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Houston student creates innovative mobile medical lab for rapid COVID-19 testing

Taft Foley III, an 18-year-old high school senior, co-founded Texas Mobile Medical Labs. Photo courtesy of Texas Mobile

An 18-year old high school senior from the Houston area mobilized his medical knowledge as one of the youngest EMTs in Texas and co-founded a mobile lab which can provide COVID-19 results in 15 minutes.

Texas Mobile Medical Labs was created to counteract testing delays that bogged down how quickly patients received results. The mobile lab currently operates in a van and a tent outside a community center in the Post Oak area for patients who prefer to come to them. For those that can't, the mobile lab can travel to any patient or business location for employee testing in the Houston area after they set up an appointment.

"This summer I become an EMT, training at the Texas EMS Academy in Corpus Christi," says Taft Foley III, co-founder of Texas Mobile Medical Labs. "When I got back to Houston I was asked to take a COVID-19 test, but I was met with a line that wrapped around the entire building and took two hours just to get inside."

According to Foley, that spurred him into finding a better way to get results to people quickly.

"I did my research and found a better alternative to increase testing and reduce waiting times," says Taft. "The antigen test works in 15 minutes, which makes them amenable to point-of-care use. That's when I really got the idea of going out to our patients for the test so that they don't have to leave home."

The tests are performed with a nasal swab, which then detects a viral protein in an actively infected person, giving accurate and fast results.

Antigens are molecules capable of stimulating an immune response. The SARS-CoV-2 that causes COVID-19 has several known antigens including its nucleocapsid phosphoprotein and spike glycoprotein, which are the visible protrusions on its surface.

Antigen tests reveal if a person is currently infected with a pathogen such as the SARS-CoV-2 virus. Once the infection is gone, the antigen disappears.

Although antigen tests typically have lower sensitivity than a traditional PCR test, that detects the virus through its genetic material, they provide tests rapidly and are relatively cheaper to produce.

"Getting this test to as many people as possible as fast as possible is essential," says Taft. "People need to know whether or not they need to stay home and if they're at risk of spreading the virus to others."

The results are sent to patients via text message or email, giving individuals peace of mind quickly if they are not infected and allowing those with COVID-19 to quarantine themselves and those they have exposed.

The test cost ranges from $100 to $150 for individuals, according to their website, depending on if testers would like to go to their tent location or take advantage of their mobile lab. While they currently do not accept insurance, most insurance companies will reimburse some or all of the cost of the test.

You can reach the Texas Mobile Medical lab at (936) 333-3333 if you have COVID-19 symptoms and would like to schedule an appointment for testing.

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Building Houston

 
 

Seven startups walked away with cash prizes from this year's MassChallenge accelerator program in Houston. Photo via Getty Images

MassChallenge named its winners of its 2020 accelerator at a virtual event on October 22. The program awarded a total of $200,000 in equity-free prizes across seven startups from its second Houston cohort.

This year's program took place completely virtually due to the pandemic. Already, the 56 startups involved in the cohort have raised $44.4 million funding, generated $24 million in revenue, and created 297 jobs, says Jon Nordby, managing director of MassChallenge Texas in Houston, in a news release.

"This has been a year full of change, to say the least," he says. "But startups thrive in uncertain times — because they can move fast and remain agile, they are able quickly meet each new need that arises. I'm extremely proud of the startups in our 2020 cohort — during the course of the program, they've pivoted, adjusted, and evolved in order to grow their businesses."

The startups that won across the Houston cohort included Houston-based PATH EX Inc., which won the $100,000 Diamond Award, is focused on the rapid diagnosis and treatment of sepsis through an unique pathogen extraction platform.

Four companies won $25,000 Gold Awards:

  • Healium, based in Columbia, Missouri, is an extended reality device created for self-management of anxiety.
  • Ozark Integrated Circuits Inc., based in Fayetteville, Arkansas, specializes in problem solving using technology and software in the harshest environments – from jet engines to earth orbit.
  • PREEMIEr Diagnostics, based in Southfield, Michigan, created a way to identify which premature infants need an adjustment to their glucose levels to prevent them from losing vision.
  • Scout Inc., based in Alexandria, Virginia, is developing the first commercial in-space satellite inspection service.

Two companies won the Sidecar Awards, securing each a $25,000 Innospark Artificial Intelligence Prize.

  • Articulate Labs, based in Dallas, makes mobile, adaptive devices to help knee osteoarthritis and knee replacement patients rehabilitate on the go during everyday activity.
  • Houston-based Starling Medical has tapped into tech to optimize urinary catheter for patients with neurogenic bladder dysfunction.
The Houston Angel Network awarded Ozark Integrated Circuits their prize of $50,000.
"The progress these entrepreneurs made in just a few months has all of the hope, drama, anticipation, and optimism of seeing dawn break after a particularly difficult night," says Wogbe Ofori, Principal at 360Approach and a MassChallenge mentor, in the release. "It's fulfilling, actually, and makes me proud to be a MassChallenge mentor."
The seven startups were awarded alongside 27 other startups from this year's Austin, Boston, and Rhode Island accelerators at the virtual event. The event was hosted by Chris Denson of Innovation Crush, and featured a fireside chat between Arianna Huffington, founder and CEO of Thrive Global, and Linda Pizzuti Henry, managing director at the Boston Globe.
Earlier this fall, MassChallenge named its 10 startup finalists, whittled down from 56 from 13 countries and 13 states to its first-ever virtual accelerator, which began in June.

"In the face of great uncertainty, MassChallenge Texas in Houston charged forward and did exactly what they ask their startups to do: love the problem," says Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner in the release. "The successful pivot to virtual is a testament to the strength of their global community and the motivation of the Houston ecosystem to get behind new ideas and create businesses that will set roots and grow here.

"As one of the most innovative cities, Houston is a place where startups can thrive – even in the midst of a pandemic. Programs like MassChallenge provide the best practices and networks to ensure startups get the access they need to create sustainable businesses and lasting change."

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