RTP hub for entrepreneurs aims to help science-based companies get off the ground

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RESEARCH TRIANGLE PARK, N.C. (WNCN) – Some 350 companies over three decades have found their footing to reach the speed to make a global difference at First Flight Venture Center in Research Triangle Park.

“We in 2018 estimated there was a market cap of 8 billion, not million, $8 billion for some of the companies that graduated from First Flight,” said Mary Musacchia, who serves as the non-profit’s Board of Directors chair.

Right now, one company is working on advancing technology for water purification which could make a huge difference in third world countries.

And another to find a cure for HIV.

And one to make it easier for diabetics to control their insulin.

Entrepreneur Lucinda Camras’ company, Alievio, is creating an implant to keep glaucoma patients from losing their sight.  

“Being at First Flight Venture Center allows us to create our own lab space and have the flexibility of collaborating with people at Duke, N.C. State, UNC as well as having a community as well as have a community of entrepreneurs who can give guidance and help us move into the direction of developing a product,” Camras told CBS 17.

First Flight is an incubator for entrepreneurs focused on science that gives them affordable short term office space, access to funding and extensive resources like Hanger Six – which is an advanced rapid prototyping shop.

“Early-stage companies need to create their prototypes. They need to be able to do it quickly so if it doesn’t work they can shift gears and do it again and if doesn’t work shift gears and do it again,” said Musacchia.

First Flight also has a program called LiftOFF that helps startups secure grants.

In just two years, LiftOFF yielded $11.6 million in grants.

Panaceutics started at First Flight and is now mass producing purees and gels that can contain all of your daily vitamin or prescription regimen in one dose.

Each formula is made for a patient’s specific needs.

Co-founder Staton Noel said “when you’re an entrepreneur sometimes you’re not even sure if there’s a real market for your product or your services. So it allows you that time to investigate whether you have a real product offering that people want.”

Noel said First Flight was a key for the company to getting started.

“Having the access to an inexpensive lab facility where we could vet out some of our technical ideas and get a proof point before we committed a lot of capital,” Noel said.

“It’s the ability to be here at First Flight to have access to a mentor to have access to the money to have access to flexible space. Just to be able to be around other people who are like-minded – that’s huge – and all we want to do is help increase their probability for success,” said Musacchia.

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