analytics for good

Houston student launches data science nonprofit to support the health care industry

A Rice University student decided to use his data science skills for good. Photo courtesy of Biokind Analytics

For Alex Han, it all started with peanut butter.

Han was a high school student in Korea when he learned that the spread is a pure odorant that could be used to test smell in each hemisphere of the brain—issues on the left side was thought to be a predictor for Alzheimer’s disease. He later learned that the method wasn’t as airtight as previously thought, but Han was hooked. Alzheimer’s research became the teenager’s passion. While still in high school, Han began volunteering for Alzheimer’s Los Angeles, translating their brochures into Korean.

When it came time to choose a college, Han says Rice University appealed to him for many reasons.

“I loved the atmosphere. I loved the campus—it’s so beautiful. The diverse food, the people, I even liked the highway,” he says of Houston. “In Korea, everything is so close and compact. I loved the whole scenario of the city.”

A scholarship was also part of the appeal, as well as the pull of the world’s largest medical center. Han’s instincts were correct. Now, a junior at Rice, he has been working at renowned geneticist Huda Zoghbi’s Baylor College of Medicine lab for almost two years.

But dividing his obligations between full-time studies and his wet lab position wasn’t enough to keep Han’s active mind occupied. Last May, the statistics and biochemistry student began another endeavor that uses both his specialties. It was then that he founded Biokind Analytics. The nonprofit was designed to explore how data science can support health care nonprofits.

Han reached out to Alzheimer’s Los Angeles to offer his data analysis services on a volunteer basis and was shocked that the association had never considered it before.

“I was really surprised—even small stores and restaurants use statistics to boost their profits. [Alzheimer’s Los Angeles] receive a couple million dollars every year in donations. They have data stores but hadn’t really capitalized yet in the area of analytics.”

Han, along with a small team of Rice students, including vice president Zac Andrews and development director Masha Zaitsev, made Alzheimer’s Los Angeles a pet project, analyzing geospatial trends in its donorship and interpreting the past year’s donation trends. “We wanted to see if the demand was the same in Houston. We found that this pattern was consistent. A lot of nonprofits are willing to have us analyze the data sets they’ve already been tracking and provide data analysis for healthcare nonprofits.”

Less than a year after Han established Biokind Analytics, the 501(c)(3) already has seven chapters on college campuses around the country. From UC Davis and San Diego in the West to Brown University and the University of Virginia on the East Coast, the data science students have helped a diverse range of medical nonprofits, mostly based in the Houston area. They run the gamut from ALS Association of Texas to Nora’s Home, which serves organ failure and transplant patients.

Biokind Analytics has now completed seven projects and analyzed $100 million in funds. Each student group includes four to six members, mostly majors in the worlds of statistics, data science, and biochemistry, all working with the help of faculty advisors. At a total of about 35 students nationwide, Han says that he’s dedicated to growing at a steady pace to avoid potentially expanding too fast, too soon.

Another question for the future is what will happen to Biokind Analytics when Han completes his undergraduate studies in 2024. He plans to continue his medical studies with the goal of one day becoming a physician specializing in Alzheimer’s who uses data analytics to aid in patient care. But no matter how active Han continues to be in the nonprofit he started, his stated attachment to the cause and a growing group of both student leaders and healthcare associations eager for their services are sure to keep Biokind Analytics active long after graduation.

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Building Houston

 
 

The Texas Medical Center Innovation Factory has named the 16 companies making up the inaugural cohort in the Innovate UK Global Incubator Programme. Photo via tmc.edu

Sixteen digital health and medical device startups founded in the United Kingdom have been selected for a customized accelerator at the Texas Medical Center's Innovation Factory.

In partnership with Innovate UK, TMCi created the Innovate UK Global Incubator Programme, a new accelerator that supports UK businesses as they build their United States go-to-market plan. The program builds the BioBridge relationship between TMC and the UK that was originally established five years ago.

“The TMC UK BioBridge program was launched with the UK Department for Business and Trade in 2018 to serve as a gateway for advancing life sciences and foster innovation and research between our two countries," says Ashley McPhail, chief external affairs and administration officer for TMC, in a news release. "We saw an opportunity to work with Innovate UK to develop a larger program with the UK after the success of the 11 companies that previously participated in our health tech accelerator."

The 16 companies will participate in the program from June to November. The cohort is expected to arrive in Houston on June 5 and have access to TMCi's facilities, network of mentors and potential clients, funding, potential customers, and curated programing — all while being a unique entry point into the US. The new offering joins three other globally recognized curriculums: Biodesign, Accelerator for Cancer Therapeutics, and Health Tech.

“TMCi nurtures long-term growth, development, and competitiveness to increase startups chances of success and global expansion," says Emily Reiser, associate director of TMC Innovation. "By bringing their novel technologies and exposing them to a curated selection of TMC’s expert network, startups receive support and evaluation to build, scale, and expand in the US market."

