements critical to neonatal and early pediatric care.
Founder: Stephen Eckel
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.
IrNex, Inc. is developing pi-MRSI, a novel MRI method capable of in vivo spectroscopy, providing detailed three-dimensional maps of biomarker metabolites in cancer lesions. A broad range of metabolites, including lactate, choline, and poly-unsaturated fatty acids (PUFA) are known to be upregulated (Lac and Cho) or downregulated (PUFA) in aggressive breast cancer disease and metastasis sites.
Founder: Qiuhong He
LiRA is a social venture developing lip-reading technology that employs advancements in computer vision, machine learning, and natural language processing to help voiceless individuals communicate.
Founders: Alison Schaefer, Andrew Prince, Dina Yamaleyeva, Andres Tello, Nga Nguyen
Mizar Imaging is a modular light sheet illumination system designed for high-resolution imaging. Mounting to most inverted microscopes, the Tilt enables light sheet imaging to be easily added to an existing or new microscope system.
Founder: Paul Maddox
OraBiotech was founded in 2021 by an orthodontist who wanted to provide cutting-edge and effective solutions to people suffering from craniofacial disorders. The company aims to improve the quality of life of patients through innovative therapies. Poor speech can have a lifelong negative impact on societal integration and social wellbeing. OraBiotech’s technology, AdaptiveSpeech (™ pending), is being developed to improve speech using IoT and gamification.
Founder: Rishma Sha
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, Sam Tetlow
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
SonoVascular is developing a thrombolysis device for the treatment of blood clots related to deep vein thrombosis, pulmonary embolism and peripheral arterial occlusions. The device utilizes an ultrasound transducer that is small enough to be introduced to the blood vessel via a catheter and aims ultrasound directly ahead, which makes it extremely precise. The systems helps dissolve clots and creates larger holes in the clot mass that allow blood borne anti-clotting drugs to penetrate deep into the clot and further break it down.
Founders: Daniel Estay, Xiaoning Jiang
SonoVol is a life science research tools company, committed to making user-friendly products that accelerate disease research and drug development.
Founders: Ryan Gessner, Paul Dayton
Research Tools/Data Analytics
Cymantix is a company established in 2016 and spun-off from the Laboratory of Applied Informatics Research (LAIR) at UNC Chapel Hill’s Carolina Health Informatics Program. The Cymantix team has brought together years of experience in cloud architecture & computing, digital libraries, information retrieval, computational linguistics, bioinformatics, and biomedical informatics in order to build the latest version of a prototype application called Publication Access Through Tiered Interaction & Exploration (PATTIE – pattie.unc.edu). PATTIE is a highly visual-spatial and voice-enabled unsupervised machine learning platform that records and organizes transcripts of biomedical literature search strategies into re-executable, extensible, and shareable “search notebooks” that can be utilized as a collaboration device among research teams during their initial information-seeking phases within the biomedical literature and thus saving time, increasing efficiency, enabling methodological replication, and accelerating biomedical discovery.
Founder: Javed Mostafa
Elipsys is a sports technology company that accelerates sport performance by giving teams more confidence in their decisions. We blend innovative player and eye tracking technology with artificial intelligence to give athletes and coaches the right insights at the right time. Our patented system disrupts day-to-day training through real-time personalized insights that give athletes easy access to data, which allows them to precisely target training to maximize performance improvement.
Founder: Adam Kiefer
Predictive, LLC’s mission is dedicated to using artificial intelligence and machine learning techniques to understand how pharmaceuticals, chemicals, and personal care products affect people. An area we see that has an unmet need is a software platform that can leverage the existing 6 Pack of toxicology assays database to make predictions about products and the mixture of those products and their potential toxicity. Current safety testing for new compounds entering commerce is expensive and inefficient, relying too heavily on animal testing with questionable relevance to human safety.
Founders: Alex Trophsa, Kevin Causey
SynchroHealth, LLC’s mission is to develop hardware and software solutions for non-invasive detection and aquation of home-based longitudinal healthcare data using remote, Bluetooth low energy (BLE) enabled technologies for synchronous and asynchronous feedback. Our first product, BandPass, is a remote-sensing BLE resistance exercise band that closes the gap between clinicians and patients by providing clinically relevant data on compliance and use of exercise training and real-time, bi-directional feedback.
Founder: John Batsis
Social, Environmental, & Educational Startups
Global health social enterprise that provides low cost and simple to use solutions to advance radiotherapy cancer treatments in developing countries. We use the most updated knowledge in the US and creatively maximize the capability of existing resources in developing countries using a 4-pronged approach (software, hardware service, and training). 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
Equiti Foods (formerly GoodBowls)
Equiti Foods is a mission-driven venture focused on food access. Our flagship product line, Good Bowls, is a healthy frozen meal line based on the Mediterranean Diet and adapted for Southern taste preferences. The company is rooted in founder Dr. Alice Ammerman’s research on food insecurity, the Med-South Diet, and “stealth health” for increasing intake of vegetables, whole grains and healthy fats among low-income populations.
Founders: Alice Ammerman, Laura Fieselman
STAT Apps is creating an augmented reality video game called Adventure Squad designed for pediatric hospital patients. Through narrative storytelling and augmented reality, the game seeks to get children out of their beds and walking, thereby improving hospital experiences and patient outcomes.
Founders: Steven King, Richard Hobbs