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
CareTriage is a privately held, technology-enabled clinical services startup. The company provides support for value-based care by optimizing medication therapies for complex patients through prescriptive analytics and clinical pharmacist support services. The CareTriage offerings enable healthcare organizations to transition to risk-based models, enhancing clinical efficiency, and improving patient outcomes.
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
Enzerna Biosciences has developed a proprietary platform technology to engineer sequence-specific RNA endonucleases. This technology is designed to treat disease by degrading toxic RNA in a programmable way that is distinct from CRISPR/Cas DNA editing technology. The technology is particularly well suited to address nucleotide expansion disorders such as Huntington’s Disease.
Founder: Zefeng Wang, Joseph Ruiz
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
GoldCrest Bio is developing small molecules and novel strains of gut microbiota for treatment of inflammatory diseases. The lead indication is radiation enteritis, a debilitating inflammatory syndrome that affects up to 80 percent of patients receiving abdominal radiotherapy. Currently, the team is advancing therapies that protect against, or reverse, the gastrointestinal and hematopoietic inflammatory effects associated with these radiotherapies.
Founders: Jenny Ting, Lynda Tussey
IMMvention Therapeutix, based in Durham, NC, is focused on improving the lives of patients with auto-inflammatory diseases of huge unmet needs (such as Osteoarthritis, Gout, Inflammatory Bowel Disease, Alzheimer’s etc.). The company is discovering and developing first-in-class novel disease modifying therapies that inhibit the inflammation caused by activation of inflammasomes. The Company’s differentiation is its novel product pipeline powered by the intellectual capital of its team and a platform to discover small molecule inhibitors of multiple inflammasome receptors. The current 1st generation single receptor inflammasome inhibition approaches of other companies (such as Novartis, Genentech, Nodthera, Inflazome etc.) are expected to be ineffective/suboptimal against diseases where multiple inflammasomes are activated. The Company’s initial target diseases are rare auto-inflammatory diseases (e.g. Still’s Disease, affecting adults and children with systemic arthritis) and COVID-19 associated hyper-inflammation that leads to acute respiratory distress syndrome and mortalities. The Company was co-founded in 2017 by pioneering scientists in the fields of immunology and innate immunity from the School of Medicine and Eshelman School of Pharmacy at the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill. This includes, Dr. Jenny Ting who is preeminent scientific leader in fields of immunology, innate immunity and inflammasomes. IMMvention has been funded to date by North Carolina Biotechnology Center, NIH SBIR grants/contracts, and Pharma collaborations. The company is raising its first venture funding to progress its novel small molecule preclinical therapeutics pipeline to the clinic for treating rare auto-inflammatory diseases.
Founders: Anil Goyal, Eric Bachelder, Kristy Ainslie, Jenny Ting
Inhalon Biopharma seeks to advance “muco-trapping” monoclonal antibodies for use in treating and preventing respiratory infections. The platform offers a new mechanism of action, whereby viruses are actively cleared from the lung. Inhalon is actively advancing a number of programs against respiratory infections ranging from RSV, MPV, Influenza and SARS-CoV-2. The first human study is targeted for 2021.
Founder: Sam Lai
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
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, supported by over $5.5M in SBIR funding, 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. Mucommune has completed initial large animal studies and are undertaking IND-enabling activities.
Founder: Sam Lai
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
OncoTrap is based on identifying drug target binding molecules using in vitro protein selection and protein engineering. The company uses affinity molecules to trap the immunosuppressive signals in the microenvironment of diseased tissues to treat solid tumors and autoimmune diseases. The product pipeline includes OT-1, a therapy that targets the chemokine protein CXCL12 to treat pancreatic ductal adenocarcinoma; OT-2, which targets programmed cell death protein 1 (PD1) in pancreatic cancers; OT-3, which traps 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 cancer cells.
Founder: Rihe Liu, Leaf Huang
Panacise Bio is developing technology platforms for next generation Pro-CAR-T-cells, which are activated in the internal tumor microenvironment. These Pro-CAR-T cells can be used for the treatment of various solid tumors.
Founder: Rihe Liu
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.
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
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
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 to estimate the risk of therapy-induced leukemia after chemotherapy for colon and breast cancer.
Founder: William Kauffmann
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
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® reagents significantly improve the efficiency of sonication-based lysis of biological samples and reduce the energy required for high-quality sample processing. By combining RapidShear® technology with low-cost sonication platforms and performing rigorous process optimization, Triangle Biotechnology develops workflows that significantly increase sample-to-sample consistency and decrease overall processing time.
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
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
Sandbar Oyster Company
Sandbar developed a novel, biodegradable material – Oyster Catcher™ – that promotes oyster growth and restores/creates 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
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