UNC-Chapel Hill gene therapy spinout raises $1.4 million

By  –  Staff writer, Triangle Business Journal

A UNC-Chapel Hill spinout developing gene therapies focused on rare blood diseases and disorders has raised $1.4 million to support its efforts.

The company, GeneVentiv Therapeutics, raised the funds in equity from one investor and could look to raise an additional $600,000, according to a securities filing. This adds to financial support that the company, which was been bootstrapped by its CEO for nearly two years, received earlier this year.

In March, GeneVentiv was one of two companies to receive a $50,000 grant through a life sciences startup program called KickStart Venture Services from UNC’s Innovate Carolina. A few months later, GeneVentiv has secured $250,000 from the North Carolina Biotechnology Center in the form of a strategic research loan.

This represented the first outside funding to support the pre-clinical company since it launched with CEO Damon Race and licensed technology from UNC in October 2020.

“I put my skin in the game first and upfront,” Race told Triangle Business Journal in June. “It’s the joy and terror of being an entrepreneur.”

The company’s lead program, GENV-HEM, is a gene therapy intended to treat patients with hemophilia A or B, which is a bleeding disorder in which a patient’s blood doesn’t clot properly. Dr. Chengwen Li, the company’s co-founder and scientific advisor, invented the company’s gene therapy through his work at UNC-Chapel Hill School of Medicine.

Last year, the company secured orphan drug designation for the program from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, which is a status given to novel drugs or biologics that treat a rare disease or condition that affects fewer than 200,000 people in the U.S. The designation qualifies sponsors for certain incentives, including tax credits for qualified clinical trials, user-fee exemptions and potentially seven years of market exclusivity after approval.

The company is also developing another program based on UNC technology, called GENV-001, to treat hemophilia arthropathy, a common complication of hemophilia caused by repeated bleeding into a patient’s joints. This can lead to patients needing joint replacements, which can be complicated for patients with hemophilia.

GeneVentiv is one of a few Triangle area health care startups to raise money recently, despite a difficult funding environment. Levee Medical closed a $6.6 million Series A round in August. And in July, Deep Blue Medical Advances, a startup founded by a Duke University professor, raised $7 million.