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5 most popular innovation stories in Houston this week

Houston was named a top city for minority entrepreneur success, a coworking space snags deal with Chevron venture arm, innovators to know, and more are this week's trending stories. Photo by PeopleImages

Editor's note: This week's news has hit all industries — from locally-sourced meal kits to a new digital home buying and selling platform entering the Houston market. Check out this week's most read stories.

Houston named a top city for minority entrepreneur success

The Bayou City has been named the top Texas metro for minority entrepreneurial success. Photo by Zview/Getty Images

Houston reigns as the top major metro area in Texas for successful minority entrepreneurs, a new study shows.

The Houston area ranks No. 11 in the study, done by lending marketplace LendingTree, with Dallas-Fort Worth at No. 17, Austin at No. 29, and San Antonio at No. 34. In all, the study measures the success of minority entrepreneurs in the country's 50 largest metro areas. Continue reading the full story here.

Chevron venture arm enters partnership with West Houston coworking space

Chevron Technology Venture will have an office in the new, 120,000-square-foot coworking space The Cannon is expecting to open this spring. Courtesy of The Cannon

As corporate venture grows as a presence in oil and gas, more and more startups have access to funding from large corporations. Aware of the corporate venturing trend, The Cannon, a West Houston coworking space, has formed a partnership with Chevron Technology Ventures, Chevron's venture arm that's currently based in Downtown Houston.

CTV will have an office and regular office hours in The Cannon's new, 30-acre campus that is expected to open this spring. Continue reading the full story here.

Houston nutritionist introduces new, locally sourced meal delivery business

The Bayou City has its own Blue Apron-style startup with locally sourced produce. Courtesy of The Blonde Pantry

Marla Murphy, a local entrepreneur and nutritionist, has helped Houstonians make healthy decisions with her food blog and consulting company for years, but she wasn't sure she was doing enough.

"I didn't feel like I was making as big of an impact as I could have," Murphy says.

Murphy took this feeling and ran with it. She decided to relaunch her company, The Blonde Pantry, in March of last year she says to create the only local meal delivery service for the greater Houston area. Continue reading the full story here.

3 Houston innovators to know this week

From a former astronaut to growing software company leaders, here are three innovators to know. Courtesy photos

This week's set of innovators to know are familiar with pivoting careers. All three had successful careers — from energy finance to space exploration — before jumping into a new field. And each set of prior experience prepared them for what they are doing today. Continue reading the full story here.

Digital home buying and selling tool expands to Houston market

A growing digital home sales platform has moved into town. Courtesy photo

A Phoenix-based real estate company has expanded to the Houston market and opened a new office in town.

First launched in 2015, Offerpad is a tech-enabled home buying and selling solution. As of October, Offerpad had expanded to 534 cities with access to an estimated 6.7 million home-owning households. Continue reading the full story here.

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Building Houston

 
 

This UH engineer is hoping to make his mark on cancer detection. Photo via UH.edu

Early stage cancer is hard to detect, mostly because traditional diagnostic imaging cannot detect tumors smaller than a certain size. One Houston innovator is looking to change that.

Wei-Chuan Shih, professor of electrical and computer engineering at the University of Houston's Cullen College of Engineering, recently published his findings in IEEE Sensors journal. According to a news release from UH, the cells around cancer tumors are small — ~30-150nm in diameter — and complex, and the precise detection of these exosome-carried biomarkers with molecular specificity has been elusive, until now.

"This work demonstrates, for the first time, that the strong synergy of arrayed radiative coupling and substrate undercut can enable high-performance biosensing in the visible light spectrum where high-quality, low-cost silicon detectors are readily available for point-of-care application," says Shih in the release. "The result is a remarkable sensitivity improvement, with a refractive index sensitivity increase from 207 nm/RIU to 578 nm/RIU."

Wei-Chuan Shih is a professor of electrical and computer engineering at the University of Houston's Cullen College of Engineering. Photo via UH.edu

What Shih has done is essentially restored the electric field around nanodisks, providing accessibility to an otherwise buried enhanced electric field. Nanodisks are antibody-functionalized artificial nanostructures which help capture exosomes with molecular specificity.

"We report radiatively coupled arrayed gold nanodisks on invisible substrate (AGNIS) as a label-free (no need for fluorescent labels), cost-effective, and high-performance platform for molecularly specific exosome biosensing. The AGNIS substrate has been fabricated by wafer-scale nanosphere lithography without the need for costly lithography," says Shih in the release.

This process speeds up screening of the surface proteins of exosomes for diagnostics and biomarker discovery. Current exosome profiling — which relies primarily on DNA sequencing technology, fluorescent techniques such as flow cytometry, or enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay (ELISA) — is labor-intensive and costly. Shih's goal is to amplify the signal by developing the label-free technique, lowering the cost and making diagnosis easier and equitable.

"By decorating the gold nanodisks surface with different antibodies (e.g., CD9, CD63, and CD81), label-free exosome profiling has shown increased expression of all three surface proteins in cancer-derived exosomes," said Shih. "The sensitivity for detecting exosomes is within 112-600 (exosomes/μL), which would be sufficient in many clinical applications."

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