Here's what experiments TRISH is launching aboard Axiom Space's next mission. Photo via NASA

Houston's Translational Research Institute for Space Health, or TRISH, will launch six more experiments into space this spring aboard Axiom Space's Ax-2 mission, the organization announced this week.

The biomedical research conducted through TRISH, in consortium with CalTeach and MIT, will look into how space travel impacts everything from motion sickness to memory over the course of the mission's 10-day stint on the International Space Station.

The crew will consist of four astronauts: Commander Peggy Whitson (previously with NASA), Pilot John Shoffner and Mission Specialists Ali AlQarni and Rayyanah Barnawi. It's a historic team, bringing the first female private space crew commander and the first Saudi astronauts to the ISS.

“Insights gathered from this work improve our understanding of how the human body and mind respond to spaceflight, helping us to prepare future astronauts to remain safe and healthy during longer-duration missions," Dr. Dorit Donoviel, TRISH executive director and professor in the Center for Space Medicine at Baylor College of Medicine, says in a statement.

The six projects onboard the mission have been developed by researchers within TRISH as well as the University of Pennsylvania Perelman School of Medicine, Johns Hopkins University and Baylor College of Medicine. They aim to assess the following:

  • Spaceflight participants’ performance in memory, abstraction, spatial orientation, emotion recognition, risk decision making and sustained attention before and after the mission -Astronauts’ inner ears and eyes' response to motion before and after space travel and how this relates to motion sickness and nausea during launch and landing
  • The effects of spaceflight on the human body at the genomic level
  • Changes to the eyes and brain during spaceflight
  • Astronaut's sleep, personality, health history, team dynamics and immune-related symptoms
  • Sensorimotor abilities and changes in space and how this can impact astronauts' ability to stand, balance and have full body control on the moon

Some of this information will become part of TRISH’s Enhancing eXploration Platforms and ANalog Definition, or EXPAND, program, which aims to boost human health on commercial space flights through its database. The program launched in 2021.

Ax-2 is Axiom's second all-private astronaut mission to the ISS and will launch out of NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida aboard a SpaceX's Dragon spacecraft. Axiom was first established in 2016 with the goal of building the world's first commercial space station.

TRISH is also slated to launch nine experiments on board SpaceX's Polaris Dawn mission, which is now expected to launch this summer. The research aboard Polaris Dawn is intended to complement research supported by TRISH on the Inspiration4 all-civilian mission to orbit, which was also operated by SpaceX in 2021.

The Cancer Prevention and Research Institute of Texas recently announced fresh funding for cancer researchers, and Houston organizations received more than 40 percent of it. Photo via Getty Images

Here's what Houston cancer researchers secured fresh funding from Texas nonprofit

grants incoming

The Cancer Prevention and Research Institute of Texas (CPRIT) has awarded around $40 million in grants to cancer researchers and cancer research institutions in the Houston area.

The Houston-area grants represent more than 40 percent of the statewide grants recently approved by Austin-based CPRIT.

The largest local grant, $6 million, went to Hongfang Liu and the University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston. The grant helped attract Liu to UTHealth Houston. She is a pioneer in biomedical informatics, an emerging field in cancer research.

Liu comes to Houston from the Mayo Clinic. At UTHealth Houston, she will be director of the Center for Translational Artificial Intelligence in Medicine within the School of Biomedical Informatics as well as vice president for learning health systems.

In a news release, Dr. Giuseppe Colasurdo, president of UTHealth Houston, says the recruitment of Lui “will strategically enhance the position of Texas as a national and international leader in data science, artificial intelligence, and informatics applications in the diagnosis, prevention, and treatment of cancer.”

Other CPRIT grant recipients at UTHealth Houston were:

  • Lara Savas — $2,499,492 for early detection and treatment of breast and cervical cancer among Latinas
  • Chao Hsing Yeh — $1,046,680 for an acupressure program to help patients manage cancer-related pain
  • Belinda Reininger — $999,254 for a lifestyle intervention program in South Texas
  • Paula Cuccaro — $449,959 for a targeted approach to boosting HPV vaccinations

What follows is a rundown of other CPRIT grant recipients in the Houston area.

