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NC Biotech Southeast Venture Final Names Winner, Highlights Area Life Sciences

By Audrey Elsberry, posted May 24, 2024
Nuream CEO Rob Cooley (left) accepts the first-place award from Brett Lanier (right) at the NC Biotech Venture Challenge Southeast Venture Pitch Final. (Photo by Audrey Elsberry)
If you had the chance to help diagnose sepsis, save stored human cells from dying in cryogenic tanks or measure brain data with just a pillowcase, which would you pick?
 
These are the missions of the three local companies that vied Thursday night for a $20,000 prize and the chance to compete for $100,000 in the North Carolina Biotechnology Center’s NC Biotech Venture Challenge Southeastern Venture Pitch Finals. Three Wilmington-based companies — Predicate HPG, Boreas Monitoring Solutions and Nuream — presented at the University of North Carolina Wilmington’s Lumina Theater on Thursday. Neuro-data startup Nuream took home first place.
 
“Winning this NC Biotech Venture Challenge is not about us,” Nuream’s co-founder and CEO Rob Cooley told the Business Journal after winning the Southeastern title. “It's about the ecosystem and everybody that contributes to it. We're just fortunate, on a stage of amazing entrepreneurs and innovators, to be recognized.”
 
Boreas Monitoring Solutions and Predicate HPG both went home with $10,000 for second and third place, respectively. Predicate HPG was also named the 2024 Coastal Entrepreneur of the Year on Wednesday. The group of three finalists participated in a two-month mentoring period leading up to the pitch final. Biotechnology and entrepreneurship professionals in the region served as mentors and judges throughout the process.
 
During his pitch, Cooley said Nuream’s prototype was completed in recent months and “works out of the box.” The product is a pillow cover with sewn-in sensors that monitor brain activity. It proves the company’s theory that they can collect users’ brainwaves while they sleep, he said.
 
Cooley said eventually the company strives to create Fabric-as-a-Sensor (FAAS), a product in which the threads of fabric would be sensors instead of sensors sewn into the product. Cooley also said that the company filed for its first provisional patent on Wednesday.
 
Nuream will advance to the NC Biotech Venture Challenge’s state-level finals on June 27 in Greensboro. Winners from all five N.C. Biotechnology Center office regions around the state will engage in additional mentoring until they compete for the state title.
 
This year’s venture challenge brought an additional category into the mix. A pre-venture pitch challenge was added this year, allowing university researchers to compete for funding to move toward commercializing their work. UNCW researcher Ying Wang secured $20,000 as the first pre-venture pitch competition winner with his novel universal flu vaccine.
 
Wang’s research also received commercialization funding through NC Innovation's pilot cycle last week. The second and third-place researchers each won $10,000 to help commercialize their work.
 
The Southeastern Venture Pitch Finals also featured an industry panel from biotech companies with a presence in Wilmington. Katie Schlipp, president of laboratory operations with pharmaceutical contract manufacturer Alcami, Michael Braddock, chief revenue officer of cold storage company Frontier Scientific Solutions and Brett Lanier, president of pharmaceutical developer Isosceles Pharmaceuticals sat on the panel.
 
In addition to discussing how their companies interact with the community and how the community can support their companies, some gave updates on what they’re working on launching soon.
 
Braddock said Frontier Scientific Solutions is starting a non-stop, round-trip freight aircraft flight from Shannon, Ireland to Wilmington. Frontier officials are in the final stages of negotiations right now, he said. The company is also completing a case study that proves the new flight can reduce a 260-hour trip, transporting a product from Dublin, Ireland to its manufacturing site in Greenville, North Carolina to 27 hours, Braddock said.
 
Frontier specializes in cold storage, which is often necessary in the life science industry when transporting pharmaceuticals that must be kept at a certain temperature throughout the supply chain.
 
Lanier of Isosceles was the first winner of the NC Biotech’s venture prize. His company, which specializes in non-opioid pain relief, is working on expanding into the immunology space, he said.
 
“We've got some pretty fantastic data that we're hoping to share in the near future around immunology,” Lanier said. “And so, we're looking at a pivot, so I may need to go back and retake the venture challenge and learn how to pivot into immunology,” he joked.
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