From 2016 to 2021, the Houston area saw the third largest jump in students earning degrees in biology and biomedicine. Photo via Getty Images

Houston is a rising star when it comes to developing homegrown talent in life sciences research.

From 2016 to 2021, the Houston area saw the third largest jump in students earning degrees in biology and biomedicine among 25 major life sciences markets, according to a new report from commercial real estate services company CBRE.

Houston saw a 38 percent spike in the number of degrees granted during the five-year span, according to the report. Only Phoenix (91 percent) and Riverside-San Bernardino, California (47 percent) bested Houston in this category.

The report shows Houston produced the 20th largest number of graduates and certificate holders (1,832) in biological and biomedical sciences in 2021.

Overall, Houston appears at No. 13 in CBRE’s ranking of the top U.S. market for life sciences talent. That matches Houston’s ranking in last year’s report. Factors that go into the ranking include the number of life sciences graduates, concentration of high-ranking universities and institutions, and density of talent.

“We need a strong pool of graduates to continue expanding the life sciences industry in the U.S.,” Scott Carter, senior vice president of CBRE, says in a news release. “The world-class universities like University of Houston, The University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston, Rice University, and others offer best-in-class programs for graduates, making Houston a top market for life science research talent.”

In terms of the number of life sciences graduates produced in 2021, the University of Houston ranks first (719 grads) among local colleges and universities, followed by The University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston (244), Rice University (243), the University of Houston-Clear Lake (139), and Prairie View A&M University (103), according to the CBRE report.

If those grads remain in the Houston area, they’re likely to land lucrative jobs. The report outlines average wages in the region for four career categories in life sciences:

  • Biochemist — $118,018
  • Biophysicist — $117,736
  • Biomedical engineer — $108,113
  • Chemist — $97,887

In 2022, Houston employed 8,480 people in life sciences occupations, making it the country’s 12th largest pool of life sciences research talent, says CBRE.

“Demand for life sciences research workers is above pre-pandemic levels,” Matt Gardner, life sciences leader at CBRE Advisory Services, says in a news release. “We’re also seeing a closely balanced ratio of hiring to job cuts in the biopharma industry compared with the technology sector and the broader economy, which positions the life sciences to remain stable despite an economic downturn.”

Houston — home to the largest medical center — ranks No. 13 on a list of top life science labor markets. Photo via TMC

Here's how Houston ranks as a life science market, according to a new report

by the numbers

For Houston’s life sciences sector, 13 is a very lucky number.

The Houston metro area ranks 13th in CBRE’s first-ever analysis of the country’s top 25 U.S. labor markets for life sciences. Houston’s collective brain power helped cement its place on the list.

The Boston-Cambridge area tops the ranking. Houston is the highest-ranked Texas market, ahead of No. 16 Dallas-Fort Worth and No. 18 Austin.

Dallas-based CBRE, a provider of commercial real estate services, lauds Houston for its “attractive combination” of affordability and a deep pool of Ph.D.-level talent, as well as the presence of major research universities and medical institutions.

Scott Carter, senior vice president of life sciences and healthcare in CBRE’s Houston office, says those factors make Houston “an attractive market for life sciences industry expansion.”

“Houston is projected to lead the nation in population growth over the next five years, which will only strengthen the appeal of its labor market,” Carter says.

Houston boasts the nation’s highest wages in the life sciences sector compared with the cost of living, the analysis shows. Meanwhile, Ph.D. recipients account for 18.5 percent of the 1,300 biological and biomedical sciences degrees granted each year in the Houston area — the highest concentration nationwide. And Houston produces 4.2 percent of such Ph.D. recipients in the U.S. — more than all but a few major life sciences markets do.

“Millions of square feet and billions of dollars of life sciences development is underway or planned in Houston to break down longtime silos between commercial, academic, and medical sectors,” Carter says. “Leveraging the unmatched scale of the Texas Medical Center, these new moon-shot investments are building a launchpad to rocket Space City into a new era as a global hub for scientific and human progress.”

Underscoring the rapid rise of the city’s innovation ecosystem, Houston enjoys one of the country’s fastest-growing pipelines for VC funding in life sciences. Here, VC funding in the sector rose 937 percent in the past five years, compared with the nationwide increase of 345 percent, according to CBRE.

