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NC drug developer leaps final hurdle, clearing path for San Antonio move
September 22, 2017

San Antonio Economic Development Foundation Senior Vice President of Business Development Michele Boggs says landing Pelican Therapeutics is a prize catch. Photo: SAEDF

By W. Scott Bailey, San Antonio Business Journal

San Antonio's City Council unanimously approved on Thursday an incentive package that will clear the path for Pelican Therapeutics to move its headquarters from North Carolina to San Antonio. As part of that planned move, the privately held drug developer is expected to establish a new immunomonitoring lab in the South Texas Medical Center area.

The city's incentive package includes a municipal grant of up to $200,000 in return for Pelican's commitment to create 22 new full-time jobs within five years. The company - working to advance its lead drug, PTX25 - is also expected to invest nearly $2 million to develop its San Antonio facilities in the Ashford Oaks center on Datapoint Drive.

"San Antonio is providing the incentives," said Pelican Therapeutics CEO Dr. Rahul Jasuja. "Now, this is going to be about what we do together."

Michele Boggs, senior vice president of business development for the San Antonio Economic Development Foundation, said what the Alamo City has landed with council's vote is a "world-class company."
Pelican Therapeutics is a subsidiary of Durham, North Carolina-based Heat Biologics. One of the key factors that put Pelican in play was its approval for a $15.2 million grant from the Cancer Prevention and Research Institute of Texas, or CPRIT.

"Ever since we triggered the CPRIT grant, we were looking at the major Texas cities," Jasuja told me. He said the process of narrowing that search to San Antonio began roughly five months ago.
Pelican was swayed in part by the opportunity to collaborate with several San Antonio individuals and institutions, including Dr. George Peoples, founder of Cancer Insight, a clinical research organization working to develop and test cancer-related biotechnologies.

"There was an opportunity to work hand in hand with his group," Jasuja said. "That was a major driving factor."

Pelican plans to use the CPRIT funding for research and Phase I clinical trials activity in support of its lead drug. The company's move here, coupled with its steep financial backing from CPRIT, could cause more bioscience businesses to take a deeper look at San Antonio.

"Pelican further builds San Antonio's cancer research network, so we should also expect to see more opportunity to attract other cancer research companies seeking CPRIT funding to San Antonio," Boggs said.

The move here by Pelican will also put San Antonio in direct contact with Heat Biologics, which local leaders contend is revolutionizing cancer care.

"Short term, we hope that Pelican Therapeutics will continue building local partnerships with bioscience firms and educational institutions to identify opportunities for research collaboration within our bioscience industry," Boggs said. She added that San Antonio leaders are also hopeful that the company will seize on the opportunities to "add quality, high-wage jobs for scientists from our local universities."


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