van no-gogh

Immersive art company featuring high-tech shows in Houston files for bankruptcy

Immersive Van Gogh will go no more. Photo by Michael Brosilow

An innovative digital production company, Lighthouse Immersive, whose "immersive" exhibits became a buzz during the height of the pandemic, has filed for Chapter 15 bankruptcy.

According to Bloomberg News, the company, which put on multiple high-profile immersive art exhibitions across the U.S. including Houston, Dallas, and San Antonio, was last profitable in 2021; but attendance dropped off after the pandemic.

Founded in Toronto in 2019, the company helped spearhead the immersive fad, first and most famously here in Houston with its 2021 Van Gogh exhibit, followed by multiple digital light shows across Houston and the U.S. including Frida Kahlo, Monet & The Impressionists, King Tut, Nutcracker, and its most recent, the immersive Disney Animation Experience.

However, in June, the company abruptly canceled the Disney show, both in Houston and Dallas — a move that appears to have been an omen of the company's financial woes. Oddly, that exhibition remains open in San Antonio through August 13.

Industry publication The Art Newspaper expressed surprise at the bankruptcy given the company's business model.

"Given the high cost of tickets ($35 a piece) and the low cost of using images that had entered the public domain, Lighthouse Immersive's operations were widely believed to be a profitable concept," says the publication.

However, these exhibits were not cheap to produce: Organizers quoted startup costs at a minimum of $1 million all the way up to $15 million to create an immersive pop-up, with expensive gear such as fiberoptic cables and Panasonic projectors.

The company has not revealed its plans nor what will happen to the venues they used in each city; they did not respond to a request for comment.


This article originally ran on CultureMap.

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A research team housed out of the newly launched Rice Biotech Launch Pad received funding to scale tech that could slash cancer deaths in half. Photo via Rice University

A research funding agency has deployed capital into a team at Rice University that's working to develop a technology that could cut cancer-related deaths in half.

Rice researchers received $45 million from the National Institutes of Health's Advanced Research Projects Agency for Health, or ARPA-H, to scale up development of a sense-and-respond implant technology. Rice bioengineer Omid Veiseh leads the team developing the technology as principal investigator.

“Instead of tethering patients to hospital beds, IV bags and external monitors, we’ll use a minimally invasive procedure to implant a small device that continuously monitors their cancer and adjusts their immunotherapy dose in real time,” he says in a news release. “This kind of ‘closed-loop therapy’ has been used for managing diabetes, where you have a glucose monitor that continuously talks to an insulin pump. But for cancer immunotherapy, it’s revolutionary.”

Joining Veiseh on the 19-person research project named THOR, which stands for “targeted hybrid oncotherapeutic regulation,” is Amir Jazaeri, co-PI and professor of gynecologic oncology at the University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center. The device they are developing is called HAMMR, or hybrid advanced molecular manufacturing regulator.

“Cancer cells are continually evolving and adapting to therapy. However, currently available diagnostic tools, including radiologic tests, blood assays and biopsies, provide very infrequent and limited snapshots of this dynamic process," Jazaeri adds. "As a result, today’s therapies treat cancer as if it were a static disease. We believe THOR could transform the status quo by providing real-time data from the tumor environment that can in turn guide more effective and tumor-informed novel therapies.”

With a national team of engineers, physicians, and experts across synthetic biology, materials science, immunology, oncology, and more, the team will receive its funding through the Rice Biotech Launch Pad, a newly launched initiative led by Veiseh that exists to help life-saving medical innovation scale quickly.

"Rice is proud to be the recipient of the second major funding award from the ARPA-H, a new funding agency established last year to support research that catalyzes health breakthroughs," Rice President Reginald DesRoches says. "The research Rice bioengineer Omid Veiseh is doing in leading this team is truly groundbreaking and could potentially save hundreds of thousands of lives each year. This is the type of research that makes a significant impact on the world.”

The initial focus of the technology will be on ovarian cancer, and this funding agreement includes a first-phase clinical trial of HAMMR for the treatment of recurrent ovarian cancer that's expected to take place in the fourth year of THOR’s multi-year project.

“The technology is broadly applicable for peritoneal cancers that affect the pancreas, liver, lungs and other organs,” Veiseh says. “The first clinical trial will focus on refractory recurrent ovarian cancer, and the benefit of that is that we have an ongoing trial for ovarian cancer with our encapsulated cytokine ‘drug factory’ technology. We'll be able to build on that experience. We have already demonstrated a unique model to go from concept to clinical trial within five years, and HAMMR is the next iteration of that approach.”

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