Tour of Texas: Cancer Moonshot, Lumos, Robyn Metcalfe, & Esperance

Tour of Texas: Cancer Moonshot, Lumos, Robyn Metcalfe, & Esperance

It’s time to hit the road and catch up with the latest innovation news in the state.


—Part of the mission of the Cancer Prevention & Research Institute of Texas is to both bring leading scientists to the state and support the research of those already here. This week it said that some of those recruited scientists are part of Vice President Joe Biden’s National Cancer Moonshot Initiative. Among them are Jim Allison and Wai-Kwan Alfred Yung at the University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center.

—Austin’s Lumos Pharma raised $34 million in a Series B round to advance work on its drug candidate for creatine transporter deficiency. The funds will also go toward paying for clinical trials. Patients with this debilitating disease can synthesize creatine but cannot actively transport it across the blood-brain barrier. This condition causes patients to have severe delays in expressive speech and mental development, and to experience behavioral abnormalities, epilepsy, and seizures.

—We sit down with Robyn Metcalfe for the latest installment of “Five Questions For.” Metcalfe is the director of Food+City, an effort tackling food supply, safety, and security that was created out of the University of Texas at Austin. (It spun off on its own last year.) We talked about leadership, managing people, and why she believes that competing in long-distance runs across the desert helps make her a better entrepreneur.

—Worried about Fido’s future health? Austin’s Embark Veterinary plans to soon sell dog DNA test kits, similar to what we humans can use through 23andMe. And if you choose, that data can be used in a canine research lab run by Adam Boyko, an Embark co-founder and an assistant professor in biomedical sciences at Cornell University.


—Retailer Mizzen+Main has raised $3 million from investors such as Ben Nash, CEO of PCS Wireless; Thomas Morstead, a punter for the NFL’s New Orleans Saints; George Couri and Bruce Kalmick of Triple 8 Management; VTF Capital; and Brian Tochman with MRCA Investment. The Dallas startup sells menswear developed with similar technology included in athletic wear.


Esperance Pharmaceuticals, a biotech aiming to develop a first drug to fight ovarian cancer, has moved to Houston and brought the former chief of Texas A&M University’s life sciences efforts on board. Brett Giroir, a Louisiana native, helped recruit Esperance, which has licensed its technology from Louisiana State University in Baton Rouge, LA. These drugs bind to a receptor on the surface of cancer cells, and use a peptide, or small protein fragment, to disrupt the membranes of these cells and kill them. For instance, EP 100, its most advanced prospect, binds to receptors for luteinizing hormone releasing hormone, or LHRH. These LHRH receptors are overexpressed in patients with a number of different cancers.

San Antonio:

—The collecting and parsing of huge amounts of healthcare data is becoming an increasingly important issue. That was one of many subjects discussed at the Texas FreshAIR Big Data & Data Analytics conference in San Antonio last week. One discussion featured efforts at Janssen, the pharmaceutical division of New Brunswick, NJ-based healthcare giant Johnson & Johnson.  Another speaker was Inderpal Bhandari, IBM’s global chief data scientist. He discussed IBM’s focus on cognitive systems and plan to train more coders. He also recalled an effort where the computing giant used analytics to help the NBA’s Orlando Magic.

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