University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center

  • Kenneth Hu — $2 million to recruit him as a first-time, tenure-track faculty member
  • Dr. Kelly Nelson — $1,998,196 to support a program for early detection of melanoma
  • Robert Volk — $1,988,211 for a lung cancer screening program
  • Jian Hu — $1.4 million for research into brain and spinal cord tumors in children
  • Die Zhang — $1,399,730 for research into cognitive issues caused by radiation treatment
  • Peng Wei — $1,199,994 for research into the evolution of bladder cancer
  • Boyi Gan — $1,050,000 for the study of cell death in breast cancer patients
  • Sue-Hwa Lin — $1,050,000 for a novel immunotherapy to treat the spread of prostate cancer to the bones
  • Joseph McCarty — $1,050,000 for research into invasive cells in patients with brain or spinal cord tumors
  • Cullen Taniguchi — $1,049,997 for the study of immune responses related to pancreatic cancer
  • Dr. Andrea Viale — $1,049,985 for the study of immune responses related to pancreatic cancer
  • Michael Curran —$1,049,905 for research into blocking DNA damage related to radiation therapy and immunotherapy
  • Wantong Yao — $1,049,854 for research into a novel therapy for pancreatic cancer
  • Eleonora Dondossola — $1,025,623 for the study of therapy resistance among certain patients with prostate or kidney cancer
  • Niki Zacharias Millward — $1,019,997 for the study of a type of kidney cancer that begins in the lining of small tubes inside the organ

Baylor College of Medicine

  • Xi Chen — $2 million for the study of immunotherapy resistance among some breast cancer patients
  • Melanie Bernhardt — $1,392,407 for research aimed at improving treatment of acute lymphoblastic leukemia in children
  • Pavel Sumazin — $1,371,733 for research into hepatocellular carcinoma, the most common type of liver cancer
  • Maksim Mamonkin — $1,050,000 for improving treatment of T-cell acute lymphoblastic leukemia and lymphoblastic lymphoma

University of Texas Medical Branch at Galveston

  • Ana Rodriguez — $2,257,898 for an HPV vaccination program in the Rio Grande Valley

Houston Methodist Research Institute

  • Ewan McRae — $1,999,977 to recruit him to Houston from the United Kingdom’s Cambridge University as an expert in RNA therapeutics

University of Houston

  • Lorraine Reitzel — $448,726 for lung cancer screening programs
Houston Methodist's Nantz National Alzheimer Center received a $1 million donation to continue research in neurodegenerative diseases. Photo via Houston Methodist

Houston hospital snags $1M to advance Alzheimer’s research

money moves

Thanks to a recent donation, Houston Methodist is setting up an endowment to support research in neurodegenerative diseases.

Susan and William “Dub” Henning, Jr. have committed to a $1 million gift to Houston Methodist to support Alzheimer’s research at the Nantz National Alzheimer Center at the hospital. This gift will be used to create the Susan and William Henning Jr. Neurodegenerative Research Endowment and in response, a NNAC family room will be named in memory of Dub’s parents, Lena and William Henning.

“Knowing the impact that Alzheimer’s can have not only on patients, but also on the immediate and extended family members experiencing the disease inspired us to support the work being done at the Nantz National Alzheimer Center,” says Dub Henning in a news release. “We want to give hope to families struggling with this disease and contribute to ultimately finding a cure.”

Every year, the NNAC — led by Joseph C. Masdeu — treats thousands of patients looking to prevent Alzheimer’s disease, slow memory loss progression, and improve their quality of life. In 2021 alone, the center provided more than 4,000 patient visits. The fresh funding will allow for Dr. Masdeu's research projects — including more than 26 current studies, 14 in clinical trials and 12 studies to clarify the nature of diseases causing dementia — to continue the important work.

