You can now hop online and invest in this promising cell therapy startup. Photo via Getty Images

A clinical-stage company headquartered in Houston has opened an online funding campaign.

FibroBiologics, which is developing fibroblast cell-based therapeutics for chronic diseases, launched a campaign with equity crowdfunding platform StartEngine. The platform lets anyone — regardless of their net worth or income level — to invest in securities issued by startups.

The funding, according to a press release, will be used to support ongoing operations of Fibrobiologics and advance its clinical programs in multiple sclerosis, degenerative disc disease, wound care, extension of life, and cancer.

"We're excited to partner with StartEngine on this campaign. StartEngine has over 600,000 investors as part of their community and has raised over half a billion dollars for its clients," says FibroBiologics' Founder and CEO Pete O'Heeron, in the release.

"This is an exciting time at FibroBiologics as we continue progressing our clinical pipeline and developing innovative therapies to treat chronic diseases," he continues. "This new funding will fuel our growth in the lab and bring us one step closer to commercialization."

The campaign, launched this week, already has over 100 investors, at the time of publication, and has raised nearly $2 million, according to the page. The minimum investment is set at around $500, and the company's indicated valuation is $252.57 million.

In 2021, FibroBiologics announced its intention of going public. Last year, O'Heeron told InnovationMap on the Houston Innovators Podcast of the company's growth plans as well as the specifics of the technology.

Only two types of cells — stem cells and fibroblasts — can be used in cell therapy for a regenerative treatment, which is when specialists take healthy cells from a patient and inject them into a part of the body that needs it the most. As O'Heeron explains in the podcast, fibroblasts can do it more effectively and cheaper than stem cells.

"(Fibroblasts) can essentially do everything a stem cell can do, only they can do it better," says O'Heeron. "We've done tests in the lab and we've seen them outperform stem cells by a low of 50 percent to a high of about 220 percent on different disease paths."


Celltex is looking into using stem cells to treat COVID-19, and the Houston biotech company just got the green light to go to trials. Photo courtesy of Celltex

Houston biotech company gets FDA greenlight to move forward with COVID-19 stem cell treatment

coronavirus cure?

A Houston-based biotech company announced last week that it has gotten the approval it was seeking from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to continue testing its COVID-19 treatment that uses stem cells.

Celltex has received approval from its Investigational New Drug application, or IND, to look into stem cells — specifically Autologous Adipose Tissue-Derived Mesenchymal Stem Cells, or AdMSCs — and their effect on COVID-19 patients.

"The FDA's approval of our IND is not only a critical milestone for Celltex, but also for everyone who has been affected by COVID-19," says David G. Eller, Celltex chairman and CEO. "I am optimistic that our findings will result in favorable outcomes that will improve lives today and for generations to come."

Celltex has been in the stem cell business for nearly a decade and has treated patients with debilitating diseases like multiple sclerosis, Parkinson's, rheumatoid arthritis, and more. Eller says he's been considering how Mesenchymal Stem Cells, or MSCs, could be used amid the pandemic.

"Throughout the entire pandemic, MSCs have shown promise for combatting symptoms and complications associated with COVID-19, and as the nation's leading commercial MSC banking and technology company, Celltex has the unique ability to transition these initial findings into a clinical trial," Eller says.

The FDA clearance will allow for a phase two trial "that will evaluate the safety and prophylactic efficacy of AdMSCs against COVID-19," according to the release. There will be 200 patients across multiple centers that will be involved in the placebo-controlled study.

Celltex offices out of the Galleria area and has laboratory operations of its wholly-owned Mexican subsidiary are located in Hospital Galenia in Cancún, Quintana Roo, Mexico. Last year, Celltex planned an expansion into Saudi Arabia and also has a presence in Europe.

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CultureMap Emails are Awesome

3 Houston innovators to know this week

who's who

Editor's note: In this week's roundup of Houston innovators to know, I'm introducing you to three local innovators across industries — from synthetic biology to venture capital — recently making headlines in Houston innovation.

Gaurab Chakrabarti, the CEO and co-founder of Solugen

Gaurab Chakrabarti shared his entrepreneurial journey on the SXSW stage this year. Photo courtesy of the Greater Houston Partnership

Houston doesn't have too many unicorns — startups valued at $1 billion or more — in its innovation ecosystem, but Solugen, a sustainable chemicals company, is among the elite group. Gaurab Chakrabarti, the CEO and co-founder of the company, joined Houston House by the Greater Houston Partnership, to share his story on the SXSW stage.

“You do make your own luck, but you have to be putting in the work to do it," Chakrabarti says, adding that it's not an easy thing to accomplish. “There are things you can be doing to increase your luck surface area."

He shared several lessons he learned on his founder journey in the discussion. Read more.

Sandy Guitar, managing director of HX Venture Fund

Sandy Guitar shares some lessons learned from the fallout of Silicon Valley Bank. Photo via HXVF

Following the failure of Silicon Valley Bank, there's one thing Sandy Guitar can say has changed for Houston innovators: Bank diversification is going to be a must.

“We didn't think we needed one last week, but this week we know we need a resilience plan," she says, explaining that bank diversification is going to be added to "the operational due diligence playbook." Read more.