For its analysis, CBRE assessed each market based on several criteria, including its number of life sciences jobs and graduates, its share of the overall job and graduate pool in life sciences, its number of Ph.D. recipients in life sciences, and its concentration of jobs in the broader professional, scientific, and technical services professions.

In 2020, CBRE ranked Houston as the No. 2 emerging hub for life sciences in a report, which factored in size and growth of life-sciences employment, the venture capital and National Institutes of Health funding, and more.

“Flex space has become a skeleton key that companies can use to address their changing office needs." Photo via Getty Images

Houston real estate report reflects growth in flex space

flexing on Hou

Flex office space is finding favor with businesses in Houston.

While the Houston area’s office vacancy rate climbed as high as 25 percent last year, the region recently added more flex office space than any other U.S. office market on a percentage basis. From the fourth quarter of 2020 through the third quarter of 2021, the Houston market gained a little over 5 percent more flex space compared with the previous 12-month period, according to a data analysis by Dallas-based commercial real estate services provider CBRE.

Dallas-based Common Desk, a provider of flex office space being acquired by coworking giant WeWork, accounted for 84 percent of the Houston market’s net expansion of flex office space during the 12-month span analyzed by CBRE. Of the 152,977-square-foot net expansion during that time, Common Desk represented 129,000 square feet, CBRE says.

Common Desk has six open or soon-to-open spaces in the Houston area: five locations in Houston and one location in Spring. Aside from Common Desk, flex space operators in the Houston market include Houston-based Boxer Property Management and Austin-based Firmspace, as well as New York City-based companies Industrious, Serendipity Labs, and WeWork.

As of the third quarter of 2021, Houston’s inventory of flex office space stood at 3.1 million square feet. That was the seventh largest inventory among the 49 North American markets examined by CBRE. Flex space made up 1.4 percent of overall office space in Houston.

Flex office space appeals to a variety of tenants, such as startups looking to cut costs, businesses needing short-term space, and companies navigating the pandemic-driven rise in hybrid work arrangements.

“During the pandemic, flexible space has become a more important office amenity in Houston as companies respond to employee desires for flexibility in how they work,” Rich Pancioli, executive vice president in the Houston office of CBRE, says in a news release. “As companies seek to optimize their office portfolios, many are using flexible space as a key tool to test new strategies in a fast-changing environment.”

At one time, CBRE clients heavily emphasized amenities like food services, fitness centers, and health care facilities during their office searches, Pancioli says. Now, many clients are placing a greater priority on flex space or coworking space.

As demand goes up, developers such as Toronto-based Brookfield Asset Management and Houston-based Hines (whose offering is known as The Square) have dipped their toes into the flex office pool. Hines has two flex office spaces in Houston and one space in Salt Lake City. When Hines rolled out The Square in 2019, it identified Atlanta, Boston, Denver, New York City, the San Francisco Bay Area, and Washington, D.C., as potential expansion markets.

While Houston’s availability of flex office space increased during the period studied by CBRE, flex space providers in North America collectively trimmed their portfolios by 9 percent. That led to a decline in the sector’s share of the overall office market from about 2 percent to about 1.75 percent. However, a CBRE survey of 185 U.S.-based companies finds a growing appetite for flex space.

“Flex space has become a skeleton key that companies can use to address their changing office needs,” says Julie Whelan, CBRE’s global head of occupier research.

“They can use it to adjust their office portfolio as they figure out how hybrid work will affect their employees’ office use patterns. They can use flex space to quickly secure a foothold in new markets to tap a different base of talent,” she adds. “Some will use flexible office space to offer employees more choice like access to physical space closer to their homes. In short, flex space allows companies to be more nimble.”

According to a report from CBRE, Houston registered the eighth-most data center leasing in North America in first half of 2021. Photo by Christina Morillo/Pexels

Report: Houston sees uptick in data center leasing activity

by the numbers

Houston's data center market is electrified. In the first half of 2021, the local data center market saw the eight highest amount of leasing activity among the 17 North American markets tracked by commercial real estate services company CBRE.

In the first half of this year, the Houston data market experienced net absorption of 5.7 megawatts worth of capacity, up 119 percent from the first half of last year, CBRE says. Net absorption is a key indicator of leasing activity.