“One of our clinical trials will determine the effects of exercise in preventing deposits of amyloid and tau, two of the proteins that accumulate in the brain of people living with Alzheimer’s disease, and we’re also exploring the role of proper sleep in disease development,” says Masdeu in the release. “Among other studies, we are collaborating with Baylor College of Medicine to define genetic and chemical factors predisposing to the accumulation of amyloid and tau in the brain of people at all stages of the Alzheimer’s spectrum.

"These promising developments would not be possible without the compassion and generosity of community supporters like the Henning family," he continues.

Susan and William “Dub” Henning, Jr. gave a $1 million gift to Houston Methodist. Photo courtesy of Houston Methodist

A Rice research team is tapping into materials science to better understand Alzheimer’s disease, a UH professor is developing a treatment for hereditary vision loss, and a BCM researcher is looking at stress and brain cancer. Photo by Gustavo Raskosky/Rice University

These 3 Houston research projects are coming up with life-saving innovations

research roundup

Research, perhaps now more than ever, is crucial to expanding and growing innovation in Houston — and it's happening across the city right under our noses.

In InnovationMap's latest roundup of research news, three Houston institutions are working on life-saving health care research thanks to new technologies.

Rice University scientists' groundbreaking alzheimer's study

Angel Martí (right) and his co-authors (from left) Utana Umezaki and Zhi Mei Sonia He have published their latest findings on Alzheimer’s disease. Photo by Gustavo Raskosky/Rice University

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Alzheimer’s disease will affect nearly 14 million people in the U.S. by 2060. A group of scientists from Rice University are looking into a peptide associated with the disease, and their study was published in Chemical Science.

Angel Martí — a professor of chemistry, bioengineering, and materials science and nanoengineering and faculty director of the Rice Emerging Scholars Program — and his team have developed a new approach using time-resolved spectroscopy and computational chemistry, according to a news release from Rice. The scientists "found experimental evidence of an alternative binding site on amyloid-beta aggregates, opening the door to the development of new therapies for Alzheimer’s and other diseases associated with amyloid deposits."

Amyloid plaque deposits in the brain are a main feature of Alzheimer’s, per Rice.

“Amyloid-beta is a peptide that aggregates in the brains of people that suffer from Alzheimer’s disease, forming these supramolecular nanoscale fibers, or fibrils” says Martí in the release. “Once they grow sufficiently, these fibrils precipitate and form what we call amyloid plaques.

“Understanding how molecules in general bind to amyloid-beta is particularly important not only for developing drugs that will bind with better affinity to its aggregates, but also for figuring out who the other players are that contribute to cerebral tissue toxicity,” he adds.

The National Science Foundation and the family of the late Professor Donald DuPré, a Houston-born Rice alumnus and former professor of chemistry at the University of Louisville, supported the research, which is explained more thoroughly on Rice's website.

University of Houston professor granted $1.6M for gene therapy treatment for rare eye disease

Muna Naash, a professor at UH, is hoping her research can result in treatment for a rare genetic disease that causes vision loss. Photo via UH.edu

A University of Houston researcher is working on a way to restore sight to those suffering from a rare genetic eye disease.

Muna Naash, the John S. Dunn Endowed Professor of biomedical engineering at UH, is expanding a method of gene therapy to potentially treat vision loss in patients with Usher Syndrome Type 2A, or USH2A, a rare genetic disease.

Naash has received a $1.6 million grant from the National Eye Institute to support her work. Mutations of the USH2A gene can include hearing loss from birth and progressive loss of vision, according to a news release from UH. Naash's work is looking at applying gene therapy — the introduction of a normal gene into cells to correct genetic disorders — to treat this genetic disease. There is not currently another treatment for USH2A.

“Our goal is to advance our current intravitreal gene therapy platform consisting of DNA nanoparticles/hyaluronic acid nanospheres to deliver large genes in order to develop safe and effective therapies for visual loss in Usher Syndrome Type 2A,” says Naash. “Developing an effective treatment for USH2A has been challenging due to its large coding sequence (15.8 kb) that has precluded its delivery using standard approaches and the presence of multiple isoforms with functions that are not fully understood."