Two of the cohort's specialties include cardiovascular and oncology — two of TMC's strongest areas of expertise — with solutions ranging from surgical devices to AI-enabled risk stratification and hospital efficiency.

Innovate UK is the country's national innovation agency dedicated to supporting business-led innovation in all sectors.

“The United Kingdom is fully committed to improving global healthcare through scientific collaboration," says His Majesty’s Consul General in Texas Richard Hyde in the release. "Through the expansion of the TMC UK BioBridge and in partnership with Innovate UK, this programme will help to expose the brightest and best British companies to the world’s largest medical city. Our companies will collaborate and grow as they work to develop cutting edge technology. The partnership between the UK Government and TMC demonstrates that international collaboration can drive both economic growth and improvement to quality of life.”

The 16 companies making up the inaugural cohort are as follows, according to TMC.

  • AINOSTICS aims to revolutionize the treatment and prevention of neurological conditions, such as dementia, by developing innovative AI-enabled solutions that draw novel insights from routinely acquired non-invasive medical scans to deliver accurate diagnosis and outcome prediction, and in turn facilitate personalized care and timely access to disease-modifying treatments for patients.
  • Alvie is a blended human plus AI-enabled digital solution providing personalised pre and rehabilitation coaching and supportive care for cancer and surgery. Alvie's technology combines data profiling, risk-stratification and tailored prescriptions of health and well-being with curated educational content, targeted behaviour change coaching and expert support through chat messaging and virtual consultations.
  • C the Signs™ is a validated AI cancer prediction platform, which can identify patients at risk of cancer at the earliest and most curable stage of the disease. Used by healthcare professionals, C the Signs can identify which tumor type a patient is at risk of and recommend the most appropriate next step in less than 30 seconds. The platform has detected over 10,000 patients with cancer, with over 50 different types of cancer diagnosed, and with a sensitivity of >98% for cancer.
  • At PEP Health, We believe all patients deserve the best care possible. Our cutting-edge machine-learning technology enables healthcare organisations, regulators, and insurers the real-time, actionable insights they need to have a direct and dramatic impact on patient experiences.
  • PreciousMD improves the lives of lung-cancer and other lung-related illnesses patients worldwide by enabling imaging-based diagnostics needed for personalized treatment pathways.
  • Ufonia is an autonomous telemedicine company, we use large language models and voice AI to increase the capacity of clinical professionals.
  • My mhealth offers digital therapeutics for a range of long-term conditions- COPD, Asthma, Diabetes and Heart Disease. Our product has been successfully deployed in the UK and India, with >100,000 users registered to date. Our solutions empower patients to self-manage their conditions, resulting in dramatic improvements in outcomes, as evidenced through multiple clinical trials and real-world evaluations.
  • At Surgery Hero, we offer a clinically backed solution that ensures whole-human support before and after surgery. We help health systems, employers and health plans cut costs without sacrificing quality of care.
  • Panakeia's software platform enables extremely rapid multi-omics profiling in minutes directly from routinely used tissue images without needing wet lab assays.
  • QV Bioelectronics are striving to deliver longer, better quality lives for brain tumour patients. Using their first-of-its-kind implantable electric field therapy device, GRACE, QV will provide effective, focal & continuous treatment without impacting patient quality of life.
  • 52 North is a med-tech company focused on improving health outcomes and health equity by reinventing care pathways. The NeutroCheck® solution is a finger-prick blood test and digital platform built to significantly improve safety and quality of life for cancer patients, by helping to identify at-home those patients who are at risk of the most fatal side-effect of chemotherapy: neutropenic sepsis.
  • Somnus is fulfilling an unmet need in global healthcare by developing real-time, point of care blood propofol monitoring. Its products will improve the care of sedated and anaesthetised patients, save money for hospitals, and facilitate a major reduction in greenhouse gas emissions.
  • ScubaTx is a breakthrough organ transplant preservation company established to solve the global unmet need for cost-efficient and longer-duration organ preservation technology. ScubaTx has developed a simple, small and affordable device which uses Persufflation to extend the preservation of organs.
  • IBEX is on a mission to help people live active, healthy and productive lives by increasing their access to early diagnosis of osteoporosis. The IBEX BH software as medical device delvers routine, automated assessment of fracture risk from routine radiology for earlier detection and more equitable treatment of osteoporosis.
  • NuVision produces products derived from donated human amniotic membrane that are used in ophthalmology to help patients with chronic, traumatic and post-surgical wounds of the eye to be treated earlier and recover more fully and more quickly. The company’s products are also used in the management of dry eye disease, a debilitating conditions that affects around 17m people in the USA.
  • Calon Cardio-Technology is on a mission to improve quality of life for patients with Left Ventricular Assist devices (LVAD) and reduce the common post operative complications associated with these implantable heart pumps. We plan to do this by introducing a completely wireless heart pump system and augment patient follow-up with built-in remote monitoring capabilities.

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