During the past year, Houston has added 5.1 megawatts of inventory, dropping the vacancy rate for data centers to 18.5 percent, according to CBRE.

"There have been a few large transactions in the first half of the year that added to Houston's increased absorption numbers," Brant Bernet, senior vice president in CBRE's Dallas office, says in a September 7 news release. "The major storyline for the Houston market is investor interest."

A handful of data center acquisitions already have occurred this year in the Houston area, and more could be on the horizon, Bernet said. Datacenters.com lists 20 privately owned data centers in the Houston area. Among all landlords, Dallas-based CyrusOne owns the most data centers in the Houston market — four.

In June, Las Vegas-based data center operator Switch completed its purchase of Austin-based data center company Data Foundry for $420 million. In Houston, Data Foundry operated two data centers totaling 370,000 square feet. At the end of 2021, Switch plans to develop more data centers in Houston and Austin that are set to open in 2023.

The smaller of Switch's two newly acquired data centers here is a 20,000-square-foot facility at 5555 San Felipe St. in West Houston. The larger one, encompassing 350,000 square feet, sits on an 18-acre site at 660 Greens Pkwy. in North Houston.

In March, Vienna, Virginia-based data center operator Element Critical purchased Skybox Datacenters' facility in Katy for an undisclosed amount. The more than 96,000-square-foot data center sits on 20 acres at 22000 Franz Rd. Skybox is based in Dallas.

A CBRE report indicates Houston's data center market remains dominated by international energy companies, finance companies, and regional health care providers. Demand comes largely from locally based companies.

Phillip Marangella, chief marketing officer at Herndon, Virginia-based EdgeConneX, is among insiders in the data center industry who are bullish about the future of data centers. EdgeConneX operates a 93,400-square-foot data center at 1510 Prime West Pkwy. in Katy.

"Data centers will be processing more workloads, more data, more video, more machine learning, and [will be] serving as facilitators for a global transformation in business, even smaller or more regional enterprises," Marangella tells Data Center Frontier. "Data centers are becoming part of an infrastructure fabric of capacity, connectivity, power, and proximity that is empowering enterprises to take advantage of the location, the scale, and the economics that work for them."

In this roundup of short stories, Houston has been recognized as an emerging hub for life sciences, HCC wins an award for entrepreneurship, and more local innovation news. Photo by Dwight C. Andrews/Greater Houston Convention and Visitors Bureau

Houston named growing hub for life sciences, cybersecurity startups win contest, and more innovation news

short stories

Houston's innovation ecosystem has been booming with news, and it's likely some might have fallen through the cracks.

For this roundup of short stories within Houston innovation, see why Houston has been named a top emerging hub for life sciences, Hatch Pitch reveals its cybersecurity startup winners, and more.

Houston named an emerging life science hub

A new report finds that Houston's life sciences scene — soon to be home to TMC3 — is growing. Courtesy of Elkus Manfredi Architects

According to a new report from CBRE, Houston is on track to be a top market for life sciences. The report factored in size and growth of life-sciences employment, the venture capital and National Institutes of Health funding, and more.

"Interest in Houston's life sciences sector from developers, investors and financial backers has grown significantly in recent years," says Nelson Udstuen, senior vice president at CBRE, in a press release. "Several factors have contributed to this, including an increase in both federal funding from NIH and private venture capital, a growth in R&D employment and commitments from Texas Medical Center member institutions and other private developers to establish new life science buildings and campuses."

Houston's life-sciences industry, which comes in at No. 2 on the list behind Pittsburgh and ahead of Austin, ranks within the 20 largest in the U.S. by employment. In terms of growth, Houston is expanding at a 6.5 percent pace from 2018 to 2019. Houston institutes received around $600 million in funding from NIH last year, which amounted to the 12th-largest sum by market.

"Houston is also a draw for the life sciences industry due to its large cluster of life science employees," continues Udstuen. "Our market is home to a large population with the technical ability to perform Research and Development, meaning employers do not have to focus as heavily on recruiting from other markets."

Inaugural pitch competition names winners

pitch

Hatch Pitch named the winners of its inaugural cybersecurity-focused competition. Photo via Getty Images

Houston-based Hatch Pitch announced its Cyber Pitch competition in December, and, other than having to pivot to virtual, the competition went off without a hitch. The winners at the Houston Cyber Summit were revealed on October 22.

