big move

Fortune 100 company moves materials tech biz HQ to Houston

Honeywell has once again bet on the Bayou City for business. Photo courtesy of Parkway

A nearly $10 billion division of Honeywell International that primarily caters to the oil and gas industry has moved its headquarters to Houston.

On August 11, Charlotte, North Carolina-based Honeywell announced its Performance Materials and Technologies (PMT) division had completed its relocation to the Westchase area's nearly 1.5 million-square-foot CityWestPlace office complex where the company already has operations.

PMT joins one its units, Honeywell's Process Solutions business, at CityWestPlace. The Process Solutions business and about 750 employees relocated there from 1250 Sam Houston Parkway South in 2019.

At CityWestPlace, PMT is adding a customer center where it can showcase automation products and services.

With the PMT relocation, Honeywell now employs more than 850 people in Houston. Representatives of Honeywell decline to say where PMT was previously based.

"Houston [is] a diverse and rapidly growing city, and locating our headquarters here will help us meet our long-term needs to recruit and retain premier talent in our industry. It will also allow us to build closer, more impactful relationships with our Texas-based customers," Vimal Kapur, the new president and CEO of PMT, says in a news release.

Before coming to Houston to take the reins of PMT, Kapur was president of CEO of Atlanta-based Honeywell Building Technologies. He has worked at Honeywell for more than three decades.

Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner says PMT's move to Houston offers another example of how the city is leading innovation in the global energy sector.

"As the energy capital of the world, Houston has the talent and expertise to amplify Honeywell's sustainability work. And with their focus on key components of the energy transition, including carbon capture, energy storage and hydrogen, Honeywell's PMT business unit will serve as a critical partner in Houston's effort to lead the energy transition," Turner says.

PMT provides performance chemicals and materials, process technology, and automation technology for an array of industries, including oil and gas. It posted net sales of $9.4 billion in 2020, down from $10.8 billion in 2019. Honeywell, a Fortune 100 conglomerate, reported net sales of $32.6 billion last year.

Competitors of PMT include ABB, BASF, Dupont, and Emerson Electric.

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Building Houston

 
 

From a low-cost vaccine to an app that can help reduce exposure, here are the latest COVID-focused and Houston-based research projects. Photo via Getty Images

While it might seem like the COVID-19 pandemic has settled down for the time being, there's plenty of innovative research ongoing to create solutions for affordable vaccines and tech-enabled protection against the spread of the virus.

Some of that research is happening right here in Houston. Here are two innovative projects in the works at local institutions.

UH researcher designs app to monitor best times to shop

A UH professor is putting safe shopping at your fingertips. Photo via UH.edu

When is the best time to run an errand in the pandemic era we currently reside? There might be an app for that. Albert Cheng, professor of computer science and electrical and computer engineering at the University of Houston, is working on a real-time COVID-19 infection risk assessment and mitigation system. He presented his plans at the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers conference HPC for Urgent Decision Making and will publish the work in IEEE Xplore.

Cheng's work analyzes up-to-date data from multiple open sources to see when is the best time to avoid crowds and accomplish activities outside the home.

"Preliminary work has been performed to determine the usability of a number of COVID-19 data websites and other websites such as grocery stores and restaurants' popular times and traffic," Cheng says in a UH release. "Other data, such as vaccination rates and cultural factors (for example, the percentage of people willing to wear facial coverings or masks in an area), are also used to determine the best grocery store to shop in within a time frame."

To use the app, a user would input their intended destinations and the farthest distance willing to go, as well as the time frame of the trip. The risk assessment and mitigation system, or RT-CIRAM, then "provides as output the target location and the time interval to reach there that would reduce the chance of infections," said Cheng.

There's a lot to it, says Cheng, and the process is highly reliant on technology.

"We are leveraging urgent high-performance cloud computing, coupled with time-critical scheduling and routing techniques, along with our expertise in real-time embedded systems and cyber-physical systems, machine learning, medical devices, real-time knowledge/rule-based decision systems, formal verification, functional reactive systems, virtualization and intrusion detection," says Cheng.

2 Houston hospitals team up with immunotherapy company for new vaccine for Africa

The new vaccine will hopefully help mitigate spread of the disease in Sub-Saharan Africa. Photo via bcm.edu

Baylor College of Medicine and Texas Children's Hospital have teamed up with ImmunityBio Inc. — a clinical-stage immunotherapy company — under a licensing agreement to develop a safe, effective and affordable COVID-19 vaccine.

BCM has licensed out a recombinant protein COVID-19 vaccine candidate that was developed at the Texas Children's Hospital Center for Vaccine Development to ImmunityBio. According to the release, the company engaged in license negotiations with the BCM Ventures team, about the vaccine that could address the current pandemic needs in South Africa.

"We hope that our COVID-19 vaccine for global health might become an important step towards advancing vaccine development capacity in South Africa, and ultimately for all of Sub-Saharan Africa," says Dr. Peter Hotez, professor and dean of the National School of Tropical Medicine at Baylor and co-director of the Texas Children's Hospital Center for Vaccine Development.

ImmunityBio, which was founded in 2014 by Dr. Patrick Soon-Shiong, is working on innovative immunotherapies that address serious unmet needs in infectious diseases, according to a news release from BCM.

"There is a great need for second-generation vaccines, which are accessible, durable and offer broad protection against the emerging variants," says Soon-Shiong. "ImmunityBio has executed on a heterologous ("mix-and-match") strategy to develop a universal COVID-19 vaccine. To accomplish this, we have embarked upon large-scale good manufacturing practices and development of DNA (adenovirus), RNA (self-amplifying mRNA) and subunit protein (yeast) vaccine platforms. This comprehensive approach will leverage our expertise in these platforms for both infectious disease and cancer therapies."

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