PPP MVP

Houston-focused bank comes through with record number of vital PPP loans

Teamwork and dedication equal success. Photo by Katleho Seisa/Getty

At the beginning of April, small businesses were allowed to begin applying for Paycheck Protection Program loans, a historic solution designed to help cover payroll, benefits, mortgage payments, and utilities.

It was a mad dash as many raced to figure out the new program, which only had an initial $349 billion allocated to the SBA for PPP loans. Every minute working on these PPP loans mattered to the Houston small business owners who applied.

Working through evenings and weekends, the staff at Texas Citizens Bank processed a staggering amount of loans in the first round, and an impressive amount of additional funds in round two.

In the impossibly small, 13-day window before round one closed, TCB processed and funded $73 million, helping 297 Houston small businesses maintain payroll and avoid layoffs. For round two, it processed $24 million, or 182 PPP loans.

"They were real heroes for many businesses," says David Gow, CEO of Gow Media (the parent company of InnovationMap). "Their team was working 'round the clock with businesses like ours to give us the best possible shot at PPP funding. I think they were one of the top banks in taking care of their clients during a very stressful window of time."

"With the help of Texas Citizens Bank and the PPP loan, we were able to get our entire team back up to their full pay the same week as funding," says Christy Lovoi of South Shore Oral and Maxillofacial Surgery, who notes that the practice was having difficulty with its previous bank and switched to TCB. "While it will take some time to get back to pre-pandemic levels, the PPP loan will definitely make it much easier. The response and help from everyone at Texas Citizens Bank has been absolutely stellar."

"A large number of employees are reporting to work today and receiving a paycheck because of your outstanding efforts," added Brent Cox, vice president of member relations at the Texas Bankers Association, on LinkedIn.

TCB chairman and CEO Duncan Stewart says that the Houston community bank team arrived early, hired additional SBA experts to assist in the processing, and worked evenings and weekends to approve and process PPP loans, all in support of their local business owners and employees.

"I could not be more proud of our team and what they have accomplished in the last two weeks," says Duncan. "Their dedication and sacrifice were commendable — what they did truly mattered. This is a historic time. Many years from now, they can look back with great pride in the part they played over these weeks to save companies and the livelihoods of their employees."

"A huge thank you to Texas Citizens Bank for their amazing work on behalf of Trinity," wrote Bryan Kreitz, president of business development at Trinity (TLD), on LinkedIn. "I will no longer make jokes about 'banker's hours,' as they were responding to emails at all hours of the day and night."

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Visit here for more information on PPP loans. Wondering about finances during the pandemic? This article outlines several options.

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Building Houston

 
 

Allterum Therapeutics Inc., a portfolio company of Fannin Innovation Studio, is using the funds to prepare for clinical trials. Photo via Getty Images

Allterum Therapeutics Inc. has built a healthy launchpad for clinical trials of an immunotherapy being developed to fight a rare form of pediatric cancer.

The Houston startup recently collected $1.8 million in seed funding through an investor group associated with Houston-based Fannin Innovation Studio, which focuses on commercializing biotech and medtech discoveries. Allterum has also brought aboard pediatric oncologist Dr. Philip Breitfeld as its chief medical officer. And the startup, a Fannin spinout, has received a $2.9 million grant from the Cancer Prevention Research Institute of Texas.

The funding and Breitfeld's expertise will help Allterum prepare for clinical trials of 4A10, a monoclonal antibody therapy for treatment of cancers that "express" the interleukin-7 receptor (IL7R) gene. These cancers include pediatric acute lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL) and some solid-tumor diseases. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has granted "orphan drug" and "rare pediatric disease" designations to Allterum's monoclonal antibody therapy.

If the phrase "monoclonal antibody therapy" sounds familiar, that's because the FDA has authorized emergency use of this therapy for treatment of COVID-19. In early January, the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases announced the start of a large-scale clinical trial to evaluate monoclonal antibody therapy for treatment of mild and moderate cases of COVID-19.

Fannin Innovation Studio holds exclusive licensing for Allterum's antibody therapy, developed at the National Cancer Institute. Aside from the cancer institute, Allterum's partners in advancing this technology include the Therapeutic Alliance for Children's Leukemia, Baylor College of Medicine, Texas Children's Hospital, Children's Oncology Group, and Leukemia & Lymphoma Society.

Although many pediatric patients with ALL respond well to standard chemotherapy, some patients continue to grapple with the disease. In particular, patients whose T-cell ALL has returned don't have effective standard therapies available to them. Similarly, patients with one type of B-cell ALL may not benefit from current therapies. Allterum's antibody therapy is designed to effectively treat those patients.

Later this year, Allterum plans to seek FDA approval to proceed with concurrent first- and second-phase clinical trials for its immunotherapy, says Dr. Atul Varadhachary, managing partner of Fannin Innovation Studio, and president and CEO of Allterum. The cash Allterum has on hand now will go toward pretrial work. That will include the manufacturing of the antibody therapy by Japan's Fujifilm Diosynth Biotechnologies, which operates a facility in College Station.

"The process of making a monoclonal antibody ready to give to patients is actually quite expensive," says Varadhachary, adding that Allterum will need to raise more money to carry out the clinical trials.

The global market for monoclonal antibody therapies is projected to exceed $350 billion by 2027, Fortune Business Insight says. The continued growth of these products "is expected to be a major driver of overall biopharmaceutical product sales," according to a review published last year in the Journal of Biomedical Science.

One benefit of these antibody therapies, delivered through IV-delivered infusions, is that they tend to cause fewer side effects than chemotherapy drugs, the American Cancer Society says.

"Monoclonal antibodies are laboratory-produced molecules engineered to serve as substitute antibodies that can restore, enhance or mimic the immune system's attack on cancer cells. They are designed to bind to antigens that are generally more numerous on the surface of cancer cells than healthy cells," the Mayo Clinic says.

Varadhachary says that unlike chemotherapy, monoclonal antibody therapy takes aim at specific targets. Therefore, monoclonal antibody therapy typically doesn't broadly harm healthy cells the way chemotherapy does.

Allterum's clinical trials initially will involve children with ALL, he says, but eventually will pivot to children and adults with other kinds of cancer. Varadhachary believes the initial trials may be the first cancer therapy trials to ever start with children.

"Our collaborators are excited about that because, more often than not, the cancer drugs for children are ones that were first developed for adults and then you extend them to children," he says. "We're quite pleased to be able to do something that's going to be important to children."

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