Thanks to the U.S. government’s ambitious plans to advance American biotech and biomanufacturing, Texas’ life sciences hubs, particularly in Dallas and Houston, are now one of many in the country that are currently thriving. In this article, we take a closer look at several biotech companies in Texas taking advantage of the additional investment in the industry.
Greater Houston in particular, is a major biotech hub within Texas. According to Greater Houston Partnership statistics, Houston has more than 1,100 established life sciences and biotechnology companies, as well as a number of cutting-edge hospitals, health facilities, and research institutions, with a workforce of more than 394,500 people in health care, biotech, and related fields in the area.
The area is also home to the Texas Medical Center, which is one of the largest medical complexes in the world and a major contributor to the region’s emergence as a biotech hub. The center has announced several initiatives to enhance the life science industry, one of which is a new 500-acre biomanufacturing campus, called TMC Bioport, to boost domestic manufacturing and address medical supply chain issues.
Furthermore, it was announced last month that life sciences developer Alexandria Real Estate Equities launched the opening of the Alexandria Center for Advanced Technologies at The Woodlands – a one-of-a-kind, amenity-rich multi-tenant campus right in the heart of the Greater Houston life sciences cluster.
Alongside Greater Houston, Dallas is also emerging as a biotech hub in Texas, as it was recently announced that it will be home to one of three regional hubs for the Advanced Research Projects Agency for Health, which is a new federal agency established by the Biden administration to accelerate health outcomes.
So, it is no wonder that after all of the recent investment in Texas’ life sciences industry, there are now several biotech companies in Texas shaping the state’s growing hubs. Here, in alphabetical order, we take a look at five of them.
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Based in Austin, biotech Colossal Biosciences is at the forefront of the current scientific landscape surrounding de-extinction. Its mission is to use CRISPR technology to bring back extinct animals, such as the mammoth and the dodo.
Colossal’s primary project is to bring back the mammoth. Since scientists managed to recover DNA from mammoth fossils frozen in the Arctic tundra in 2021, the Texas-based biotech company is now working on splicing bits of the recovered DNA into the genome of its closest relative, the Asian elephant, as it shares 99.6% of its DNA.
The company has garnered a lot of attention in the past year. In fact, two years after the company’s initial launch in 2021, it managed to secure $150 million in series B financing, earlier this year. At the same time, Colossal also announced that it had launched a project to resurrect the dodo.
Dealing in cancer immunotherapies, Gradalis is currently developing Vigil – a fully personalized, patient-specific cancer immunotherapy with potential applications across multiple solid tumor types. Vigil utilizes the patient’s own cancer cells to create a fully personalized cancer immunotherapy with the goal of activating the patient’s own T-cells against their cancer cells. To achieve the process, the company uses the entire complement of antigens present in a patient’s cancer cells by using surgically removed fresh tumor tissue, and, with gene modification, it intends to specifically down-regulate an immunosuppressive pathway of the cancer cells while simultaneously up-regulating an immune stimulation function of those same cells. When the cells are reintroduced back into the patient, these two modifications are designed to help activate the immune system to detect and kill any cancer cells that may remain locally and in circulation.
In December last year, Gradalis received clearance from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to proceed with a pivotal phase 3 clinical trial of Vigil in patients with advanced ovarian cancer. The company has also initiated phase 2 studies in Ewing’s sarcoma, as well as phase 1 studies in breast cancer, melanoma, non-small cell lung cancer, colon cancer, and hepatocellular cancer.
Just this month, the Texas biotech company was awarded a $9.9 million Product Development Research grant from the Cancer Prevention and Research Institute of Texas (CPRIT). The funds will be used to support the company’s phase 2 clinical study of Vigil in platinum-sensitive patients who have recurrent ovarian cancer with a homologous recombination proficient (HRP) molecular profile.