  • Toronto-based Paqt took first place
  • PixoAnalytics, based in Bonn, Germany, came in second
  • And Austin-based Clocr placed in third place as well as the Audience Favorite.

Hatch Pitch will return in March 2021 for the Hatch Pitch Digital Summit, but until then, check out video clips and the pitches from Cyber Pitch 2020 online.

Houston college receives national entrepreneurship award

Houston Community College has been named the 2020 Heather Van Sickle Entrepreneurial College of the Year. Photo via HCC.edu

The National Association for Community College Entrepreneurship has named Houston Community College as the 2020 Heather Van Sickle Entrepreneurial College of the Year at its 18th Annual Conference in Nashville, Tennessee, earlier this month.

"Houston Community College is a model of how colleges contribute to their local entrepreneurial ecosystems," says Rebecca Corbin, president and CEO of NACCE, in a news release. "Through persistence and entrepreneurial mindset and action, HCC has scaled replicable and sustainable entrepreneurial programs that have impacted thousands of students over the past several years. It is a pleasure to recognize this outstanding college, which was selected by an independent judging panel, as the winner of NACCE's 2020 Entrepreneurial College of the Year Award."

Energy tech startup names new CEO

Tachyus has a new head honcho. Photo via tachyus.com

Data-focused energy software startup Tachyus has announced the promotion of Fernando Gutierrez to CEO — formerly vice president of customer success.

"We are in a unique time within the upstream oil and gas space, and I truly believe Tachyus has the ability to pioneer the acceleration of the digital transformation within the industry," says Gutierrez, in a news release. "We are at the intersection of innovation and conventionalism, and I'm excited to lead the organization in a movement that continues to establish our technical solutions with our unique product signature."

Tachyus was founded in 2013 in Silicon Valley and recently relocated to Houston. The fresh funds will go into growing its cloud-based, artificial intelligence-enabled platform. Last year, the company raised $15 million in a round led by Houston-based Cottonwood Venture Partners.

Former CEO and Co-Founder Paul Orland has assumed the role of chairman.

Female founder selected for new program backed by Houston organization

Kim Roxie, founder of LAMIK Beauty, is among the 15 recipients of a new initiative. Photo via stacysrise.helloalice.com

Plano, Texas-based Stacy's Rise Project expanded its annual grant and mentorship program in order to give more aid to Black female business founders, who on average only receive 0.2 percent of venture capitalist funding, according to a press release. The organization teamed up with its longtime partner, Houston-founded Hello Alice, to back an additional 15 Black female founders with a total of $150,000.

Among the 15 recipients was Houston's own Kim Roxie of LAMIK Beauty. LAMIK Beauty is a beauty-tech company designed for multicultural women with products made with natural and organic ingredients.

Houston is expected to see a 1.9 percent rise in office jobs this year. Getty Images

Houston listed among top cities expected to see office job growth

new hires

Texas cities — including the Houston area — will see a slew of new office jobs this year, according to a new projection.

Commercial real estate services company CBRE predicts Houston will see a 1.9 percent rise in office jobs this year compared to last year. That ranks Houston as the No. 4 spot for anticipated office-job growth in 2020 among U.S. markets with at least 37.5 million square feet of office space. Office jobs include those in the tech, professional services, and legal sectors.

"Tech, talent, and low taxes continue to fuel Texas' rising status as an inevitable, leading force in the U.S. economy," Ian Anderson, Americas head of office research at CBRE, says in the release. "2020 will be another year where companies and people from around the country relocate to the Lone Star State, leaving most of the rest of the country in envy of the growth in Dallas, Houston, and Austin."

Dallas only narrowly outpaced Houston in the ranking coming in at No. 3 with 2.1 percent expected growth. Austin, however, is the big Texas winner with an expected 2.6 percent rise in office jobs this year compared with last year. That puts Austin in first place on the ranking, edging out San Francisco for the top spot in CBRE's forecast, published January 9. The company predicts a 2.5 percent increase in San Francisco office jobs this year versus last year.

Personal finance website WalletHub recently ranked San Francisco and Austin third and fourth, respectively, on its list of the U.S. best cities to find a job.

