UNC startups win KickStart awards for airway disease therapies, pediatric AR gaming

Initos Pharmaceuticals and STATApps receive funding to turn inventions created at UNC-Chapel Hill into transformative technologies

KickStart Venture Services has awarded two startup companies with commercialization awards that will enable them to complete high-impact projects in the process of translating and commercializing University of North Carolina (UNC)-owned intellectual property.

The commercialization awards are part of a university-wide effort to translate discoveries made in UNC-Chapel Hill’s academic laboratories into products and services that can benefit society. “The commercialization award program provides vital early-stage funding for startups from UNC,” said Don Rose, PhD, director of KickStart Venture Services. “The award enables the companies to build prototypes, obtain preliminary data for government grant applications or launch a beta program. This program is a stepping stone that propels companies to be more attractive for funding from grants, angel investors and venture capital firms.”

Two companies were funded through this round of the commercialization award program:


Initos Pharmaceuticals is developing a platform 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 increase 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. Initos was founded by R.L. Juliano (UNC Department of Pharmacology, Eshelman School of Pharmacy) and William Janzen (Eshelman School of Pharmacy).


STATApps is creating an augmented reality video game called Adventure Squad, which is designed for pediatric hospital patients. The game seeks to engage patients using narrative storytelling and augmented reality to get children out of their beds and walking, thereby improving hospitalizations and patient outcomes. STATApp’s founders are Steven King (School of Media and Journalism), and Richard Hobbs (UNC School of Medicine).

Founders: Latest Kickstart Commercialization Award Winners

R.L. Juliano
Initos Pharmaceuticals

William Janzen
Initos Pharmaceuticals

Steven King

Richard Hobbs