who's who

3 Houston innovators to know this week

This week's roundup of Houston innovators includes Emma Fauss of Medical Informatics Corp., Anas Al Kassas of INOVUES, and Scott Blair of Popable. Photos courtesy

Editor's note: In this week's roundup of Houston innovators to know, I'm introducing you to three local innovators across industries — from health tech to energy efficiency — recently making headlines in Houston innovation.

Emma Fauss, CEO and co-founder of Medical Informatics Corp.

A Houston startup that created a remote monitoring and care platform has raised millions in financing. Image via michealthcare.com

Houston-based Medical Informatics Corp. closed a $17 million series B co-led by Maryland-based Catalio Capital Management and California-based Intel Capital. The financing also includes an additional $10 million in debt led by Catalio through Catalio’s structured equity strategy, according to a news release.

“We are excited to have had this round co-led by Catalio and Intel Capital," says Emma Fauss, CEO and co-founder of MIC, in the release. "Catalio brings significant financial and technical resources, while Intel Capital possesses strong operational and industry experience, and we look forward to continuing to leverage both firms’ expertise as we continue to scale.”

MIC created an FDA-cleared virtual care platform, called Sickbay, that gives health care providers and hospitals away to remotely monitor patients in any setting with vendor-neutral real-time medical device integration, workflow automation and standardization. Click here to read more.

Anas Al Kassas, founder and CEO of INOVUES

INOVUES Founder and CEO Anas Al Kassas joins the Houston Innovators Podcast to discuss how he’s moving the needle on the energy transition within the construction and architectural industries. Photo courtesy of INOVUES

An architect by trade, Anas Al Kassas says he was used to solving problems in his line of work. Each project architects take on requires building designers to be innovative and creative. A few years ago, Kassas took his problem-solving background into the entrepreneurship world to scale a process that allows for retrofitting window facades for energy efficiency.

“If you look at buildings today, they are the largest energy-consuming sector — more than industrial and more than transportation,” Kassas, founder and CEO of INOVUES, says on the Houston Innovators Podcast. “They account for up to 40 percent of energy consumption and carbon emissions.”

To meet their climate goals, companies within the built environment are making moves to transition to electric systems. This has to be done with energy efficiency in mind, otherwise it will result in grid instability.

"Energy efficiency goes hand in hand with energy transition," he explains. Read more.

Scott Blair, CEO and co-founder of Popable

Walmart and Popable are teaming up just in time for the holiday shopping season. Image courtesy of Popable

With the holidays in full swing, and small businesses looking to gain back revenues lost during the COVID-19 pandemic, Walmart and Houston-based Popable are providing the opportunity to display and sell their products at Walmart can be highly beneficial to recoup profits, and unload new and extra products to a larger audience.

“Going into the holidays the timing is pretty good for a lot of brands looking to move some access inventory that they have loaded up from last year, but this (hopefully with Walmart) will be a year-round thing,” says Popable CEO and co-founder Scott Blair. “The pop-up opportunities we’ve been seeing with brands doing reach outs so far, a lot of them are looking for stuff into January and February too.”

Popable has assisted brands secure qualified spaces, get education and resources, and build community, and connections that are vital to helping small businesses expand their visibility in the marketplace. The platform simultaneously helps retail landlords find qualified retailers from a directory of tens of thousands of brands to fill vacancies and drive traffic to their shopping centers. Read more.

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Building Houston

 
 

At-home COVID-19 testing is about to get lit. Photo via Getty Images

A Houston-based research team is tapping glow-in-the-dark materials to upgrade at-home rapid COVID-19 testing.

Researchers at the University of Houston have been rethinking the lateral flow assay (LFA) test used for at-home COVID-19 diagnostics. The traditional method indicates the sample's results with colored lines.

“We are making those lines glow-in-the-dark so that they are more detectable, so the sensitivity of the test is better,” says Richard Willson, a professor at the University of Houston, in a UH news release. He previously created a smartphone-based diagnostics app.

Willson's inspiration came from a familiar and nostalgic method — the glow-in-the-dark stars in a child's bedroom. In Willson's case, it was his daughter's bedroom, and within a few days his team of students and postdocs was designing a test featuring glowing nanoparticles made of phosphors.

The team evolved into a spin-off company called Clip Health, originally founded as Luminostics by two of the researchers. The operation is again evolving with new glowing applications.

“In this new development, there are two tricks. First, we use enzymes, proteins that catalyze reactions, to drive reactions that emit light, like a firefly. Second, we attached those light-emitting enzymes onto harmless virus particles, along with antibodies that bind to COVID proteins,” says Willson in the Royal Society of Chemistry’s journal Analyst.

The test now also can be read with a smartphone app. The group is also entertaining additional tests for other diseases.

“This technology can be used for detecting all kinds of other things, including flu and HIV, but also Ebola and biodefense agents, and maybe toxins and environmental contaminants and pesticides in food,” says Willson.

In addition to Willson, the original technology was explained in a paper with co-authors:

  • Katerina Kourentzi, University of Houston research associate professor of chemical and biomolecular engineering
  • Jacinta Conrad, Frank M. Tiller Associate Professor of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering,
  • UH researchers Maede Chabi, Binh Vu, Kristen Brosamer, Maxwell Smith, and Dimple Chavan

Researcher Richard Willson says he was inspired by the glow-in-the-dark scars on his daughter's bedroom ceiling. Photo via UH.edu

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