"It's not surprising that the forecast for Austin is extremely bright, and we expect that technology companies and professional firms will still drive the demand for more [offices]," Troy Holme, executive vice president in the Austin office of CBRE, says in a January 22 release.

In November, Austin's unemployment rate decreased to 2.5 percent from 2.6 percent in October and 2.7 percent in September, according to the Texas Workforce Commission. Austin's jobless rate in November was the third lowest among the state's metro areas; Dallas-Fort Worth's rate was at 3 percent, while Houston's was at 3.6 percent.

CBRE says the growth of office jobs was more robust in the top U.S. markets last year than it is estimating for 2020. Dallas (5.7 percent) leads the 2019 list, followed by San Francisco (5.2 percent), Seattle (4.2 percent), Houston (3.7 percent), and Charlotte, North Carolina (3.6 percent).

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This article originally ran on CultureMap.

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Houston family's $20M donation drives neurodegeneration research

big impact

Neurodegeneration is one of the cruelest ways to age, but one Houston family is sharing its wealth to invigorate research with the goal of eradicating diseases like Alzheimer’s.

This month, Laurence Belfer announced that his family, led by oil tycoon Robert Belfer, had donated an additional $20 million to the Belfer Neurodegeneration Consortium, a multi-institutional initiative that targets the study and treatment of Alzheimer’s disease.

This latest sum brings the family’s donations to BNDC to $53.5 million over a little more than a decade. The Belfer family’s recent donation will be matched by institutional philanthropic efforts, meaning BNDC will actually be $40 million richer.

BNDC was formed in 2012 to help scientists gain stronger awareness of neurodegenerative disease biology and its potential treatments. It incorporates not only The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center, but also Baylor College of Medicine, Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) and Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai.

It is the BNDC’s lofty objective to develop five new drugs for Alzheimer’s disease and related disorders over the next 10 years, with two treatments to demonstrate clinical efficacy.

“Our goal is ambitious, but having access to the vast clinical trial expertise at MD Anderson ensures our therapeutics can improve the lives of patients everywhere,” BNDC Executive Director Jim Ray says in a press release. “The key elements for success are in place: a powerful research model, a winning collaborative team and a robust translational pipeline, all in the right place at the right time.”

It may seem out of place that this research is happening at MD Anderson, but scientists are delving into the intersection between cancer and neurological disease through the hospital’s Cancer Neuroscience Program.

“Since the consortium was formed, we have made tremendous progress in our understanding of the molecular and genetic basis of neurodegenerative diseases and in translating those findings into effective targeted drugs and diagnostics for patients,” Ray continues. “Yet, we still have more work to do. Alzheimer's disease is already the most expensive disease in the United States. As our population continues to age, addressing quality-of-life issues and other challenges of treating and living with age-associated diseases must become a priority.”

And for the magnanimous Belfer family, it already is.

3 Houston innovators to know this week

who's who

Editor's note: Every week, I introduce you to a handful of Houston innovators to know recently making headlines with news of innovative technology, investment activity, and more. This week's batch includes a podcast with the founder of a new venture firm, a former astronaut and recent award recipient, and a health care innovator with fresh funding.

Zach Ellis, founder and managing partner of South Loop Ventures

Zach Ellis explains on the Houston Innovators Podcast that South Loop Ventures plans to invest in promising companies from across the country and bring them into Houston's ecosystem to grow and scale. Photo via LinkedIn

Houston has a lot of the right ingredients for commercialization and scaling up companies, so when Zach Ellis moved to town to stand up a venture capital firm that made investments in diverse founders, he decided to go about it in an innovative way.

South Loop Ventures, which Ellis launched two years ago, invests in pre-seed and seed-stage startups across health care, climatetech, aerospace, sports, and fintech. While the first handful of investments, which have already been made, are into Houston-based companies, Ellis explains on the Houston Innovators Podcast that the firm plans to invest in promising companies from across the country and bring them into Houston's ecosystem to grow and scale.

"Any investor wants to feel like they are looking at the best possible investment opportunities in which to deploy capital," Ellis says on the show. "So that's reason No. 1 to cast your net as widely as possible.

"At the same time, you want to give any investment that you make greatest chances of success," he continues. "The biggest factor of success outside of the team and the capital you give them, is the customers that they can call upon. In bringing targeted companies to Houston or connecting them with Houston, you introduce the opportunity for them to achieve rapid scale and work with world-class partners very efficiently." Read more.


