BioHouston Life Science Forum Spotlights Texas Biotech Innovation

2/24/14Follow @angelashah

Life sciences leaders gathered last week in a Rice University auditorium for BioHouston’s Life Science Forum where they heard keynotes and panel discussions on Texas biotech’s challenges and promise. But the key work of boosting innovation may have been happening across the courtyard, where BioHouston had arranged a series of personal meetings connecting entrepreneurs with investors.

During 30-minute one-on-one sessions—sort of biotech speed dating—entrepreneurs introduced their new therapies and medical devices to venture capitalists, angels, and other investors. Table no. 1, where I was stationed, was not an avenue to funding, but it did provide me with a sneak peak at the coming attractions in the Texas biotech market. I spoke to entrepreneurs from San Antonio to Dallas, including healthtech firms aiming to better manage daily medicine regimens and choosing the best treatment options for migraines; a biotech company creating tissue grafts from animals; and a software platform firm that aims to make finding clinical trial sites easier.

In all, BioHouston says more than 600 people from around the country signed up to attend this year’s forum, which was held at Rice University’s BioResearch Collaborative, adjacent to the Texas Medical Center. This year’s forum was also our first opportunity at Xconomy to sponsor since we opened our Texas bureau last year.

Here is a sampling of some of the Texas entrepreneurs I met:

Aperion Biologics—The San Antonio-based life sciences company is developing alternatives for human tissue grafts by a “humanizing” process that allows tissue from pigs to be transplanted into people without rejection. So far, it has focused on the sports medicine market to treat injuries like all of those torn ACLs we heard sportscasters talking about during the Olympics.

Typically, doctors use tendons from the patient or from cadavers in such procedures, but those sources are either problematic for the recipient (cutting into a healthy knee) or difficult to obtain (finite number of cadavers). Aperion instead uses USDA-certified pigs’ tendons, which provide a scaffold upon which the patient’s own cells can regenerate, says Daniel Lee, Aperion’s CEO. Over time, the animal tissue is subsumed by healthy human tissue.

The company, which has roots in the San Francisco Bay Area, has so far raised $34 million in funding and is looking for another $10 million. Aperion relocated to San Antonio in 2009.

Better QOL—This company has developed both an app and an interactive Web portal focused on the management and treatment of migraines. In 2009, Blakely Long, who suffers from rheumatoid arthritis, and … Next Page »

Angela Shah is the editor of Xconomy Texas. She can be reached at ashah@xconomy.com or (214) 793-5763. Follow @angelashah

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