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UNCW Spinoff Secures NSF Grant

The Wang Lab’s innovative research leading to more accessible medicine

DuraVax Inc. has been awarded a National Science Foundation Phase One Small Business Technology Transfer grant in the amount of $274,991. The DuraVax team consists of Dr. Ying Wang, associate professor of chemistry, chemistry major Carson Jackson ’25 and graduate student Harrison Wooten ’24. 
DuraVax grew from Dr. Wang’s biochemistry lab at UNCW and is based around mRNA formulation technology for vaccines that need to travel to rural America and tropical countries that don't have the infrastructure for cold storage.  
The advent of COVID-19 vaccines began a new era for mRNA-based vaccines and therapies, presenting boundless opportunities for treating conditions from infectious diseases to cancers. The inherent instability of mRNA pharmaceuticals poses a challenge, rendering them inaccessible to regions without cold chain logistics. DuraVax's mission is to make mRNA medicines available to everyone in the world. 
Dr. Wang has taught in the UNCW Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry since 2015. He has authored and co-authored articles for Molecular Pharmaceutics and Pharmaceutical Research, among other scientific journals. Wooten is graduating next month and will work as the principal investigator at DuraVax. 
The NSF STTR project is a joint research endeavor conducted by the UNCW team in Veterans Hall and the MARBIONC building.  
Dr. Wang applauds the supportive research resources and environment at UNCW. “Our students burst with curiosity and creativity, laying the groundwork for a research community that's as vibrant as it is innovative,” he said. “Across campus, fascinating ideas and collaborations emerge, fostered by a university policy and the Office of Innovation and Commercialization that sow the seeds of innovation at UNCW, nurturing the growth of new technologies. The Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship, alongside Wilmington's entrepreneurial community, provides fertile ground for emerging startups.” 
For nearly 50 years, the NSF SBIR/STTR program has helped startups develop and commercialize their ideas, funding nearly 400 companies annually.