Having an idea begin in the laboratory and become a viable treatment or therapy for patients is a goal for researchers across the Texas Medical Center.
Recently, two TMC member institutions saw their cancer therapies gain the distinction of advancing to commercialization.
Ann Leen, Ph.D., and Juan Vera, M.D., along with their colleagues at the Center for Cell and Gene Therapy at Baylor College of Medicine as well as Texas Children’s Hospital and Houston Methodist, developed a therapy for cancer patients that harnesses the patient’s own immune system to fight cancer. The treatment uses a ‘natural’ T cell response that does not require genetic engineering.
In 2015, the group members formed Marker Therapeutics Inc. to facilitate broader patient access to the therapy. Now, Marker is merging with TapImmune Inc., a Florida-based publicly traded company that develops novel immunotherapies for cancer.
The proposed alliance will enable the researchers to perform “advanced-stage clinical testing” to “realize the goal of making immunotherapy a mainstream therapy for patients,” Leen said in a statement.
The partnership also includes a strategic alliance that involves sponsored research, manufacturing support and advancing early-stage clinical trials at Baylor.
Since 2010, more than 25 companies were created within Baylor College of Medicine to advance research from the lab to commercialization, according to Michael Dilling, director of the Baylor Licensing Group, which helps develop commercial relationships that lead to agreements supporting new products and services from Baylor research.
“Entrepreneurial activity has been increasing at Baylor,” he said. “In Marker’s case, that area of development in cell-based therapy is a hot area, and there is commercial interest.”
Meanwhile, The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center has its own history of establishing companies to advance therapies under development within its institution.
“Houston is an untapped gem in the life sciences universe, and this fits with the way Accelerator approaches things,” said David Schubert, chief operating partner at Accelerator Life Science Partners. “There is a lot of great stuff here, which tends to be really early, but driven by powerhouses like MD Anderson, and I am a big believer of what’s going on here.”
This month, MD Anderson and New York-based investment and management firm Accelerator Life Science Partners launched Magnolia Neurosciences Corp.—a company developing a new class of medicines aimed at helping patients suffering from neurodegenerative conditions, such as Alzheimer’s disease and chemotherapy-induced neuropathy in cancer patients.
Magnolia will develop novel therapeutics based on discoveries made by researchers in MD Anderson’s Therapeutics Discovery division, which includes more than 100 clinicians, researchers and drug discovery scientists working to develop innovative treatment options including small molecules, biologics and cell-based therapies.
“This is a really powerful group and we are excited,” said Ferran Prat, Ph.D., vice president of strategic industry ventures at MD Anderson.
Magnolia received $31 million in Series A funding—its first round of venture capital funding.
“Before, it would have been difficult to get investors, but we have established a good track record and have those connections that are on par with the Stanfords and Harvards of the world,” Prat added.
Magnolia also provides David Schubert, chief operating partner at Accelerator, a chance to further his work in Houston. He served as executive director of the Houston Area Translational Research Consortium at Rice University until 2014 and collaborated with Prat since then to understand how the innovation ecosystem works.
“Houston is an untapped gem in the life sciences universe, and this fits with the way Accelerator approaches things,” he said. “There is a lot of great stuff here, which tends to be really early, but driven by powerhouses like MD Anderson, and I am a big believer of what’s going on here.”
RT @harrishealth: George V. Masi talks to media about the 20th Trauma Survivors Celebration hosted to recognize patients treated at #BenTau…
Harris Health System@harrishealth
George V. Masi talks to media about the 20th Trauma Survivors Celebration hosted to recognize patients treated at #BenTaubHospital & #LBJHospital trauma centers with partners from @bcmhouston @UTHealth @HoustonFire #TraumaLeader https://t.co/f0jj01yDjr
Page County VA receives 2019 Ford Flex for Veteran transportation https://t.co/Uje88HYVi8 via @KMABroadcasting
David Jaffray, Ph.D., from @UHN to join MD Anderson as Chief Technology and Digital Officer late this summer: https://t.co/2y4TNnS1Oj. #endcancer
“As a parent, I strive to do what I can to protect my children and their friends from ever facing a cancer diagnosis,” says former convenience store owner Sam Susser.Here’s why he’s proud to see Texas raise the age for tobacco sale to 21: https://t.co/FVGuiVJXAH #endcancer
Event gives Veterans 'an opportunity' to teach https://t.co/rLFnvZxmF7 via @AmericanLegion
After more than 47 years of extraordinary service to UTHealth, George M. Stancel, PhD, has announced his retirement. #ThankYouDrStancel for your contributions, your impact, and your commitment to UTHealth. https://t.co/zz7biEVQaC #ManyFacesOfUTHealth https://t.co/m5IwXP2WmZ
The numbers of Americans with health consequences from obesity continues to grow. See how we as a medical school are teaching our students to help prevent and treat this disease. https://t.co/Gl4Um007LB #obesity
@MrJeremyJackson @PasadenaHigh @AthleticsPISD @CathySupak Thanks for sharing
A phase III trial led by our @DQBMD found combining busulfan with melphalan may be effective as conditioning newly diagnosed #multiplemyeloma patients receiving an autologous #stemcelltransplant: https://t.co/pliwgCBYxb @CancerNetwrk #MMSM #endcancer
Today we honor Army Veteran Jason Swindle in remembrance of his service and sacrifice for our country https://t.co/EgIX7LRw5X #VeteranOfTheDay #CarryTheLoad #NoVeteranEverDies
Amar Yousif, MBA, named new VP of Information Technology, Chief Information Officer at @UTHealth: https://t.co/dtNUDXzoei https://t.co/wfbuWKLW3l
Several nurses at @TexasChildrens recently received their Doctor of Nursing Practice. Join us in congratulating them on this incredible achievement! To learn more, visit: https://t.co/2kSDVJ834B #texaschildrens
RT @Rice_BIOE: Rice bioengineer Jeff Tabor (@LabTabor) reflects on accessing nature's treasure trove of biosensors in a new "Nature" blog p…
Dr. Julie Kaplow, chief of psychology and director of the Trauma and Grief Center at Texas Children's Hospital, discusses the importance of mental health support in public schools:https://t.co/cF2CZMfBdF #texaschildrens