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Houston life sciences firm using $7.3M to seed 15 new startups

Houston life sciences investment firm Fannin Innovation Studios recently closed a $7.3 million round which it’ll use to help fund 15 new companies in the next five years, including seven in the coming year. Texas is indeed becoming a hotspot for life sciences growth. These startups will largely focus on pharmaceuticals in the cancer, autoimmune and metabolic spaces, as well […]

Houston life sciences investment firm Fannin Innovation Studios recently closed a $7.3 million round which it’ll use to help fund 15 new companies in the next five years, including seven in the coming year. Texas is indeed becoming a hotspot for life sciences growth.

These startups will largely focus on pharmaceuticals in the cancer, autoimmune and metabolic spaces, as well as medical devices, the firm says. It expects to fund seven in the next year, and 15 over five years.

“Our sweet spot is driven by the science, which has a long timeline and regulatory complexity,” Varadhachary told the Houston Business Journal. “That’s what we bring to the table — the ability to manage complexity.”

 

Fannin says its funding comes from a number of capital sources – foundation and government grants, angel investors and strategic partners. There have been about 30 in the group, the HBJ says. It expects to raise $30 million to $40 million for these companies overall.

The firm has nine companies in its portfolio thus far, most in Houston:

Acelerox – A Rice University spinout that’s developing novel antioxidant nanoparticles, called PEG-HCCs, that could be used as chemotherapy delivery agents or help treat diseases related to oxidative stress like rheumatoid arthritis, multiple sclerosis and ischemic stroke.

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A Deep-dive Into Specialty Pharma

A specialty drug is a class of prescription medications used to treat complex, chronic or rare medical conditions. Although this classification was originally intended to define the treatment of rare, also termed “orphan” diseases, affecting fewer than 200,000 people in the US, more recently, specialty drugs have emerged as the cornerstone of treatment for chronic and complex diseases such as cancer, autoimmune conditions, diabetes, hepatitis C, and HIV/AIDS.

ACF Pharmaceuticals – Testing for molecules that impact the PGE2 pathway, which has been implicated in cancer, fibrosis, inflammation and pain. It says it’s working in collaboration with a private chemical company and a research institution.

Apaxis Medical – A device that helps implant LVADs during heart surgery. A related company, Apaxis Kit, is developing surgical tools to further help with this.

BreviTest Technologies – Developing an diagnostic assay platform to help with point-of-care analysis of blood, saliva, urine and water. Meant for allergen detection and home monitoring of chronic disease.

Clearview App – Another assay platform that helps users detect and identify contaminants on a number of surfaces – one of which being smart phones.

Guidabot – Robotic and imagine tech to help meld image-guided interventions with MRI visualization. Meant for biopsy or brachytherapy seeds.

Newheart Devices – Says it holds the patent on a continuous flow (pulseless) artificial heart comprised of paired ventricular assist devices (VADs). Featured in the March 2012 cover story of Popular Science: “The Future of Medicine – Human Engine.”

Procyrion – Heart failure device that improves blood flow in the aorta with minimal invasiveness.

Pulmotect – A clinical stage pharma whose drug stimulates the lung’s immune system, to allow for short-term elevated defenses against inhaled pathogen threats. It says:

While that application of technology is broad (and includes asthma, bioterror, pandemics and other indication), the Company’s initial clinical program is focused on patients at uniquely high risk for airborne infection, including leukemia patients enduring regimes of chemotherapy and organ transplant patients, who become immune-compromised as part of the transplant regime.