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Exclusive: Houston biotech coworking spot expands with new wet lab space

Houston has some much-needed new lab space in the Texas Medical Center. Photo courtesy of CUBIO

While Houston has been recognized as an emerging hub for life sciences, access to lab space is a huge factor in that equation — and one where the city has room for improvement.

CUBIO Innovation Center, located in the heart of the Texas Medical Center, has witnessed that first hand. First opening as a larger coworking concept, CEO Wesley Okeke says it was the smaller lab space that was booked every day. CUBIO pivoted and redistributed their operations to offer more dry lab space to its tenants. Now, the organization is ready to reach the next stage by introducing a new wet lab that opens doors for biotech innovators who need specific infrastructure, equipment, and environment.

“We have all the necessary equipment for a fully functioning biotech lab,” Okeke tells InnovationMap.

"For those working with cell culture, the dry lab provides almost no resources or infrastructure for you to build it out," he continues. "A wet lab brings in the necessary equipment and environment to be successful in developing pharmaceuticals, drug delivery devices, whatever you need in the biotech space.”

The new space can support 15 early stage biotech startups. Photo courtesy of CUBIO

Most of Houston's wet lab space is housed in academic or health care institutions. Getting into those labs can be competitive and complicated, especially when it comes to intellectual property. CUBIO wanted to offer an alternative for early stage biotech teams working on a tight budget and not looking for a long-term commitment.

“When it comes to finding wet lab space, it’s almost nonexistent," Okeke says. "There are a very few out there, but there are very few considering the ecosystem of biotech research in Houston.”

Okeke says CUBIO has seen interest from out-of-town startups looking for space — and not being able to find it without building it themselves.

"We have created what we call lab offices, which could be individual labs, but we have a main area with all our equipment," he says.

And the new space has room to grow. Right now, CUBIO can support 15 companies in its space. With potential to expand on its current sixth floor and to the fifth floor as well, that could grow to a capacity of 50 companies.

Monthly rent starts at $400 for a workbench and up to $950 for a private office and a workbench in the lab. All of CUBIO's memberships options include incubation support from the team and its network of mentors and experts.

“My personal dream and vision is to help these startups in Houston get what they need — get the resources they need and the support they need to launch," Okeke says.

The CUBIO team offers incubation support for its tenant startups. Photo courtesy of CUBIO

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Cemvita reported a successful pilot program on its gold hydrogen project in the Permian Basin. Photo courtesy of Cemvita

Houston-based cleantech startup Cemvita Factory is kicking things into high gear with its Gold Hydrogen product.

After successfully completing a pilot test of Gold Hydrogen in the oil-rich Permian Basin of West Texas, Cemvita has raised an undisclosed amount of funding through its new Gold H2 LLC spin-out. The lead investors are Georgia-based equipment manufacturer Chart Industries and 8090 Industries, an investment consortium with offices in New York City and Los Angeles.

Gold Hydrogen provides carbon-neutral hydrogen obtained from depleted oil and gas wells. This is achieved through bioengineering subsurface microbes in the wells to consume carbon and generate clean hydrogen.

Cemvita says it set up Gold H2 to commercialize the business via licensing, joint ventures, and outright ownership of hydrogen assets.

“We have incredible conviction in next-generation clean hydrogen production methods that leverage the vast and sprawling existing infrastructure and know-how of the oil and gas industry,” Rayyan Islam, co-founder and general partner of 8090 Industries, says in a news release.

Traditional methods of producing hydrogen without greenhouse gas emissions include electrolysis powered by renewable sources like wind, solar or water, according to Cemvita. However, production of green hydrogen through normal avenues eats up a lot of energy and money, the startup says.

By contrast, Cemvita relies on depleted oil and gas wells to cheaply produce carbon-free hydrogen.

“The commercialization and economics of the hydrogen economy will require technologies that produce the hydrogen molecule at a meaningful scale with no carbon emissions. Gold H2 is leading the charge … ,” says Jill Evanko, president and CEO of Chart Industries.

Investors in Cemvita include Oxy Low Carbon Ventures, an investment arm of Houston-based Occidental Petroleum, as well as BHP Group, Mitsubishi, and United Airlines Ventures.

Oxy Low Carbon Ventures and United Airlines Ventures are financing Cemvita’s work on sustainable jet fuel. United Airlines operates a hub at George Bush Intercontinental Airport Houston.

Founded by brother-and-sister team Moji and Tara Karimi in 2017, Cemvita uses synthetic biology to turn carbon dioxide into chemicals and alternative fuels.

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