future of health care

Houston organizations announce 10 most promising life science startups

Houston's medical innovation community congregated to discuss breakthrough innovations in health care. Photo via Getty Images

What startups are creating the future of health care? A Houston conference this week gathered to discuss.

The 10th annual Texas Life Science Forum hosted by BioHouston and the Rice Alliance for Technology and Entrepreneurship engaged thought leadership within the life science community with panels, discussions, and more. Additionally, 49 companies pitched their solutions across medical device, therapeutics, pharmaceuticals, and more to the crowd.

Austin-based Dynamic Light won the Michael E. DeBakey Memorial Life Science Award, established by BioHouston in honor of the groundbreaking Houston cardiovascular surgeon. The software company integrates with microscope or robotic systems to provide better visuals to surgeons and health care providers and reduce medical errors, radiation and costs. The award was presented by Ann Tanabe, CEO of BioHouston.

The event also named the 10 most promising life science companies selected by investors and presented by the Greater Houston Partnership. This year's selection included the following companies, in alphabetical order.

Ares Immunotherapy

Photo via Getty Images

Based in Cartersville, Georgia, Ares Immunotherapy uses a unique subset of T-cells for the treatment of solid tumors. According to the company, it is is preparing for a first in man trial in mesothelioma in 2023.

Corveus Medical

Photo courtesy of TMC

Houston-based Corveus Medical, which was formerly known as Caridian Medical, is a part of TMC's Biodesign program. The company was founded by Ishan Kamat, COO, and Tyler Melton, CEO.

"We are developing a novel, catheter-based device that performs a targeted sympathetic nerve ablation to treat heart failure," according to the company. "Our solution leverages the body’s natural mechanisms to bring fluid levels back to normal, giving physicians an effective treatment option, reducing costs for hospitals, and improving quality of life for the patient."

Drusolv Therapeutics

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Drusolv Therapeutics, based in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, was founded out of Harvard University and been validated in a proof-of-concept clinical trial. The company's product, a novel reformulation of atorvastatin, is targeting age-related macular degeneration, or AMD, a serious eye disease. According to the company, it's a $4 billion a year, unmet need.

EMPIRI

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Houston-based EMPIRI is an early-stage biotechnology company currently focusing on precision oncology and utilizing automation for personal diagnosis. The company works out of JLABS @ TMC.

"Our proprietary 3D tissue culture method, E-slices, enables personalized drug response measurements from intact patient tissues," per the company. "E-slice has been clinically validated to accurately predict individual cancer patient responses to chemotherapies, targeted therapies, a immunotherapies."

Lapovations

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Based in Fayetteville, Arkansas, Lapovations is working on technologies that improve laparoscopy.

"Our flagship product AbGrab is a single-use device that uses suction to lift the abdominal wall prior to closed insertion entry," according to the company. "Manually lifting can be difficult and unreliable, especially with obese patients or for clinicians with small hands."

Maxwell Biosciences

Photo by Chokniti Khongchum from Pexels

Austin-based Maxwell Biosciences is creating anti-infectives that inactivate a broad spectrum of viruses. The company's product, CLAROMERS, has seen success in its preclinical animal studies, as well as lab-grown human tissues. Maxwell is fueled by over $30 million in non-dilutive and government funding (e.g. DARPA, NIH, NIAID).

NeuraStasis

Image via neurastasis.com

Doctors have to respond quickly when treating ischemic stroke patients, and Houston-based NeuraStasis is working on a way to give them more time. Each minute a patient is waiting, irreparable damage is being done. The company's noninvasive solution uses electrical neurostimulation to preserve brain functionality. NeuraStasis is based in JLABS @ TMC.

Vena Medical

Image via venamed.ca

Canada medical device company Vena Medical is working on the "world's smallest camera" that is able to record inside veins and arteries to help physicians treat stroke.

Vivifi Medical

Photo courtesy of TMC

Houston-based Vivifi Medical, a Texas Medical Center Innovation company, is working to improve the quality of life of patients with Male Infertility and benign prostatic hyperplasia — 12 million men in the United States alone — by ending recurrency via suture-less laparoscopic technology.

XN Health

Image via xn-health.com

XN Health, based in Houston, has developed a novel approach to phrenic nerve stimulation to treat progression of ventilator induced diaphragm disfunction to help wean patients off the ventilator faster. The technology should speed up patient liberation times, shortening ICU stay, improve healthcare outcomes, and reduce health care costs.

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Building Houston

 
 

InformAI has three AI-based products geared at improving health care. Photo via Getty Images

In Houston, we’re lucky to have top-tier doctors in the Texas Medical Center, ready to treat us with the newest technology. But what about our family members who have to rely on rural hospitals? Thanks to one Houston company, doctors in smaller community hospitals may soon have new tools at their disposal that could improve outcomes for patients around the world.

Since InnovationMap last caught up with Jim Havelka, CEO of InformAI, two years ago, that hope has come far closer to a reality. InformAI is a VC-backed digital health company. Part of JLABS @ TMC innovation facilities, the company uses artificial intelligence to develop both diagnostic tools and clinical outcome predictors. And two of the company’s products will undergo FDA regulatory testing this year.

SinusAI, which helps to detect sinus-related diseases in CT scans, received its CE Mark — the European equivalent of FDA approval — last year and is being sold across the Atlantic today, says Havelka. He adds that in the United States alone, there are roughly 700,000 sinus surgeries that the product is positioned to support.

Another product, RadOnc-AI, is designed to help doctors prescribe radiation dose plans for head and neck cancers.

“Ideally the perfect plan would be to provide radiation to the tumor and nothing around it,” says Havelka. “We’ve built a product, RadOnc-AI, which autogenerates the dose treatment plan based on medical images of that patient.”

It can be an hours-long process for doctors to figure out the path and dose of radiation themselves, but the new product “can build that initial pass in about five minutes,” Havelka says.

That in itself is an exciting development, but because this technology was developed using the expertise of some of the world’s top oncologists, “the first pass plan is in line with what [patients would] get at tier-one institutions,” explains Havelka. This creates “tremendous equity” among patients who can afford to travel to major facilities and those that can’t.

To that end, RadOnc-AI was recently awarded a $1.55 million grant from the Cancer Prevention and Research Institute of Texas, or CPRIT, a state agency that funds cancer research. The Radiological Society of North America announced late last year that InformAI was named an Aunt Minnie Best of Radiology Finalist.

“It’s quite prestigious for our company,” says Havelka. Other recent laurels include InformAI being named one of the 10 most promising companies by the Texas Life Science Forum in November.

And InformAI is only gaining steam. A third product is earlier in its stage of development. TransplantAI will optimize donor organ and patient recipient matches.

“A lot of organs are harvested and discarded,” Havelka says.

His AI product has been trained on a million donor transplants to help determine who is the best recipient for an organ. It even takes urgency into account, based on a patient’s expected mortality within 90 days. The product is currently a fully functional prototype and will soon move through its initial regulatory clearances.

The company — currently backed by three VC funds, including DEFTA Partners, Delight Ventures, and Joyance Partners — is planning to do another seed round in Q2 of 2023.

“We’ve been able to get recognized for digital health products that can be taken to market globally,” says Havelka.

But what he says he’s most excited about is the social impact of his products. With more money raised, InformAI will be able to speed up development of additional products, including expanding the cancers that the company will be targeting. And with that, more and more patients will one day be treated with the highest level of care.

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