Toby R. Hamilton, founder and CEO of Hamilton Health Box

Dr. Toby Hamilton has secured $10 million to grow his company. Photo via tmc.edu

A Houston company that is working on a value-based model for primary care has fresh funding to support its mission.

Hamilton Health Box announced the completion of a $10 million series A funding round led by 1588 Ventures with participation from Memorial Hermann Health System, Impact Ventures by Johnson & Johnson Foundation, Texas Medical Center Venture Fund, and the Sullivan Brothers.

The company, founded in 2019 by Dr. Toby R. Hamilton, will use the funding to fuel its expansion into rural areas to help assist those living in Health Professional Shortage Areas, or HPSAs. Read more.

Ellen Ochoa, former astronaut and center director at the NASA's Johnson Space Center

Ellen Ochoa was recognized for her leadership at NASA Johnson and for being the first Hispanic woman in space. Photo via NASA

Two astronauts recently received Presidential Medals of Freedom from President Joe Biden for their leadership in space.

Ellen Ochoa, the former center director and astronaut at the NASA's Johnson Space Center in Houston, and Jane Rigby, senior project scientist for NASA’s James Webb Space Telescope, were honored at the White House on May 3.

Ochoa spent 30 years with NASA, which included being the 11th director of JSC, deputy center director of JSC, and director of Flight Crew Operations. She served on the nine-day STS-56 mission aboard the space shuttle Discovery in 1993, and became the first Hispanic woman in space. She flew four more times to space with STS-66, STS-96, STS-110, and more.

“I’m so grateful for all my amazing NASA colleagues who shared my career journey with me,” Ochoa says in a NASA news release. Read more.

Houston health care institutions receive $22M to attract top recruits

coming to Hou

Houston’s Baylor College of Medicine has received a total of $12 million in grants from the Cancer Prevention & Research Institute of Texas to attract two prominent researchers.

The two grants, which are $6 million each, are earmarked for recruitment of Thomas Milner and Radek Skoda. The Cancer Prevention & Research Institute of Texas (CPRIT) announced the grants May 14.

Milner, an expert in photomedicine for surgery and diagnostics, is a professor of surgery and biomedical engineering at the Beckman Laser Institute & Medical Clinic at the University of California, Irvine and the university’s Chao Family Comprehensive Cancer Center

In 2013, Milner was named Inventor of the Year by the University of Texas at Austin. At the time, he was a professor of biomedical engineering at UT. One of his major achievements is co-development of the MasSpec Pen, a handheld device that identifies cancerous tissue within 10 seconds during surgical procedures.

Skoda is a professor of molecular medicine in the Department of Biomedicine at the University of Basel and the University Hospital Basel, both in Switzerland. He specializes in developing treatments for myeloproliferative neoplasms, which are a group of blood diseases including leukemia.

Other recruitment grants provided by the institute to Houston-area organizations are:

  • $4 million for recruitment of Susan Bullman to the University of Texas M.D. Anderson Cancer Center. She was an assistant professor at Seattle’s Fred Hutchinson Cancer Center, where she studied the connection between microbes and cancer.
  • $4 million for recruitment of Oren Rom to the University of Texas M.D. Anderson Cancer Center. Rom is an assistant professor of pathology and translational pathobiology at Louisiana State University Shreveport.
  • Nearly $2 million for recruitment of Lauren Hagler to conduct RNA cancer biology at Texas A&M University. She is a postdoctoral scholar in biochemistry at Stanford University.

The institute also awarded grants to five companies in the Houston area:

  • $4.7 million to 7 Hills Pharma for development of immunotherapies to treat cancer and prevent infectious diseases.
  • $4.5 million to Indapta Therapeutics for the Phase 1 trial of a cell therapy for treatment of multiple myeloma and non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma.
  • $2.75 million to Bectas Therapeutics for development of antibodies and biomarkers to overcome a type of resistance T-cell checkpoint therapy.
  • $2.69 million to MS Pen Technologies for development of technology that differentiates between normal tissue and cancerous tissue during surgery.
  • $2.58 million to Crossbridge Bio for development of an antibody-drug combination to treat certain solid tumors.