Cancer drug upstart adds $18M in venture cash to state grant

Dallas-based cancer drug upstart Peloton Therapeutics has rounded up an $18 million Series A to finance its development work on a group of compounds identified in labs at UT Southwestern. And the money is being added to an $11 million grant Peloton garnered from Texas' high-profile cancer research program.

The biotech was founded by Steven L. McKnight, the chairman of biochemistry at UT Southwestern. In its release, Peloton noted that McKnight's high-throughput screening lab was responsible for finding the compounds that are now part of its pipeline. The Column Group led the round, joined by Remeditex Ventures and Peter O'Donnell, Jr. John A. Josey, the former VP of discovery chemistry at Array BioPharma is joining Peloton as president and CSO.

While top research institutions in Houston and Dallas have provided the state significant attention in the scientific field, Texas is not known as a thriving hub for biotechnology. The state set out to remedy that with the $3 billion public bond program used to support the Cancer Prevention and Research Institute of Texas, which has helped bankroll Peloton and a number of other companies.

"Peloton is an emblem of the emerging Texas-based biotechnology community, and CPRIT is delighted to contribute to its potential success in developing breakthrough cancer therapeutics and delivering significant value to cancer patients and their families. We anticipate a long and productive collaborative relationship," said Jerry Cobbs, CPRIT's chief commercialization officer.

- see the Peloton release