LaunchBio Gets $750K From U.S. Department of Commerce's $36.5M 'Build to Scale' Program » Dallas Innovates

The U.S. Assistant Secretary of Commerce for Economic Development today unveiled the 50 organizations that will receive grants totaling $36.5 million as part of the U.S. Economic Development Administration’s Fall 2021 “Build to Scale” program. One North Texan made the cut: LaunchBio.

LaunchBio works together with BioLabs, Lyda Hill Philanthropies, and J. Small Investments at Dallas’ Pegasus Park to accelerate the entrepreneurial support network for the fast-growing North Texas biotech ecosystem. The region’s academic research institutions, corporate partners, and investors are a key part of that ecosystem as well.

By boosting startups with potential, the EDA hopes to build resilient regional economies. That means creating job growth, generating economic opportunities, and supporting emerging industry pioneers.

The “Build to Scale” program—led and managed by the Office of Innovation and Entrepreneurship at the U.S. EDA, an agency under the United States Department of Commerce—increases otherwise inclusive access to business support and startup capital.

Through the program’s two grant competitions—the Venture Challenge and Capital Challenge—it aims to further accelerate technology entrepreneurship, innovation, and economic development initiatives.

Inside LaunchBio’s Venture Challenge Build proposal

LaunchBio’s proposal was selected as one of the 2021 Venture Challenge Grant recipients. The startup—one of only four Texas grantees—was awarded $750,000.

Becky Beattie

It’s a “huge win” for Dallas and the Biotech+ Hub at Pegasus Park, according to Becky Beattie, LaunchBio’s CEO.

The national nonprofit network of life sciences innovators expanded to Dallas last year. 

California-based LaunchBio’s proposal for the Venture Challenge focuses on North Texas. (It’s listed under Dallas in the U.S. Economic Development Administration’s official release.)

CEO Beattie wrote in an email today that a number of planning meetings, introductions, collaborative discussions, and letters of support resulted in the successful proposal.

For the Venture Challenge, which “seeks to support entrepreneurship and accelerate company growth in communities, regions, or combinations of regions,” LaunchBio put forth a three-year proposal. The Capital Challenge aims to increase access to capital in communities where it’s in short supply.

The proposal, “Development of the Biotech+ Hub at Pegasus Park to Build the Ecosystem for Life Sciences Entrepreneurs in North Texas,” focuses on how to leverage, expand, coordinate, and enhance existing resources in North Texas to establish the region as a globally recognized entrepreneurial ecosystem.

Beattie wrote in her email:

“With the help of this grant, our goal is to create a place-based entrepreneurial network to propel life science innovation in North Texas that will attract and retain local and external talent. Ultimately, this work will invigorate the region’s economy with the development of scalable startups through strategic combinations of capital, entrepreneurial and scientific talent, focused marketing, and local and national collaborations.”

LaunchBio’s Dallas journey with Pegasus Park

In December 2020 it was announced that Dallas was getting its first-ever ThinkLab program, a non-seed startup accelerator from LaunchBio that aims to advance the commercialization of biotech, medtech, and digital health technologies.

In partnership with TechFW and the the UTSW Office of Technology Development, LaunchBio selected eight local startups, all “first-time scientist entrepreneurs,” to participate in a 12-week virtual intensive training program that helps entrepreneurs create a business plan and connect to resources and mentors.

The goal was that the startups would one day locate their companies in Pegasus Park. There was already a ThinkLab program in Fort Worth with a successful track record, but this was the first TechFW ThinkLab cohort uniquely geared toward biotech and life science companies.

Pegasus Park is a mixed-use social purpose project from Lyda Hill Philanthropies and J. Small Investments that’s meant to accelerate local life science and healthcare discoveries and boost nonprofit resiliency. Situated on 23 acres near the Dallas Design District and the Southwestern Medical District, the campus boasts a high-rise office tower, state-of-the-art facilities and amenities, and an innovative design.

Pegasus Park [Rendering: GFF]

The park’s main four components are a biotech+ hub, a nonprofit hub, commercial tenants, and entertainment/dining venues. The eventual goal is to make Pegasus the go-to place for early-stage life sciences companies to develop into high-growth ventures.

The ThinkLab cohort was also made possible in partnership with Pegasus Park.

“We’re strengthening the support network for scientists in Dallas who want to take a game-changing idea from the research lab to the marketplace for the benefit of human health,” Beattie previously said. “It’s part of LaunchBio’s overall strategy to elevate the North Texas region’s standing as a top-tier biotech hub.”

Also earlier this year, global law firm DLA Piper formed a new partnership with LaunchBio to provide educational programs and connections for local scientist entrepreneurs. The intent was to create a network that can boost companies locating to the Biotech+ Hub at Pegasus Park.

More on “Build to Scale”

The 50 organizations awarded grants today included a mix of nonprofits, higher education institutions, state government agencies, and entrepreneurship-focused entities from 26 states.

“Investing in scalable startups and creating access to capital will yield more economic opportunities and support the next generation of industry-leading companies,” Assistant Secretary of Commerce for Economic Development Alejandra Y. Castillo said in a statement. “This is the type of vital work that President Biden’s build back better agenda promises to continue to support.”

According to the U.S. Economic Development Administration, the 2021 awardees will be able to leverage an additional $40 million in matching funds from private and public sector sources. You can explore the rest of the recipients here.

“The ‘Build to Scale’ program strengthens entrepreneurial ecosystems across the country that are essential in the Biden Administration’s efforts to build back better,” Secretary of Commerce Gina M. Raimondo said in a news release. “This work is critical in developing the innovation and entrepreneurship our country needs to build back better and increase American competitiveness on the global stage.”

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