Founded in Houston in 2015 as a spin-off from HanAll Biopharma (a Korean company), Texas biotech company ImmunoMet Therapeutics is targeting cellular metabolism to advance novel anti-cancer and anti-fibrosis therapies.
The company’s lead molecule is called lixumistat, and is a protein complex 1 (PC1) inhibitor that targets the Oxidative Phosphorylation (OxPhos) pathway in the mitochondria and decreases aberrant cell growth in targeted cancer cells and fibrosis. The OxPhos process in the mitochondria has been associated with the growth of cancer cells, and the overstimulation of the pathway can lead to tumor microenvironment hypoxia, which prevents tumor cells from being killed, and limits the effect of immunotherapies.
The candidate is being developed for a number of indications, including pancreatic cancer, BRAF-mutant malignant melanoma, glioblastoma multiforme, castrate-resistant prostate cancer, gastrointestinal stromal tumor, and idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis.
Towards the end of last year, ImmunoMet announced that it had closed a series C financing round. Shortly after, it also announced that it had dosed the first patient in a phase 1b trial of lixumistat in combination with gemcitabine and nab-paclitaxel as frontline therapy in patients with advanced pancreatic cancer.
Based in Dallas, biotech Nanoscope Therapeutics is advancing gene therapy using ambient light-sensitive molecules, which it says could bring hope for renewed sight to millions of people blinded by retinal degenerative diseases for which there is currently no cure.
The Texas biotech company’s lead product is called MCO-010, and is in clinical development for retinitis pigmentosa (RP) and Stargardt disease. The therapy utilizes a convenient and well-established intraocular injection for the delivery of a gene that encodes for the ambient light-sensitive MCO protein into retinal cells. These therapies are intended to enable retinal cells to detect light so that patients can see again. MCO-010 has been granted orphan drug and fast track designation by the FDA, and is the only broadband, fast, and most-light sensitive opsin, currently in clinical trials.
In March, Nanoscope announced positive topline results from its phase 2b RESTORE trial of MCO-010 for the treatment of retinitis pigmentosa. The results showed vision function improvements after treatment with MCO-010 consistent with previous studies, as well as a favorable safety profile.
RadioMedix is a biotech company based in Houston and is focused on radiopharmaceuticals for diagnosis, monitoring, and therapy of cancer, utilizing targeted radionuclide treatment to diagnose and treat patients – a theranostic approach that it says allows for diagnosing patient maladies with precision and control of disease.
The company is developing small molecules, peptides, and radiolabeled monoclonal antibodies, as well as conducting research on the potential of alpha emitters in cancer therapy. In fact, just a few months ago, RadioMedix and Orano Med – another radiopharmaceutical company – completed patient enrolment in a phase 2 trial of the targeted alpha emitter therapy AlphaMedix for the treatment of metastatic or inoperable somatostatin-expressing neuroendocrine tumors. Based on data already collected, the objective response rate endpoint has already been achieved, and is more than twice as high as the current standard of care.
Furthermore, the Texas-based biotech company already has an FDA-approved drug, called Detectnet, which is a positron emission tomography (PET) agent indicated for the localization of somatostatin receptor-positive neuroendocrine tumors in adult patients. It was the first commercially available copper 64 diagnostic agent on the U.S. market.
Last year, the company raised $40 million in a series A financing round for its targeted alpha therapy platform.
Texas brilliance: emerging as a prime attraction for leading biotech companies
The money being invested in the Texas biotech industry has brought the state a lot of recognition, and many life sciences companies have now established headquarters and facilities in the area because of this. For example, San Diego-based CDMO Cellipont Bioservices announced an ambitious project to build a 76,000-square-foot manufacturing facility for cell and gene-modified cell therapies, and San Francisco-based biopharma company Nurix Technologies became the first firm to claim a 46,000-square-foot space in the new Alexandria Center for Advanced Technologies campus.
Ultimately, the infrastructural support and funding of the biotech industry in Texas has helped to put the state on an upward trajectory, with more investment likely to follow in the coming months and years.