top dog

Brainy Rice University institute named No. 1 think tank in the world

Rice's Baker Institute has done it again. Courtesy of Rice University

Furthering its reputation as a world-class educational and intellectual hallmark, Rice University has ascended to the top of yet another ranking.
The school's Baker Institute for Public Policy has been named the No. 1 think tank in the world, according to the 2020 Global Go To Think Tank Index Report published January 28. This is a leap from No. 2 overall last year.

Additionally, its Center for Energy Studies (CES) was again named the top energy and resource policy think tank and was recognized as a Center of Excellence for being ranked No. 1 for three consecutive years, per a press release.

Rice's Baker Institute is also ranked No. 15 out of 110 of the top think tanks in the U.S. overall. It is also listed among the best think tanks globally in the category "Best Quality Assurance and Integrity Policies and Procedures."

Also on the prestigious list are the London School of Economics and Political Science (No. 2) and Institute of Development Studies at the University of Sussex, U.K. (No. 3).

Meanwhile, CES is followed in the regular rankings by the Oxford Institute for Energy Studies, U.K., and the Institute of Energy Economics, Japan.

Founded in 1993, the Baker Institute houses fellows and scholars who conduct research on domestic and foreign policy issues. Core fields of study include energy, the Middle East, Mexico, health policy, public finance, private entrepreneurship and economic growth, international economics, presidential elections, science and technology, China, space policy, and drug policy, according to the school.

CES was founded in October 2012 and provides policymakers, corporate leaders, and the public with quality, data-driven analysis of issues that influence energy markets, per Rice. The Baker Institute Energy Forum is considered an integral part of CES by the university.

"The rise of the Baker Institute and our Center for Energy Studies to the very top rankings in this year's Global Go To Think Tank Index is the culmination of what we created over a quarter of a century ago and of our adherence to excellence in data-driven, nonpartisan research and policy recommendations on public policy issues that reach decision-makers in the private and public sectors," said Baker Institute director Edward Djerejian, in a statement. "I commend all our fellows, scholars and staff, as well as our Board of Advisors and Roundtable members, for this outstanding achievement."

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This article originally ran on CultureMap.

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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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