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Texas Roundup: DNAtrix, Nanolinea, Wireless Seismic, Illumitex, TMCx

Xconomy Texas — 

Today, Nantucket is more known as a bucolic summer retreat, an island of sun-dappled cobblestone streets and historic markers. But I realized during my travels there last week that the island is also an example of the ebb-and-flow of innovation.

Before it became a tourist destination, Nantucket was, during the 18th and part of the 19th centuries, a vanguard of the energy industry: whaling and the harvesting and processing of the animals’ oil as an illuminant for lamps and for candle wax. Herman Melville’s “elbow of sand” was home to a prosperous society who built institutions like the Pacific National Bank, named not for its Atlantic Ocean home but to illustrate the geographic extent of the whalers’ trade.

But the advent of kerosene in 1849, along with a depletion of whales and the Civil War, led to whaling’s decline. Energy innovation hubs grew elsewhere. While Houston has emerged as a global energy node since World War II, smaller outposts are popping up along with the growth of the domestic U.S. gas industry. I wonder which of these will still be around 150 years from now.

On that note, here is the latest innovation news from Texas.

DNAtrix, a Houston biotech company that aims to use viruses to target and destroy cancer cells, raised $20 million in a Series B round to further develop its drug to treat an aggressive form of brain cancer.  The funds serve, in part, as a matching round of $10.8 million awarded to the company in February by the Cancer Prevention and Research Institute of Texas. Morningside Ventures in Shanghai led the round; other investors included Mercury Fund in Houston and Targeted Fund in San Antonio. DNAtrix is enrolling patients with recurrent glioblastoma in two Phase Ib trials and plans to begin Phase II trials in the first quarter of next year, says Frank Tufaro, the company’s CEO.

—Three Rice University startups familiar to Xconomy readers won cash prizes recently in the Goradia Prize, a series of awards given to early-stage tech companies by a Houston family of the same name and administered by the Houston Technology Council. Nanolinea won $50,000 for its development of a minimally invasive therapeutic implant treatment for cardiac ventricular arrhythmia based on carbon nanotube fibers. Battery developer Big Delta Systems took home $35,000, while A-76, which is marketing a corrosion inhibitor and lubricant for oil and marine services companies, won $5,000.

Wireless Seismic, which has developed a wireless, real-time system for acquiring and processing seismic data for oil and gas operations, has raised $4.5 million, according to a filing with the SEC. The company is based in the Houston suburb of Sugar Land, TX.

—Austin, TX-based Illumitex, which manufactures LED lighting for the horticulture industry, has raised an additional $1.98 million as part of a planned $4.5 million round right, according to an SEC filing. The company had raised $2 million of the round in March.

—The Texas Medical Center hosted the Houston biotech community in an open house for its new accelerator—dubbed TMCx—which is designed to boost life sciences startups and innovation.