growing gains

Houston energy tech startup expands platform with new data tools

Sameer Soleja, founder and CEO of Molecule, has expanded his company's platform. Photo courtesy of Molecule Software

Houston startup Molecule Software hopes to get a big bang out of its new platform for the energy and commodities markets.

The data-as-a-lake platform, Bigbang, is available as an add-on for current Molecule customers. It enables energy trading and risk management (ETRM) and commodities trading and risk management (CTRM) customers to automatically import trade data from Molecule, and then merge it with various sources to conduct queries and analysis.

Molecule sells Bigbang at a monthly rate through either a yearly or multiyear contract.

“We’re seeing a growing need in the energy and commodities trading space for a turnkey data lake, as indicated by our own customers. They need real-time and automated data streaming from key systems, the ability to query the data quickly and easily, and access to the data using the analytics tools they know well,” says Sameer Soleja, founder and CEO of Molecule.

Founded in 2012, Molecule specializes in cloud-based trading and risk management software for the energy and commodities sectors. Among the business segments that use Molecule’s software are electricity, natural gas, crude and refined products, chemicals, agricultural commodities, metals, and cryptocurrency.

“Energy and commodities markets have been undergoing a seismic shift, driven by two key factors: increasing price volatility across all commodities and a global energy transition stemming from the challenges of climate change,” Molecule says in a news release. “Given these market trends, near real-time data access and advanced trading analytics are essential for effective portfolio risk management.”

In 2021, Molecule closed a $12 million series A funding round led by Houston-based VC firm Mercury Fund. Seven years earlier, Molecule received a $1.1 million seed round from Mercury and the Houston Angel Network.

In a 2021 interview with the Houston Innovators Podcast, Soleja described how Molecule helps its customers assemble scattered data.

“The way to think about the product is if you have a brokerage account — like Robinhood, or something like that — you see how much stock you have and how much you’ve made or lost,” Soleja said.

“For companies that are trading electricity, crude oil, natural gas, and other commodities and agricultural products, they also want to see how much of each thing they have and how much they’ve made or lost. But they don’t just get to log into their brokerage account and figure it out. That’s in a lot of different places.”

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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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