NC Collaboratory launches new research and development program to foster business-academia partnerships

The North Carolina Collaboratory, headquartered at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, is awarding 11 research and development grants under a new competitive business-academia partnership program to address the impact of COVID-19 on public health and the economy in North Carolina . These scholarships are awarded to East Carolina University, North Carolina Central University, North Carolina State University, University of North Carolina Chapel Hill, University of North Carolina Charlotte, University of North Carolina Greensboro, and University of North Carolina Pembroke .

The research program is supported by the North Carolina General Assembly in the amount of $15,000,000 and aims to foster and strengthen partnerships between companies and academic research groups to translate applied research and innovation into technological solutions for the benefit of public health and of the economy of the state.

Recipients of the awards include faculty from across the UNC system and their partners in startup, for-profit, and not-for-profit organizations. The grants will run for up to three years and address issues related to the public health and economic impact of COVID-19, from targeted drug development to manufacturing methods for personal protective equipment and inequalities exacerbated by the pandemic home ownership.

“This program is a new direction for the Collaboratory that opens opportunities for organizations to build relationships with the academic community. The more partnerships we have working together for North Carolina communities, the more impact we can make nationwide.” – NC Collaboratory Executive Director Jeff Warren

This initiative is part of a larger $74 million allocation made available by the North Carolina General Assembly in 2021 to address the widespread impact of the COVID-19 pandemic. Established by lawmakers in 2016, the Collaboratory serves policymakers by identifying, tracking, and supporting research and development opportunities to generate practical information and resources for use by state and local governments and the communities they serve. Since its inception, the Collaboratory has funded more than 300 projects throughout the UNC system and other colleges in North Carolina and received over $148 million in government funding to fulfill its mission.

Summary of awards and partnerships between science and business
Business partner Academic Partner total funding Project title and summary
Chimerix Inc. Mark Heise, UNC-Chapel Hill $2,000,000 Title: Identifying and developing a multifaceted, user-friendly and well-tolerated COVID-19 prevention and treatment.

Summary: Building on previous work, this project seeks to optimize a new antiviral drug, CMX521, for oral administration to treat COVID-19.

Codetta Bio Inc. Deepak Kumar, North Carolina Central University $2,000,000 Title: Multi-Omic Solution for Determining COVID and Long-COVID Infections and Severity.

Abstract: Development of new technologies to detect a variety of respiratory diseases and measure biomarkers to improve research, diagnosis and clinical care of COVID-19

EmitBio Inc. Scott Randell, UNC-Chapel Hill $2,000,000 Title: Validation of the RD-X19 COVID treatment device towards regulatory approval and commercialization.

Summary: Building on previous work to verify and validate a new handheld device designed for home treatment of COVID-19.

Inhalon Biopharma, Inc. Sam Lai, UNC-Chapel Hill $2,000,000 Title: Development of IN-007 as an inhalation treatment against pathogens using human ACE2 for viral attachment and entry.

Summary: Continuing ongoing research towards clinical trials for a new broad-spectrum antiviral drug capable of neutralizing current and future COVID-19 variants.

Vast Therapeutics, Inc. Li Yang, University of East Carolina $1,200,000 Title: Investigating a Proprietary NO-Releasing Prodrug and Its Impact on COVID-Related Inflammation to Prevent Long-Term Lung Damage.

Summary: Continuing ongoing work to develop a water-soluble prodrug that can be inhaled to stop tissue inflammation and subsequent lung damage.

Halyard North Carolina, LLC Hooman Tafreshi, NC State University $1,000,000 Title: Next Generation Respirators

Summary: Development of new manufacturing methods to produce ultra-breathable material for masks and other personal protective equipment

Kimberly-Clark Global Sales, LLC Hooman Tafreshi, NC State University $1,000,000 Title: Intelligent Manufacturing of PSA and HVAC Filters.

Summary: Leveraging machine learning to improve manufacturing processes for highly breathable personal protective equipment and HVAC filters.

SAS Institute Inc. Matthew Wolfgang, UNC-Chapel Hill $1,000,000 Title: Machine learning enabled personalized medicine to improve severe COVID-19 outcomes.

Abstract: To study the molecular and health onset date of COVID-19 patients to develop predictive models to guide clinical care.

Institute for Digital Engineering USA Joong-Lyul Lee, UNC Pembroke $600,000 Title: Using machine learning and digital technology to predict rapid thrombosis in COVID-19 patients.

Abstract: Development of state-of-the-art models of blood fluid dynamics to improve understanding and management of thrombotic complications such as blood clots in COVID-19 patients.

NanoDiagnostic Technology, LLC Terry Xu, UNC Charlotte $600,000 Title: Covalent capture and detection of SARS-CoV-2 on the mask.

Abstract: Development of new strategies and detection methods through advances in mask filtration technology and viral assays.

National Institute for Economic Development of Minorities Bruce Rich, UNC Greensboro $600,000 Title: Tackling homeownership inequalities exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Summary: Established a new training and technical assistance program with local, minority-owned small and medium-sized businesses to improve affordable housing opportunities and create a pipeline of low- and middle-income buyers.

To date, the NC Collaboratory has supported more than 300 projects across all institutions within the UNC system, with approximately half of all funding supporting COVID-19-related research, including projects focused on testing, vaccines, variant tracking through genetic sequencing, and focus on learning effects.

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