who's who

3 Houston innovators to know this week

This week's roundup of Houston innovators includes Steve Latham of DonateStock, Arianne Dowdell of Houston Methodist, and Howard Berman of Coya Therapeutics. Photos courtesy

Editor's note: In this week's roundup of Houston innovators to know, I'm introducing you to three local innovators across industries — from fintech to health care DEI — recently making headlines in Houston innovation.

Steve Latham, co-founder and CEO of DonateStock

Houstonian and serial entrepreneur plans to scale nonprofit fintech toolThe sky's the limit for DonateStock, Co-Founder and CEO Steve Latham says. Photo courtesy of DonateStock

For the third time in his career, serial entrepreneur Steve Latham recession activity, so he feels confident he knows the playbook of how to handle what's on the horizon. For his latest venture, Donate Stock, a tech platform that simplifies stock donation for both the donor and the beneficiary, he's focused on weathering whatever storm is incoming.

"We've raised more money to extend our runway, and we're keeping a super tight lid on expenses because your cash is your oxygen," he says. "There are companies going out of business in our industry right now that had really promising businesses but just spent too much money before they could get to the revenue phase."

He shares the background story on DonateStock and his own career on last week's Houston Innovators Podcast episode. Read more and stream the episode.

Arianne Dowdell, vice president and chief diversity, equity and inclusion officer at Houston Methodist

Arianne Dowdell spoke with InnovationMap about Houston Methodist's DEI initiatives — and how they will help develop the hospital of the future. Photo courtesy of Houston Methodist

Innovation and equity are two things they have to go together — and Houston Methodist knows that. Which is why Arianne Dowdell serves as vice president and chief diversity, equity and inclusion officer at Houston Methodist. Under her leadership, the health care provider is putting the patients at the forefront of the hospital system's priorities through its DEI initiatives.

In an interview with InnovationMap, Dowdell shares more about these ongoing initiatives and her role, as well as the importance of DEI in innovative health care.

"It doesn't matter if you're down here in the medical center or out in Baytown," she says. "The innovation and what we're thinking about and the technologies and the way that we communicate with our patients, all that is part of innovation, which helps our DEI initiatives become more successful in everything that we're doing." Read more.

Howard Berman, CEO of Coya Therapeutics

A Houston biotech startup focused on developing therapeutics for neurodegenerative and autoimmune diseases has closed its IPO. Photo courtesy of Coya

A clinical-stage biotech company based in Houston has announced the closing of its $15.25 million IPO.

Coya Therapeutics, now trading under the ticker COYA, announced this week that its IPO — previously disclosed in December — has closed its initial public offering of 3,050,000 shares of its common stock and accompanying warrants to purchase up to 1,525,000 shares of common stock, per a news release. Howard Berman, CEO of Coya Therapeutics, has lead the company since February of 2021. Read more.

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With this new grant, UH has a new center for researching bioactive materials crystallization. Photo via UH.edu

A new hub at the University of Houston is being established with a crystal-clear mission — and fresh funding.

Thanks to funding from Houston-based organization The Welch Foundation, the University of Houston will be home to the Welch Center for Advanced Bioactive Materials Crystallization. The nonprofit doled out its inaugural $5 million Catalyst for Discovery Program Grant to the new initiative led by Jeffrey Rimer, Abraham E. Dukler Professor of Chemical Engineering, who is known internationally for his work with crystals that help treat malaria and kidney stones.

“Knowledge gaps in the nascent and rapidly developing field of nonclassical crystallization present a wide range of obstacles to design crystalline materials for applications that benefit humankind, spanning from medicine to energy and the environment,” says Rimer in a news release. “Success calls for a paradigm shift in the understanding of crystal nucleation mechanisms and structure selection that will be addressed in this center.”

The Welch Foundation, which was founded in 1954, has granted over $1.1 billion to scientists in Texas. This new grant program targets researchers focused on fundamental chemical solutions. Earlier this year, the organization announced nearly $28 million in grants to Texas institutions.

"Support from the Welch Foundation has led to important advances in the field of chemistry, not only within Texas, but also throughout the United States and the world as a whole,” says Randall Lee, Cullen Distinguished University Chair and professor of chemistry, in the release. “These advances extend beyond scientific discoveries and into the realm of education, where support from the Welch Foundation has played a significant role in building the technological workforce needed to solve ongoing and emerging problems in energy and health care.”

Rimer and Lee are joined by the following researchers on the newly announced center's team:

  • Peter Vekilov, Moores Professor, chemical and biomolecular engineering
  • Alamgir Karim, Dow Chair and Welch Foundation Professor, chemical and biomolecular engineering;
  • Jeremy Palmer, Ernest J. and Barbara M. Henley Associate Professor, chemical and biomolecular engineering
  • Gül Zerze, chemical and biomolecular engineering
  • Francisco Robles Hernandez, professor of engineering technology.

The University of Houston also received another grant from the Welch Foundation. Megan Robertson, UH professor of chemical engineering, received $4 million$4 million for her work with developing chemical processes to transform plastic waste into useful materials.

“For the University of Houston to be recognized with two highly-competitive Welch Foundation Catalyst Grants underscores the exceptional talent and dedication of our researchers and their commitment to making meaningful contributions to society through discovery,” Diane Chase, UH senior vice president for academic affairs and provost, says in the release.

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