Cameron Owen, co-founder and CEO of rBIO

San Diego-based rBIO moved to Houston to take advantage of the growing ecosystem of biomanufacturing and synthetic biology. Photo courtesy of rBIO

Founded in San Diego, rBIO recently relocated to Houston and has big plans for settling in the city, says Cameron Owen, the company's co-founder and CEO.

“Companies from California like us and the coastal areas were converging here in Houston and creating this new type of bioeconomy,” he tells InnovationMap.

He shares that Houston wasn't originally on his radar, until it was. A visit turned into a relocation, and it's just the beginning for the biotech startup that's focused on using synthetic biology for pharmaceuticals. Read more.

Innovative company with ownable multi-use concept shares details on Houston facility opening

coming soon

To some, Houston’s lack of zoning laws is a beautiful thing. The first time Byron Smith visited the city, he remarked on seeing a church, school, office building, and strip club all in startlingly close proximity.

At the time, the Sydney-born entrepreneur, whose previous experience was primarily in the automotive industry, was living in New York. But he fell in love with Space City.

“I was like, ‘We need to be in Texas,” he recalls, referring to expanding his next venture, XSpace, to the Lone Star State.

XSpace is a multi-use commercial condo building that allows entrepreneurs to own a home for their business.

“We’re a cool warehouse space that you own,” Smith explains, calling it “evolutionary space” where a business can grow from the roots up.

Though his family business was commercial real estate, Smith first dipped his toe into working with buildings with last year’s opening of the first XSpace in Austin. The city became “a natural fit” for the first project because Smith identified it as “a little bit more receptive to new things.” But Houston was part of the plan from the very beginning.

Located at 7022 Old Katy Road — close to both an escape room and an Aston-Martin dealership, among other diverse businesses — the Houston XSpace’s 86 units are already between 20- and 30-percent pre-sold, says Smith.

Rendering courtesy of XSpace

Confirmed owners of the spaces include “car guys,” such as a car-wrapping business; media companies that plan to podcast from XSpace; and an interior design company. Smith says that he’s been impressed with Houston’s depth of market.

“We’re trying really hard not to be rich-guy car condo stuff,” explains Smith. “It’s about cool, interesting people who are successful or are going to be successful.”

Though multiple businesses will all operate in XSpace, don’t think of it as a coworking space. In fact, coworking space is just a component included in the package of what owners get when they purchase part of XSpace. That’s inside the Owner’s Lounge, a flexible 4,000-square-foot area.

Each unit has natural light, but also metered electric and hot and cold running water. The whole facility is air-conditioned and well-ventilated and offers 24/7 access. The building is triple-gated for optimum security and includes a backup generator to ensure that owners will be able to work even in the case of another power grid failure.

Smith says that groundbreaking for XSpace will take place in seven weeks. Likely, owners will be able to start moving into the building in the summer of 2024. Until then, Smith says to expect some “sexy announcements” about upcoming partnerships and additional XSpace sites.

Though Smith says that global expansion isn’t yet in the plans for XSpace, “North American domination” is.

“All the cool cities, we’re going to be there,” he says. And it was all inspired by the coolest city of all and its eclectic business landscape.

Rendering courtesy of XSpace

Houston maintains its top 3 position on ranking of cities that best attract biz

by the numbers

According to a recent report, Houston is still one of the top city in the United States for attracting new companies.

The ranking, which was researched and published by Site Selection Magazine, found that the Houston-The Woodlands-Sugar Land region attracted 255 business projects last year. This put the metro in the third place of the list that analyzed larger regions.

It's the third year in third place for Houston, and the city had a year over year improvement in number of deals; 2021 reported 213 new business projects in Houston. In fact, the top three cities – Chicago, Dallas, and Houston, respectively — has remained the same for all three years. For 2022, the Chicago metro garnered 448 projects, while Dallas-Fort Worth-Arlington reportedly had 426 projects.

The report also called out a recent statistic from Kastle Systems, which was based on building access control data. The stat found that among 10 major cities analyzed based on t week of February, Houston was one of three metros that had a returned-worker percentages higher than 50 percent.

According to the Greater Houston Partnership data, new business accounted for more than 50 percent of business announcements in 2022. GHP's data varied from Site Selection's due to a difference in reporting methods, but the organization's research identified 199 new business announcements in the Houston area in 2022.

The NBAs included new businesses, HQ announcements, and expansions. The GHP data included information about these deals' industry verticals — and the manufacturing sector accounted for almost a third of the total NBAs in 2022.

Chart via houston.org

The GHP also rounded up a few of the most prominate deals reported in their data. According to the Partnership, here were more details about these NBAs:

  • Orsted — an offshore wind developer from Denmark is expanding its presence in Texas by establishing a new office in the Woodlands. The move is expected to create up to 100 jobs in the region.
  • Syzygy Plasmonics — a Houston-based energy 2.0 company is expanding its operations to Pearland. The new location will serve as HQ, R&D, and manufacturing for its deep-decarbonization platform, creating up to 120 jobs.
  • Alfred Talke Logistic Services — a German logistics firm is establishing a new facility in the region, serving as its U.S. headquarters. This project represents a $25 million investment and will create 240 jobs.

Trevor Best, co-founder and CEO of Syzygy, first discussed the company's expansion last year on the Houston Innovators Podcast.

"What we're seeing is the market's appetite for our kind of technology — deep tech for decarbonization in energy and chemicals — is really high. If we want to meet global demand for our product, we need to get ready to scale," he says on the show.