New Round of Phase-0 Awards Made

For Immediate Release
January 31, 2019

SC EPSCoR is pleased to announce the 2019 Phase-0 Program award recipients. Phase-0 Program provides $6,000 seed grants to South Carolina-based, American-owned, for-profit small businesses seeking funding for their innovative ideas from Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) and Small Business Technology Transfer (STTR) programs. This year's recipients are:

    Project Title: Developing Bio-Based, Cellulosic Fillers for the Production of Superior Circular Economy Composites and Plastics
    Principal Investigator: Joseph James
    Location: Allendale, SC
    ATP-SC, LLC is the South Carolina operating affiliate of South Carolina-based Agri-Tech Producers, LLC and has been working with USDA, Clemson University and the University of Akron, to make torrefied bio-based fillers, which make plastics and composites stronger, lighter and more heat and water-resistant than commonly used fillers. ATP-SC intends to use the Phase-0 funding to help it prepare a more competitive DOE SBIR grant application, which will help fund the commercialization of these bio-based fillers. Joe James, ATP-SC's founder, is working to develop a pilot plant in Allendale, SC, using an innovative and patented torrefaction process (where such fillers will be produced) with the hope of linking the state's rural communities more closely to the state's auto and aviation industry, where lighter-weight, but strong components can be used to make more fuel-efficient cars and planes.
  • Circa Bioscience
    Project Title: Development of a Novel Bio-Adhesive Mesh System for Abdominal Hernia Repair
    Principal Investigator: Kevin Champaigne
    Location: Greenwood, SC
    Circa Bioscience is focused on developing novel diagnostic, monitoring, and surgical technologies for biomedical applications. As part of this Phase-0 project, Circa Bioscience will partner with Clemson University researchers to obtain preliminary data on the performance of an innovative implantable mesh / bioadhesive system for improved fixation for hernia repair surgery.
  • KnewTek™, LLC
    Project Title: USDA Alert Communication Unit for Hearing Impaired in Rural Areas
    Principal Investigator:  Thomas Riley
    Location: Greenwood, SC
    KnewTek™ is developing reliable alert notification systems that employ digital technology to warn deaf people of environmental hazards in rural residential settings. KnewTek™ will leverage SC EPSCoR Phase-0 funding to hire consultants to assist in the preparation of a competitive USDA Phase-1 proposal, thereby enabling the development of multi-sensory alert devices for enhancing the safety of the target population. 
  • Purilogics, LLC
    Project Title: Affinity Membrane for Rapid, High-Recovery Purification of Gene Therapy Viral Vectors
    Principal Investigator:  Daniel Henn
    Location: Greenville, SC
    Purilogics, LLC develops high-speed, high-productivity membrane chromatography products for biologics purification. We plan to use Phase-0 funds to strengthen an SBIR Phase-I proposal to develop affinity membrane chromatography columns for rapid, high-recovery purification of lentiviral vectors used in gene delivery applications. The innovation can also potentially address common purification challenges for other vectors and vaccines, such as retroviral and herpes simplex viral vectors, and high-purity influenza vaccines.

The goal of the Phase-0 Program is to encourage and support South Carolina small businesses in their proposal development activities to compete effectively for SBIR/STTR Federal funding to support the Materials Assembly and Design Excellence in South Carolina (MADE in SC) initiative funded by the National Science Foundation EPSCoR Research Infrastructure Improvement Track-1 Program and/or Vision 2025, the South Carolina Science and Technology Plan.

The vision of MADE in SC initiative is to discover and establish new and sustainable approaches for the design and assembly of hierarchical materials at multiple relevant length scales that service South Carolina’s STEM research, education, and workforce needs and invigorate economic development. The focus of this initiative is to discover and develop new intelligently designed optical, electrochemical and magnetic materials, stimuli-responsive polymeric materials, and interactive biomaterials. As part of this program, the Phase-0 program will support internships for SC undergraduate students for materials science projects only in a functioning entrepreneurial environment to expose them to the world of entrepreneurship. Students must be enrolled in a four-year degree granting program in a SC college or university.


SC EPSCoR stands for South Carolina Established Program to Stimulate COmpetitive Research. Our Program’s main goal is to increase South Carolina’s research capacity by assisting STEM faculty to achieve and sustain large scale federal research funding. SC EPSCoR provides seed funding programs and supports faculty career development and the development of the STEM student pipeline.

MADE in SC, Materials Assembly and Design Excellence in South Carolina, is South Carolina’s five-year, $20 million award from the National Science Foundation, managed by the SC EPSCoR office. The focus of this project is materials science broken down into three different research clusters (Thrusts): optical, electrochemical and magnetic materials, stimuli-responsive polymeric materials, and biomaterials. All three are supported by a multi-scale modeling and computation core. This is a multi-faceted project with impacts that will carry far beyond the project’s five years.

For more information, please contact:

SC EPSCoR/MADE in SC inquiries:
Cyndy Buckhaults, SC EPSCoR Communications Manager, email, (803) 546-4569

Phase-0 Program inquiries:
April Heyward, MRA, SC EPSCoR Program Manager, email, (803) 733-9068