No. 1

Houston startup ranks as a top innovative company in the world

Solugen has been named among the most innovative companies in the world — and was deemed the No. 1 most innovative manufacturers. Photo via Getty Images

A Houston biotech startup is now in rarified air.

Solugen ranks second on Fast Company’s 2022 list of the 50 most innovative companies in the world. It also sits at No. 1 on the magazine’s list of the world’s most innovative manufacturers.

Solugen’s process converts corn syrup into industrial chemicals, cutting down on carbon emissions generated by traditional production of chemicals. Carbon dioxide from chemical production is one of the biggest contributors to industrial greenhouse gas emissions.

“Right now, the $6 trillion chemicals industry relies on oil, natural gas, and coal to make ingredients used in everything from laundry detergent and running shoes to fertilizer. It’s a dirty process,” Fast Company reported last December.

According to Fast Company, Solugen’s process for producing a chemical uses nearly all of the feedstock put into it.

“The carbon-negative process and Solugen’s ability to sell flexible amounts of chemicals to companies looking to lower their own footprint have helped the company make inroads in a traditionally slow-moving industry,” the magazine says.

Fast Company notes that Solugen launched in 2016 with four chemicals and another 17 in development. The chemicals are being used in water treatment, in concrete production to reduce cement use, and in agriculture to deliver nutrients to crops, the magazine says.

Last year, Solugen announced it raised $357 million in a Series C round, catapulting it to “unicorn” status. The Series C round bumped up the startup to a valuation of $1.8 billion, pushing it well past the $1 billion mark required for a unicorn designation.

“This fundraising round allows us to continue expanding the footprint of our Bioforge technology to give industries the products they need to reduce emissions in their existing supply chains, without compromising on performance or economics,” Sean Hunt, co-founder and chief technology officer of Solugen, said in a news release about the $357 million round.

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Building Houston

 
 

Houston-based Melax Tech has developed multiple Natural language processing tools that are used by more than 650 health care and life science organizations. Photo via MelaxTech.com

Melax Tech Partners, a leader in natural language technology processing, announced a new partnership with the University of California at Irvine that will help researchers derive insights from the UCI Health Data Science Platform’s electronic health records system and improve patient care.

Melax will implement its signature text annotation tool LANN to pull information from clinical notes, and its CLAMP product to develop natural language processing customizations through the use of AI, according to a statement from the company.

“There has been a strong desire among UCI researchers to have the capability to analyze free-text clinical narrative data using cutting-edge NLP technologies," Kai Zheng, chief research information officer at UCI Health Affairs, says in a statement. "We are delighted to have this opportunity to work with Melax Tech to deploy their AI-driven annotation and analytics tools to help our researchers advance their research agenda by leveraging the vast amount of free-text data that our health system has accumulated in the past two decades.”

Natural language processing, or NLP, allows organizations and healthcare groups to sift through and analyze massive amounts of data at a rapid rate through the use of machine learning and AI. Houston-based Melax Tech, founded in 2017, has developed multiple NLP tools that are used by more than 650 health care and life science organizations, according to its website.

In addition to the recent partnership with UC Irvine, Melax has also recently partnered with Vanderbilt University Medical Center and the University of Western Pennsylvania on similar clinical projects.

Melax has also used its platforms to pull vital information from datasets relating to COVID-19, in both medical and social settings.

In March 2022, it was awarded a Phase 1 NIH Award, valued at $300,000, to develop informatics tools based on COVID-19 datasets with the San Diego Supercomputer Center at UC San Diego. The tool aims to help researchers better understand vast amounts of virus-related data and connect findings with other similar results.

In August, Melax also received another $300,000 grant from the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases to develop NLP-based algorithms that will "model, extract and synthesize vaccine misinformation from multiple popular social media sources," according to a statement. Melax will also develop a visualization that presents its findings on the misinformation into a compressible format.

"This is a very real topic affecting culture at present," Andre Pontin, CEO at Melax Tech, says in a statement. "And shows that we as a collective business and group of experts continue to be on the cutting-edge of science in the NLP and AI domain."

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