and the winner is
Houston organization doles out over $775,000 in prizes to women-led health tech startups
After virtual and postponed events, Ignite Healthcare Network finally got to honor its 2021 cohort and name the annual winners.
The Fifth Annual Fire Pitch Competition was slated to take place last November, but was postponed to January. Affected by the Delta and then Omicron variants of COVID-19, the event finally got to return to in-person networking and pitches on Thursday, March 3.
"The opportunity to bring people together is a really different level of engagement and energy," Ayse McCracken, founder and board chair of Ignite, says ahead of the awards event. "We love seeing the energy that's being generated in Houston around innovation — and particularly health care innovation."
Seven companies pitched and three were awarded monetary prizes. Morgantown, West Virginia-based Endolumik, which has developed a patent-pending fluorescence-guided device to improve visualization and safety of robotic and laparoscopic bariatric operations, took home the top prize, which included a total of $500,000 in investment prizes from the Texas Medical Center Venture Fund and Wavemaker Three-Sixty Health.
Second place was awarded to Rx Bandz of Locust Valley, New York. The company created the MiniJect, the world’s smallest military-grade auto-injector designed to deliver a wide range of injectable medication, and was awarded $250,000 from the Texas Halo Fund and $25,000 from The Southwest National Pediatric Device Innovation Consortium.
San Antonio-based Hera Biotech took third place and was awarded a pilot program prize with Banner Health. Hera has developed the first non-surgical, tissue-based test capable of diagnosing endometriosis.
Ignite taps into Houston health care institutions to provide opportunities for its cohort of companies. According to a news release, this year’s partner organizations included Houston Methodist, Memorial Hermann Health System, Texas Children’s Hospital, Texas Children’s Pediatrics, The Menninger Clinic, Banner Health, Kindred Healthcare, Aetna, Commonwealth Care Alliance, BLUE KC, Hospital for Special Surgery, Summit Health, TMC Ventures, Texas Heart Institute, Golden Seeds, Portfolia, The Artemis Fund, Wavemaker 360 Health, Prosalus Capital Partners, 7Wire Ventures, Texas Halo Fund, Unity Point Ventures and others.
The judges who evaluated the competition’s panel of companies included:
- Jay Goss, MBA General Partner, Wavemaker Three-Sixty Health
- Amanda Hammel, Chief Information Officer, Memorial Hermann Health System
- Karen Hill, MD, MBA, SVP and Chief Medical Officer, Texas Children’s Health Plan
- Tom Luby, PhD, Director, Texas Medical Center Innovation Institute
- Fiona Mack, PhD, Head of JLABS @TMC
- Roberta Schwartz, PhD, EVP and Chief Innovation Officer, Houston Methodist Hospital
- Andrew Truscott, Global Health Technology Lead, Accenture