Start-up companies are crucial to the San Antonio economy, said San Antonio City Manager Sheryl Sculley.
“We recognize that new and young companies and the entrepreneurs that create them are the engines of job creation and critical to economic recovery,” she said. “In fact, studies indicate that net job growth occurs in the US economy primarily through startup firms.”
Sculley spoke at the Texas Technology Development Center – or T3DC’s first quarterly luncheon held last Tuesday. T3DC is part of the Texas Research and Technology Foundation. Headed by H. Randall Goldsmith, T3DC helps incubate and fund new medical companies in the San Antonio area.
Sculley said one of the key parts of San Antonio’s economic development is forging partnerships with T3DC, Geekdom, the UTSA CITE incubator, the San Antonio Clean Energy Incubator, and the TechStars Cloud program.
At the event, three local biotechnology startups presented their companies.
First up, GenSpera gave an overview of G202, its lead drug, which is in Phase 2 clinical studies for treating liver and prostate cancer.
The drug has a molecule called a peptide that acts as a grenade pin – only releasing when it comes in contact with a solid tumor formed within a patient’s body. This allows the drug to release an extremely powerful cancer killing agent at just the right time to only kill the cancerous cells nearby without re-entering a patient’s bloodstream and damaging other parts of the body.
According to Dr. Craig A. Dionne, GenSpera’s president and CEO, the drug has some decisive advantages over the competition. While patients taking the drug may suffer from nausea, rashes, and fatigue in the first few days of treatment; the drug avoids more damaging side effects. Patients taking G202 suffer no hair loss, no effect on the cardio vascular system, no effect on the liver, and no effect on their bone marrow – all of which are problems encountered with other cancer treatments. The drug can also be used for a longer term than other treatments. Dionne sees a major opportunity in the current market to sell the drug to bigger pharmaceutical companies.
“Drugs in the oncology space with positive phase two data commonly go for a billion dollars,” Dionne said. “It seems like an absurd number but it illustrates how desperate large pharmaceuticals are for drugs to fill their pipeline.”
Dionne claims that GenSpera could get to that point in 18 months to a year.
GenSpera has raised $18 million since 2007 and has only $2.5 million left in the bank. It is currently looking for funds to complete its phase 2 studies.
Emerging biopharmaceutical research and development company Evestra Inc. presented second at the luncheon. It received a $50,000 check from T3DC.
CEO Dr. Ze’ev Shaked said its mission is “to develop and commercialize high-value innovative women’s health products.
Established in 2008, Evestra originated as part of the Organic Chemistry Department of Texas Biomedical Research Institute. The company has raised $8 million since 2008 and expects to have raised $12 million by 2015. Evestra is working hard to put its products on the market as soon as possible. Its leading product is the E112 vaginal ring contraceptive.
“We are putting all our resources to commercialize this as quickly as possible with our European partners,” Shaked said.
The E112 product is going into phase one and will have clinical trials later this year. The company is starting early-stage trials with other products as well. Evestra is planning to move to the Texas Research Park – another extension of the TRTF — later this year to conduct more research and development.
“We are poised to become a major player in women’s health,” Shaked said.
The device was invented by UTSA graduate Daniel Mendez, who entered and won the UTSA CITE entrepreneurship and technology competition with his invention in 2010. He later won Top Honors at the 2011 Innotech Beta Summit conference as well. Mendez now serves as the CTO of Invictus Medical in addition to pursuing an MBA at UTSA.
Presenter and company CEO Tom Roberts says 25 percent to 30 percent of babies a year develop this condition, and the risk is even higher with premature births.
“The reason we exist at Invictus Medical is to improve the lives of new born babies and healthcare providers that take care of them,” Roberts said.
Roberts said Invictus will start by focusing on the 500,000 babies in the neonatal intensive care unit – or NICU – market. He claims that the company can break even by hitting as little as 2% of this market and is confident about the future.
T3DC is the lead investor for Invictus Medical. The prototypes will be produced by Globe Medical in Houston Texas and the clinical partner for the device is the University of Texas at San Antonio. The company needs to raise $500,000 to commercialize their product. According to Roberts, the company started raising money in January and is already half way there.