HOUSTON INNOVATORS PODCAST EPISODE 164

Houston innovator gears up for commercialization for AI-driven lung cancer diagnostic tool

Jason Pesterfield, CEO of Optellum, joins the Houston Innovators Podcast to share how he plans on getting the company to commercialization right here from Houston. Photo courtesy of Optellum

When a United Kingdom-based, artificial intelligence-driven lung cancer detection tool opened its United States headquarters in Houston, the company tasked Jason Pesterfield with the role of CEO to oversee international expansion and commercialization strategy. Pesterfield, who's based out of the Texas Medical Center's Innovation Institute, is familiar with the job he's been hired to do — that's because he's done it before.

After spending almost two decades at medical technology company, Stryker, Pesterfield joined St. Louis-based Veran Medical Technologies, a company also focused on lung cancer detection, and grew the business over 8 years years to a $30 million-plus annual revenue company before it was acquired by Olympus Corp. in 2020.

After assisting with the transition, he was approached by U.K.-based Optellum's Founder Timor Kadir about taking the reins of Optellum last year to again help scale the early stage digital health company.

"I'm not a computer scientist or an algorithm guy, but I do have experience in commercialization, leading teams, building culture, acquire great talent, working with my team to build a great strategy, and working with investors to make sure we're in a good financial position," Pesterfield says on the Houston Innovators Podcast.

Optellum was founded in 2016, and first entered the Houston market by way of the TMC's accelerator program and its BioBridge with the U.K. The company's technology is an AI platform that helps practitioners diagnose and treat early-stage lung cancer. The software uses natural language processing to scan medical reports of nodules in the lungs to give health care providers more information on cancer diagnostics — an analysis that takes just seconds.

"It's like having a hundred thousand sets of eyes looking over a physician's shoulder," Pesterfield says.

In September, the company raised a $14 million series A round of funding, and Pesterfield explains how that funding is being deployed to focus on growing teams within sales, B2B support, and its research and development pipeline.

He explains on the show that Optellum is just getting started with its relationship within the Houston innovation ecosystem. Pesterfield says Optellum is even on the path to securing its first Houston-based customer.

"We're really at the beginning of it," he says. "This is the epicenter of medicine within the United States. There's no bigger or better place for health care than Houston. It's great to be a part of that and to have access to those facilities and those world class physicians and care teams."

Pesterfield share more on Optellum's future on the podcast. Listen to the interview below — or wherever you stream your podcasts — and subscribe for weekly episodes.

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Building Houston

 
 

Check out this curated list of innovation events in Houston for February. Photo via Getty Images

It's time to look at what's on the agenda for February for Houston innovators — from pitch competitions to networking events.

Here's a roundup of events not to miss this month. Mark your calendars and register accordingly.

Note: This post might be updated to add more events.

Feb. 8 — Digital Marketing Luncheon

Join Insperity, a partner of The Cannon, and digital marketing expert, Danny Gavin, at The Cannon Downtown for a lunch and learn.

The event is Wednesday, February 8, at noon, at The Cannon Downtown. Click here to register.

Feb. 9 — Innovation on Tap: Fred Higgs, Engineering at Rice University

Discuss research in the speaker’s engineering lab at Rice University on key Industry 4.0 technologies, namely additive manufacturing.

The event is Thursday, February 9, at 4 pm, at the Ion. Click here to register.

February 10 — Women in Leadership Conference 

The 23rd annual Women in Leadership Conference will be held in-person at Rice University. The conference has been a beacon of inspiration in the Houston community, empowering women to accomplish their career goals. In panel discussions and interactive workshops, attendees hear from leaders across different industries, explore various approaches to leadership, and discuss future opportunities for success.

The event is Friday, February 10, at 8 am, at McNair Hall at Rice University. Click here to register.

Feb. 15 — Real Talk from Real VCs

Join this event for a candid fireside chat on venture capital and its role in supporting and growing innovative startups.

The event is Wednesday, February 15, at 5:30 pm, at the Ion. Click here to register.

Feb. 16 — Engage VC: Lerer Hippeau

Lerer Hippeau is an early-stage venture capital firm founded and operated in New York City. Since 2010, they have invested in entrepreneurs who embody audacity, endurance, and winning mindset – good people with great ideas who aren't afraid to do hard things. Join the HX Venture Fund to hear Caitlin Strandberg, Partner at Lerer Hippeau discuss her perspective on how to build and scale a great company, what early-stage investors are looking for, why Houston, and market trends among other topics.

The event is Thursday, February 16, at 8:30 am, at the Ion. Click here to register.

Feb. 16 — Female Founders and Funders

Calling all rockstar female founders and investors in the Houston area. Mark your calendars for this month's Female Founders and Funders meetup. Coffee and breakfast is provided and the event is free to attend.

The event is Thursday, February 16, at 9 am, at Sesh Coworking. Click here to register.

Feb. 21 — Web3 & HOU: Demystifying the Web3 Space Panel I

Join us to learn more about Web3 and its numerous applications.

The event is Tuesday, February 21, at 6 pm, at the Ion. Click here to register.

Feb. 22 — The Trailblazer’s Guide to Cultivating Authenticity

In this fun and interactive workshop presented by Erica D’Eramo of Two Peirs Consulting, we’ll look at how to foster a leadership style that works for you, even in the absence of role models.

The event is Wednesday, February 22, at 2 pm, at Sesh Coworking. Click here to register.

Feb. 22 — Houston Startup Showcase

The Houston Startup Showcase is a year-long series of monthly pitch competitions. Founders will pitch at the Ion and compete for the grand prize package. Watch the startups pitch their company and see who the judges will name the champion of the Houston Startup Showcase 2023.

The event is Wednesday, February 22, at 6 pm, at the Ion. Click here to register.

Feb. 23 — Navigating Innovation in the Corporate World

Join us for a fireside chat with leaders from Houston's largest employers, including Microsoft and Chevron to discuss how they have navigated successful careers in technology and innovation.

The event is Thursday, February 23, at 11:30 am, at the Ion. Click here to register.

Feb. 27-March 2 — Houston Tech Rodeo

The Houston Tech Rodeo is a conference showcasing the best and brightest of the Houston startup community in the region and beyond by putting investors, entrepreneurs, industry leaders, and creative minds in a room to talk about the biggest innovations and the future of tech sandwiched by some happy hours and friendly competition.

The events run Monday, February 27, through Thursday, March 2, at various locations in Houston. Click here to register.

Note: This post might be updated to add more events.


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