Texas Roundup: CPRIT Renewed, Cancer Biomarker Test, Austin MedTech

Here are the updates this week from Xconomy Texas.

—The Cancer Prevention and Research Institute of Texas is one step closer to resuming grant funding.

Texas Gov. Rick Perry on Monday signed into law a number of reforms to CPRIT, a major funder of cancer research whose grant-giving activities were placed on hold by Perry late last year, following allegations of conflicts of interest and improperly awarded grants.

Among the reforms include the creation of a five-person panel that has final say on which applications are brought before the CPRIT board, a prohibition on donors receiving grants, and a prohibition on the institute’s employees and board members serving on the board of an applicant company.

The moratorium on CPRIT’s grant-giving, which came when many companies were midway through the time-sensitive application process, left many life sciences startups in limbo. The new law does not lift the moratorium, and Laura Kunz, a CPRIT spokeswoman, said the institute had no information on when it might be lifted. A spokeswoman at the governor’s office did not return calls seeking comment.

—Castle Biosciences announced the availability of its multi-biomarker test, which is designed to predict which esophageal cancer patients will benefit from standard treatment prior to surgery.

The test, called DecisionDx-EC, assesses three protein biomarkers from biopsy tissue. Esophageal cancer is typically treated with chemotherapy and radiation to reduce tumor size and stabilize the disease prior to surgery, but about a quarter of patients don’t respond to such treatment. Castle, which is based in the southern Houston suburb of Friendswood, says the biomarker test can identify those patients ahead of time, thereby avoiding unnecessary treatment.

—Michael Patton, CEO of the Austin-based Texas Medical Accelerator, was in Houston Thursday working his contacts at the Texas Medical Center.

TMA, which Patton founded in 2011, focuses primarily on innovation within the medtech sector, working with professors and students at the University of Texas at Austin, among others. “We’re vetting ideas from inventors, clinicians, and professors helping them with the commercialization” of potential products, he says.

Patton, who is a physician himself, founded Patton Surgical in 2000, where he developed a safer trocar, a device used in laparoscopic surgery. He sold the trocar line to Stryker Corporation last year.

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