Growing and Thriving

One business reveals how relocating to Pearland has paid off — and then some

Photo courtesy of Kemlon

The city of Pearlandhas been ramping up its assistance and support for local businesses over the last several years, but it's long been an ideal choice for companies seeking a place for their companies to grow and thrive.

One major reason is its location, which was certainly a draw for multi-discipline energy and manufacturing company Kemlon Products.

Kemlon's vice president of engineering, Chris Ring, says relocating to Pearland in 1998 was a strategic move — one that has definitely paid off.

"We're located only four miles south of William P. Hobby International Airport, and are accessible to customers and employees via State Highway 35 and Beltway 8," says Ring.

Kemlon's 120,000-square-foot headquarters on State Highway 35 secured it as the first major high-tech manufacturing company to relocate to Pearland.

Since then, the Pearland Economic Development Corporation (PEDC) has assisted Kemlon with expansion efforts, providing incentives and helping it acquire 23.5 acres purchased from the City of Pearland, as part of Catalyst No. 2 Business Park North outlined in the State Highway 35 redevelopment strategy.

But that's not all. Pearland’s affordability was another reason the company chose the city, along with exceptional schools and a potential employee base.

In 2021, PEDC conducted a survey of all businesses in the community to gain a better understanding of their needs. The survey found that 92 percent of business owners felt that Pearland is a great place to live, work, and operate a business, and more than 80 percent of survey respondents gave excellent or good marks to Pearland as a place to do business — higher than the national comparison.

With such satisfied employees and the support and incentive to continue to grow, Kemlon has now invested more than $10.8 million in the community and employs more than 120 people on its 30-acre campus.

"Many of our customers are from outside the Houston area, and especially abroad," Ring says. "As soon as these customers enter Pearland from Beltway 8, it is evident they are entering a quality community that has quality businesses."

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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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