Pelican Therapeutics is developing therapies that use a patient's immune system to fight cancer. Credit: Courtesy / Creative Commons

Pelican Therapeutics, a biopharmaceutical company specializing in cancer therapies, will locate its laboratory headquarters in San Antonio, lured by the offer of economic incentives and potential partnerships with local bioscience institutions.

Pelican Therapeutics, which is a subsidiary of North Carolina-based Heat Biologics, will set up a laboratory to evaluate cancer therapeutics in San Antonio’s South Texas Medical Center. The opening of Pelican Therapeutics’ headquarters in San Antonio is expected to provide high-wage jobs to support bioscience research and a Phase I clinical trial for its cancer immunotherapy agent.

Once approved by City Council, the company will receive an economic development grant of up to $200,000 based on the expected creation of 22 new full-time jobs within five years. A vote on the incentive package is expected Sept. 21.

“We carefully considered a number of options, and San Antonio offers a robust bioscience sector and collaborative environment to facilitate future growth,” stated Rahul Jasuja, CEO of Pelican Therapeutics in a press release Thursday.

In 2016, Pelican Therapeutics received a $15.2 million grant from the Cancer Prevention and Research Institute of Texas (CPRIT), a state agency that supports innovation in cancer research and prevention programs in Texas. Pelican will use the CPRIT New Company Product Development Award to transition to a bricks-and-mortar company in San Antonio. Pelican Therapeutics also looked at potential sites in Austin and Georgetown.

“Our bioscience industry is one of the most promising emerging industries in San Antonio,” Mayor Ron Nirenberg stated in a press release. “To have Pelican Therapeutics bring their headquarters and $15.2 million CPRIT award here to complete revolutionary research in cancer treatment truly is a testament to the great innovation happening within our local bioscience ecosystem.”

San Antonio Economic Development Foundation President and CEO Jenna Saucedo-Herrera said the local bioscience industry produces more than $30 billion in annual economic impact. She estimated that in 10 years Pelican Therapeutics’ economic impact for Bexar County could be nearly $60 million.

“San Antonio continues to evolve its economic development strategy, focusing on target industries that support San Antonio’s growth and elevated prosperity,” Saucedo-Herrera said.

Pelican’s immunotherapy agent PTX-25 works by specifically activating killer T cells that work on the front lines of a person’s immune response, which is the strongest predictor of survival benefit in cancer immunotherapy.

“Heat Biologics is on the cutting edge of exciting immunotherapies that have the promise of revolutionizing cancer care,” said Dan Hargrove, chief development officer of Cancer Insight, a clinical research organization.

Heat Biologics’ team met Ann Stevens, BioMed SA’s president, at the 2012 BIO International convention in Boston and later visited San Antonio to meet with bioscience industry leaders and learn more about the city’s bioscience sector.

Pelican’s presence in San Antonio will help create opportunities for partnerships with Cancer Insight, UT Health San Antonio, the University of Texas at San Antonio, and other bioscience and life science institutions for future research and development, local officials said.

“The City’s agreement with Pelican Therapeutics will allow for innovative collaboration within San Antonio’s biosciences industry,” said City Manager Sheryl Sculley. “The company’s commitment to pursuing partnerships with local universities will multiply the benefits to the local industry and overall economy.”

Stevens, whose nonprofit corporation works to promote the growth of the local health care and bioscience sector, agreed.

“A strong foundation in scientific education, lab-based scientific research, technological development, and entrepreneurial commercial innovation fuels successful bioscience in cities like San Antonio,” Stevens said.

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Iris Gonzalez

Iris Gonzalez writes about technology, life science and veteran affairs.