TX Roundup: RetailMeNot, Gaurav Khandelwal, Zilliant, Xbiotech & More

Let’s catch up with the latest innovation news from Xconomy Texas.

Consortia Health, which provides physician groups with equipment and nurses to help patients with pelvic floor exercises known as kegels, has raised $2 million in funding, says Gail Page, the Austin-based company’s co-founder and executive chair. Investors include Ponil Ventures in Austin, as well as Golden Seeds and Belle Michigan. The kegel exercises are used to help strengthen muscles under the uterus, bladder, and intestines in order to help patients with incontinence. Since mid-2015, Consortia has nearly doubled its employee count to 52 and expanded from seven states to nine.

—Austin’s RetailMeNot has been acquired by Harland Clarke, a San Antonio payment and marketing services firm, for $630 million in equity, or $11.60 per share in cash. That’s a premium of about 50 percent of the closing share price on Friday, according to a press release. RetailMeNot, which went public in 2013, is an online coupon site.

—For Tom Luby, a veteran of the biotech community in Boston, the choice to lead JLabs’s center at the Texas Medical Center was an opportunity to get in on the ground level of building up a new life sciences ecosystem. As was the case with Boston a decade ago, Houston has all the right ingredients to become a leader in biotech commercialization, he says. “I’m jazzed about how committed [the Texas Medical Center] and the city of Houston is to really commercializing and translating the work that is done here,” he says.

—The 14th annual BioHouston Chili Cookoff hosted convicts, hippies, the undead, and bootleggers. The event drew 600 people—many who donned costumes—to sample chili from about 40 institutions, including TMC hospitals. Bellicum Pharmaceuticals took the top prizes in the chili categories. (I judged chilis in the spicy contest.) Here is a slideshow from the event.

Healthcare startups took center stage at this year’s Rice Business Plan Competition with a student-led medical device company winning top prizes. Forest Devices from Carnegie Mellon University won about $700,000 in in-kind and cash prizes. Also, the 2014 winner, Adhesys Medical announced it had been acquired by the Germany-baed Grunenthal Group.

—The Southwest Research Institute in San Antonio is developing a machine-learning system that can process image data from various cameras, which detect leaks in pipes containing environmentally harmful materials such as methane and oil. The Institute received nearly $800,000 in grant funding from the U.S. Department of Energy last fall for the system. One of the main goals of the system is to remove the need for humans to constantly monitor the feeds looking for leaks. The SWRI’s system is designed to be autonomous and to send alerts if it detects a leak.

—The latest “Five Questions For” features Gaurav Khandelwal, founder and CEO of business apps company Chai One. Khandelwal, who came to the United States to attend college, speaks about his belief in the power of visualization, what he would ask John D. Rockefeller, and an aborted attempt to join the Indian Air Force.

Evestra, a San Antonio women’s health company, has licensed some of its commercialization rights to its existing partner Gedeon Richter, a Hungarian specialty pharmaceutical company. Richter is getting the rights for areas outside of the U.S., Evestra said.

—Austin-based Xbiotech released new clinical trial results that have been called into question by one long-time critic, who specifically focused on a combined, dose-escalation Phase 1 and Phase 2 trial in Staphylococcus aureus bloodstream infections last week. Four patients died during the study, and Xbiotech said the drug was not responsible for three of those deaths, according to a panel of “experts certified in blinded reviews.” One patient had a stroke a day after being treated, and two members of the panel said the drug, a monoclonal antibody called 514G3, could be related to the deaths. The Street’s Adam Feuerstein wrote last week that Xbiotech is trying to “explain away the negative study results” by saying that it was bad randomization that led to four deaths in the drug arm and none in the placebo arm. Feuerstein, who was also critical of other data released last week, and others have met Xbiotech’s reported results with skepticism previously. An executive board member of the European Society of Medical Oncology said last year that data Xbiotech released last summer were not reliable and criticized the way the company reported it. During an interview with Xconomy, CEO John Simard attributed disparagement of the data to stock manipulators.

National Correspondent David Holley contributed to this report.


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