future of health care

Houston medtech company helping to get health care innovations from idea to exit

Houston-based BioTex works with medical device and health tech companies from all stages, from R&D to commercialization. Photo via biotexmedical.com

Founding a health tech company is a process unlike any other startup. From the regulatory phase to clinical trials, health tech innovators face a long runway from idea to market, but a Houston-based organization has been working for over 20 years to help make that take-off process run more smoothly.

Ashok Gowda founded BioTex Inc. in 1998, and at the time he was finishing up his PhD at Texas A&M University and wanted a company to support his own health tech ideas, including Visualase Inc. After the real-time tissue monitoring system exited to Medtronic for over $100 million, Gowda realized he can put everything he had learned from taking Visualase from idea to exit and apply it to new medical device innovation.

"Ultimately we built a nice infrastructure by supporting (the Visualase) spin out," Gowda tells InnovationMap. "And we learned a lot about not just product development, but about commercializing and creating a new market that may not exist. And we had some really good, experienced commercial folks we had hired on the Visualase side. I just think it's a good learning lesson that you can't really teach this stuff — you gotta experience it really to understand."

At this point, BioTex has worked with over 40 medical device and health tech companies in some capacity — from early prototyping and research and development to FDA approval, manufacturing, and even distribution. With a staff of around 50 and an 18,000-square-foot facility just south of the Texas Medical Center, BioTex can support around 10 to 15 clients at a time — usually in the medical device sector but across specialties from neurosurgery, cardiology, radiology, urology, gynecology, orthopedics, anesthesia, and more.

BioTex has an 18,000-square-foot facility just south of the Texas Medical Center with R&D space for its clients. Photo via biotexmedical.com

"It's a pretty broad experience, and I think it gives us a good perspective when we talk to a physician or a group of entrepreneurs — we can pretty easily get up to speed or understand the problem because we've usually worked in this space before," Gowda says.

With the infrastructure BioTex has in place, Gowda says he still sees one aspect of health tech development that needs more attention.

"There are obviously a lot of really good ideas here and a lot of push to try to get those ideas to market. But, there are very few of those that have gotten to market and to become commercial products," Gowda says. "It does require a lot of capital to bring medical technology to market — and it usually requires a lot of time as well."

Health tech founders facing the long runway of development usually need enough funds to support them through the process — as well as the know how and support BioTex has.

"We think we solve few of these problems with our in-house expertise, but the one that we are now focused on and trying to solve is the funding gap," Gowda says. "When we see a good idea or a technology, we want to help them get that to market and not let that lack of funding be an impediment."

Ashok Gowda is the president and CEO of BioTex. Photo via biotexmedical.com

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Dr. Peter Hotez and Dr. Maria Elena Bottazzi have been recognized by Fast Company for their leadership in developing low-cost COVID vaccine. Photo courtesy of Texas Children's

This week, Fast Company announced its 14th annual list of Most Creative People in Business — and two notable Houstonians made the cut.

Dr. Peter Hotez and his fellow dean of the National School of Tropical Medicine at Baylor College of Medicine, Dr. Maria Elena Bottazzi, were named among the list for “open sourcing a COVID-19 Vaccine for the rest of the world.” The list, which recognizes individuals making a cultural impact via bold achievements in their field, is made up of influential leaders in business.

Hotez and Bottazzi are also co-directors for the Texas Children's Hospital's Center for Vaccine Development -one of the most cutting-edge vaccine development centers in the world. For the past two decades it has acquired an international reputation as a non-profit Product Development Partnership (PDP), advancing vaccines for poverty-related neglected tropical diseases (NTDs) and emerging infectious diseases of pandemic importance. One of their most notable achievements is the development of a vaccine technology leading to CORBEVAX, a traditional, recombinant protein-based COVID-19 vaccine.

"It's an honor to be recognized not only for our team's scientific efforts to develop and test low cost-effective vaccines for global health, but also for innovation in sustainable financing that goes beyond the traditional pharma business model," says Hotez in a statement.

The technology was created and engineered by Texas Children's Center for Vaccine Development specifically to combat the worldwide problem of vaccine access and availability. Biological E Limited (BE) developed, produced and tested CORBEVAX in India where over 60 million children have been vaccinated so far.

Earlier this year, the doctors were nominated for the 2022 Nobel Peace Prize for their research and vaccine development of the vaccine. Its low cost, ease of production and distribution, safety, and acceptance make it well suited for addressing global vaccine inequity.

"We appreciate the recognition of our efforts to begin the long road to 'decolonize' the vaccine development ecosystem and make it more equitable. We hope that CORBEVAX becomes one of a pipeline of new vaccines developed against many neglected and emerging infections that adversely affect global public health," says Bottazzi in the news release from Texas Children's.

Fast Company editors and writers research candidates for the list throughout the year, scouting every business sector, including technology, medicine, engineering, marketing, entertainment, design, and social good. You can see the complete list here

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