A project with backing from some of Dallas’s most prominent philanthropic and business leaders will receive an additional funding boost from the federal government.
LaunchBio, a startup accelerator at the new Pegasus Park development near Dallas’s medical district, was named an awardee of the U.S. Economic Development Administration’s annual Build to Scale program on Thursday. The Dallas LaunchBio network will receive $2.1 million in total funding, with an award of $750,000 from the federal government and $1.4 million in additional match funding from local partners.
LaunchBio’s Dallas network aims to combine the resources of several local biotech accelerators and startup advisers to nurture area startups as they develop into successful business ventures. It will serve as one of the cornerstones of Pegasus Park’s Biotech+ hub, which has dedicated over 40,000 square feet of office and lab space at its 23-acre campus to nurture life science research and commercialization in the Dallas area.
The funding from the Build to Scale award will help LaunchBio and its local partners expand their business development offerings in Dallas and allow it to hire a coordinator to develop internships and apprenticeships for students.
“This really is all about economic development, and it was a team effort,” said Matt Crommett, director at Lyda Hill Philanthropies. Lyda Hill Philanthropies was one of over 30 local partners that wrote letters of support for the grant application and is one of the main partners behind the Pegasus Park development.
LaunchBio is a national nonprofit organization that offers resources and networking opportunities to entrepreneurs looking to expand their life science startups. The organization has networks in several life science hubs around the country, including San Francisco, New York, Durham, N.C., and Cambridge, Mass.
Pegasus Park hopes to provide Dallas-area researchers and entrepreneurs a supportive environment to build their companies and reverse the trend of company departures for more established biotech hubs. The former Mobil Corp. office campus was revitalized by J. Small Investments and Lyda Hill Philanthropies and has attracted high-profile tenants including Taysha Gene Therapies and departments of the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center.
For Crommett, the grant is a vote of confidence in the groups he has helped bring together at Pegasus Park.
“It really was a collective effort among the ecosystem to apply for this grant, which is why it’s so exciting,” he said. “It’s a huge win for North Texas to have all of this economic activity and to have it be based around the Biotech+ hub at Pegasus Park.”
The Pegasus Park campus is just one indicator of the rapid growth of the life sciences industry in North Texas. The Dallas Regional Chamber estimates that the area is home to more than 60 companies and 27,000 jobs in biotechnology and life sciences.
“What this [grant] does is it enhances a mechanism for our early-stage biotech companies to find a place and grow here,” said Duane Dankesreiter, senior vice president for research and innovation at the Dallas Regional Chamber.
Real estate firm CBRE identified the Dallas-Fort Worth area as a key emerging market in the biotech industry earlier this year, reporting that North Texas companies had secured over $310 million in venture capital funding between January and March 2021 — a 376% increase from the same time period last year.
Dankesreiter says that he has already seen more biotech companies interested in relocating to the Dallas-Fort Worth area as the industry has gained momentum in recent years.
“This is about strengthening a growing sector of our regional economy, and what they’re doing at Pegasus Park and the community that’s come together there is really strong,” he said.
Other Texas recipients of the Build to Scale program awards include the Texas Research and Technology Foundation, the University of Texas at El Paso and Trinity University. San Antonio-based TRTF will also support biotech startups with its award, using its $1.5 million in funding to support VelocityTX, a business accelerator for biotech and health technology companies. UTEP will use its $3 million award to support El Paso’s existing manufacturing sector and help connect it to the national aerospace and defense industries. Trinity will use its award to create a student-managed venture fund to distribute funding to San Antonio startups and provide students with educational opportunities.