5 most popular innovation stories in Houston this week
Editor's note:Another week has come and gone, and it's time to round up the top headlines from the past few days. Trending Houston tech and startup news on InnovationMap included Houston mayoral candidates weighing in on the tech ecosystem, a Houston startup raising funding, and more.
Gene therapy company breaks ground on Houston biomanufacturing facility
The new development will allow PackGene to nearly triple its Houston-area workforce by the end of the year when the facility is expected to be completed. Photo courtesy of PackGene
China-based and Massachusetts-founded PackGene Biotech Inc. broke ground last week on a new 25,000-square-foot biomanufacturing and processing facility just south of NRG Park.
The full-service operations center is slated to include labs, manufacturing clean rooms, warehouse, and office space. According to a release from the company, PackGene already employs about 20 people at an existing space in Houston. The new development will allow the company to nearly triple its Houston-area workforce by the end of the year when the facility is expected to be completed.
E&K Building Group is providing design-build services on the project, and the architect of record is Perkins + Will.
"These capabilities will enable us to serve our U.S. customers better and, importantly, to help bring life-saving therapies to patients faster, more reliably, and more cost- effectively. With this, we are making great strides in advancing our mission of 'making gene therapy affordable'," LiYing Yang, PackGene's CTO, says in a statement. Read more.
Overheard: Houston mayoral candidates share their platforms for the city's tech ecosystem
Three of Houston's mayoral candidates shared the stage at Tech Rodeo to talk about how they would lead the city toward greater success within the innovation space. Photo by Natalie Harms/InnovationMap
It's an election year in Houston, and one of the big topics on the minds of the candidates is how to continue the momentum of Houston's developing innovation ecosystem.
Houston Exponential put three of the declared candidates on the stage yesterday to ask them about their vision for Houston on the final day of Houston Tech Rodeo 2023. HX CEO Natara Branch moderated the discussion with Chris Hollins, Lee Kaplan, and Amanda K. Edwards. Each candidate addressed issues from diversity and equity, the energy transition, and more. Read more.
Prestigious Houston hospital system named No. 1 large employer in Texas and No. 2 in U.S. by Forbes
Heath care organizations made up 20 percent of the top 100 employers on Forbes' list. Photo via houstonmethodist.org
Attention to all those seeking a career in the medical industry: this top city hospital is one of the best places to work for. Houston Methodist was named the best large employer in Texas, and second best employer in America, according to Forbes’ latest report.
Health care organizations are the shining stars in this year’s report; they represented 20 percent of the top 100 employers. Houston Methodist made some major improvements within the span of a year after being ranked No. 37 in Forbes' 2022 report. In another win for health care, Dallas’ University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center was placed at No. 19.
To determine their rankings, Forbes partnered with consumer data and statistics firm Statista to survey 45,000 employees at companies with a staff of 5,000 or more. The full list categorized 500 of America’s large employers that earned the most recommendations. Read more.
Houston restaurant tech now serving optimized mobile ordering
This new restaurant technology allows for eateries to upgrade to mobile ordering for no cost. Photo courtesy of Cloche
A new Houston company has designed a platform that enables mobile ordering at no cost to restaurants.
Cloche, a mobile software platform named after the bell-shape dish cover that's known to come with room service orders, has launched in Houston and is currently looking for restaurants interested in utilizing their technology to upgrade their eatery with mobile ordering at no cost to the restaurant.
Alfredo Arvide, co-founder and managing director, tells InnovationMap that the idea for the platform came after the pandemic forced restaurateurs to quickly pivot to touch-free menus. Now that the consumer has adapted to scanning QR codes to view menus, the next step is to optimize ordering — something that will also help with the labor shortages that restaurants are now facing.
"Now is the time transform this industry by creating a better meal experience for the consumers, an easier job for the restaurant staff and a more efficient, more profitable business for restaurant owners," Arvide says. Read more.
Houston health tech company closes $3M series A
Prana Thoracic, an innovative startup in the lung cancer diagnostics space, has raised its series A round of investment. Photo via LinkedIn
It's been just under six months since the launch of Prana Thoracic, a Houston health tech startup tackling lung cancer diagnostics, and the company has already secured its next round of investment funding.
Prana Thoracic, a medical device company developing a tool for early interception of lung cancer, announced last week that it closed a $3 million series A financing round led by Florida-based New World Angels with participation from Johnson & Johnson Innovation – JJDC, Inc., Texas Medical Center Venture Fund, and the University City Science Center’s Phase 1 Ventures.
In August, the company received a $3 million award from the Cancer Prevention & Research Institute of Texas. All of Prana Thoracic's funding is being used to develop the unique diagnostic product and the company's path to first-in-human clinical studies.
“Our technology provides a definitive answer to patients with lung nodules and allows physicians to intervene earlier in the lung cancer patient’s journey,” says Joanna Nathan, CEO, and co-founder of Prana, in a news release. “Our team is grateful to have the support of our investors and excited to leverage this financing to accelerate our technology to the bedside.” Read more.