UNC startups receive Kickstart awards for hemophilia, autism and orthodontics

Bedrock Therapeutics, PrimeNeuro and SOVE receive a combined $124,875 in funding to turn discoveries made in UNC-Chapel Hill laboratories into transformative treatments

From novel treatments for autism and hemophilia to 3-D printed orthodontics that may vastly improve how people get braces, the solutions being developed by KickStart Venture Services’ latest round of award-winning startups inspire hope and inventive possibilities.  KickStart recently awarded three startup companies with commercialization awards that will enable the ventures to complete high-impact projects. Their shared goal is to bring intellectual property owned by the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill to the market, where these inventions can improve the lives of as many patients as possible.

The commercialization awards are part of UNC-Chapel Hill’s Innovate Carolina initiative – a university-wide emphasis on turning discoveries made in UNC-Chapel Hill’s academic laboratories into products and services that can benefit people outside the university setting.

“The commercialization award program is designed to fill the funding gap that many promising early-stage startups face,” said Don Rose, PhD, director of KickStart Venture Services. “By providing founders with the funding they need, their companies can build prototypes, further develop their technologies and better position themselves to compete for later-stage funding from government grant programs, angel investors and venture capital firms. Since its inception, over $2 million has been awarded and leveraged to secure over $50 million in additional funding.”

Three companies received funding through this round of KickStart Commercialization Awards:

Bedrock Therapeutics

Bedrock Therapeutics is developing the first effective gene therapy for hemophilia patients who are unable to respond to current therapies due to inhibitors caused by antibodies formed by the body in response to prior treatments. Bedrock’s solution is designed to evade, and not induce, the formation of inhibitors via a one-dose adeno-associated virus application, which also eliminates the need for frequent injections of costly drugs required to treat many hemophilia patients.  Hemophilia is an inherited bleeding disorder affecting 20,000 people in the United States and more than 400,000 people world-wide. Bedrock Therapeutics was co-founded by Matt Hirsch, an assistant professor in the Department of Ophthalmology at UNC-Chapel Hill; Chengwen Li, a research associate professor in the Department of Pediatrics at UNC-Chapel Hill; Brian Gilger, a professor of Ophthalmology at NC State University; Brian Sutton, professor of cell physiology and molecular biophysics at Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center.


PrimeNeuro, LLC 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. Currently, the software is being developed by collaborators at UNC-Chapel Hill, Washington University and across the Infant Brain Imaging Study (IBIS) network. PrimeNeuro was co-founded by Brad Bower, who earned his doctorate from Duke University and now serves as CEO of PrimeNeuro after previously leading a consulting firm in the diagnostic medical device industry; Sam Tetlow, an alumnus of the MBA program at the UNC Kenan-Flagler Business School, who now serves as chairman and president of PrimeNeuro.     

SOVE, Inc.

SOVE, Inc. is developing the 2Insight solution that incorporates the advantages of lingual braces and clear aligners, while eliminating the disadvantages associated with invisible braces.  2Insight is an orthodontic system that combines a custom lingual attachment and wire with clear aligner therapy in a two-stage process: “wire first, aligner second.” Orthodontic treatment has traditionally been performed with metal braces on the front (facial side) of the teeth. While traditional braces can be used to treat the most severe degree of crowding, they are not esthetic due to their silver color and placement on the front of the teeth. To meet the high demand for esthetic treatment, there are now three types of “invisible” orthodontic appliances: ceramic (clear) braces, lingual braces and clear aligners.  Each of these therapies have significant downsides, including but not limited to removal of healthy enamel, uncomfortable lingual brackets, and unaesthetic facial attachments. SOVE can align the teeth in a healthier and more aesthetic manner, with reduced enamel removal and no visible attachments. SOVE was co-founded by Ching-Chang Ko, a professor of orthodontics at the UNC School of Dentistry, and Christina Jackson, Christina Jackson, who completed the orthodontic specialty program at the UNC School of Dentistry and serves as an instructor at the School.

Founders: Latest Kickstart Commercialization Award Winners