On Thursday, November 12, 2020, UNC- and Duke-affiliated startups presented to 66 representatives from top biotech venture capital firms. Hosted jointly by the Duke Office of Licensing and Ventures (OLV) and UNC-Chapel Hill’s KickStart Venture Services (KickStart), the event provided an opportunity for UNC and Duke ventures to pitch their respective innovations and gain valuable feedback needed to propel their ventures forward.
Essential to the sustainability of innovation in the local area, this event underlines the importance of creating an ecosystem of scientific and entrepreneurial expertise. In addition to pitching for investment, startups also had the opportunity to network and make contacts among the event’s attendees.
As stated by KickStart Interim Director Mireya Mckee, “KickStart is a department of UNC whose mission is to support faculty in the startup creation process. We provide coaching and mentoring, training programs, proof-of-concept funding, grant writing support, incubation space, and connections with service providers, management, and investors. We are thrilled to partner with Duke to host this event. Together both UNC and Duke have over 1 billion each in research funding. The institutions are less than 20 miles apart and together with the rest of the Research Triangle represent one of the strongest life science hubs in the nation. We are excited to showcase some of most promising startups in therapeutic space and engage with the biotech venture investing community.”
In the future, the KickStart and Duke OLV teams hope to build on the success of the event by continuing to partner in their efforts to support technologies on their pathways to market. With efforts from each of the startups in attendance and their connected university departments, the local area will continue to flourish with expertise. Through partnerships like this one, KickStart looks forward to seeing sustained growth in the local area and beyond.
According to Duke New Ventures Director Rob Hallford, “The turnout this year was tremendous, and we’ve already started to see follow-up from the investment community. I expect this to become a must-attend event for years to come.”
Nine UNC and Duke startups doing research ranging from the effective control of inflammation to the prevention of genetic based diseases presented at the first joint Duke/UNC Virtual Venture Day.
IMMvention Therapeutix was the first company to set the stage, and it was presented by their founder Anil Goyal, who has a wide range of expertise as a biotech entrepreneur, specifically in formulating novel, innovative therapies, technologies and discovery platforms. Him and his team aim to use “first-in-class,” pan-inflammasome small molecule inhibitors for the more effective control of inflammation.
Warden Bio, which aims to develop treatments for glycogen disorders, was presented by their president, Kunal Kishnani and their chief medical advisor, Priya Kishnani. Kunal has a wide range of experiences in the field as former head of operations at Genevant sciences and former chief of staff at Axovant. Priya has a wide range of expertise as shown by her experiences as Chief of the Division of Medical Genetics and as a distinguished professor of pediatrics at Duke university.
Symberix, which aims to improve human health by pioneering the development of symbiotic drugs that work by controlling bacteria without killing them, was presented by Chairman and CEO, Ward Peterson.
TheraSplice, which aims to target RNA splicing for cancer treatment through the use of precision oncology based on molecular analysis of patient tumor tissue was presented by Steve Patierno, who is experienced in the field as apparent by his status as deputy director of Duke Cancer Institute and professor of pharmacology and cancer biology.
Tavros Therapeutics was presented by CEO Eoin McDonnel, and their mission is to discover innovative, targeted oncology drugs and combinations using high-throughput functional genomics.
Falcon Therapeutics was presented by CEO, Susan Nichols. Their goal is to treat hard to reach cancers by converting the patient’s own skin into tumor-killing machines.
Enzerna Biosciences is a pre-clinical stage company that is leveraging its proprietary RNA editing technology to develop long-term curative gene therapies for rare genetic disorders – it was presented by their president Joseph Ruiz, who has over 30 years of experience in the field of biology.
Recardia Therapeutics, which was presented by CSO Jeff Ellsworth, is discovering novel therapeutic targets and drugs for human genetic disorders based on humanized zebrafish in-vivo modeling.
If you are interested in learning more about the Venture Day companies or other companies in the KickStart and OLV portfolios please contact the KickStart team at email@example.com.