BCM researcher on the impact of stress

This Baylor researcher is looking at the relationship between stress and brain cancer thanks to a new grant. Photo via Andriy Onufriyenko/Getty Images

Stress can impact the human body in a number of ways — from high blood pressure to hair loss — but one Houston scientist is looking into what happens to bodies in the long term, from age-related neurodegeneration to cancer.

Dr. Steven Boeynaems is assistant professor of molecular and human genetics at Baylor College of Medicine. His lab is located at the Jan and Dan Duncan Neurological Research Institute at Texas Children’s Hospital, and he also is a part of the Therapeutic Innovation Center, the Center for Alzheimer’s and Neurodegenerative Diseases, and the Dan L Duncan Comprehensive Cancer Center at Baylor.

Recently, the Cancer Prevention and Research Institute of Texas, or CPRIT, awarded Boeynaems a grant to continue his work studying how cells and organisms respond to stress.

“Any cell, in nature or in our bodies, during its existence, will have to deal with some conditions that deviate from its ideal environment,” Boeynaems says in a BCM press release. “The key issue that all cells face in such conditions is that they can no longer properly fold their proteins, and that leads to the abnormal clumping of proteins into aggregates. We have seen such aggregates occur in many species and under a variety of stress-related conditions, whether it is in a plant dealing with drought or in a human patient with aging-related Alzheimer’s disease."

Now, thanks to the CPRIT funding, he says his lab will now also venture into studying the role of cellular stress in brain cancer.

“A tumor is a very stressful environment for cells, and cancer cells need to continuously adapt to this stress to survive and/or metastasize,” he says in the release.

“Moreover, the same principles of toxic protein aggregation and protection through protein droplets seem to be at play here as well,” he continues. “We have studied protein droplets not only in humans but also in stress-tolerant organisms such as plants and bacteria for years now. We propose to build and leverage on that knowledge to come up with innovative new treatments for cancer patients.”

The Dynamic One building in TMC Helix Park is expected to deliver later this year. Rendering via TMC.edu

Rising TMC development names Houston health care institution as anchor tenant

coming soon

TMC Helix Park, formerly known as TMC3, has announced its first anchor tenant.

The Texas Medical Center and Beacon Capital Partners announced that Baylor College of Medicine will be the anchor tenant of the Dynamic One building at TMC Helix Park. The facility is will be the first to deliver of the four TMC Helix Park industry buildings. The Topped off in December, the Dynamic One building is being developed by Beacon in collaboration with Zoë Life Science and is scheduled to open before the end of the year.

“Beacon is excited that Dynamic One will be our first entry into the fast-growing Houston Life Science market,” says Fred Seigel, president and CEO of Beacon, in a news release. “This state-of-the-art environment is designed to enable and encourage collaboration and will greatly accelerate the innovative lifesaving discoveries that emerge when industry and academic research work side-by-side.”

Baylor College of Medicine will lease 114,000 square-feet of lab and office space in the 355,000-square-foot building. BCM's goal is to house lab space for novel diagnostics and therapeutics — and provide space to house startups.

The organization is expanding its presence in Houston after decades of residing in the region.

“Baylor College of Medicine moved to Houston in 1943 and was the first institution built in the Texas Medical Center," says Dr. Paul Klotman, president and CEO and executive dean of Baylor, in the release. "Our researchers and scientists will have the opportunity to access the uniquely concentrated research environment being developed at TMC Helix Park, facilitating the continuing advancement of innovation and compassionate care."

TMC Helix Park, which includes more than 5 million-square-feet of space across 37-acres, also expects to deliver its research facility, the TMC3 Collaborative Building, later this year.

“Baylor College of Medicine is a major force in life sciences discovery and commercialization at TMC," says Bill McKeon, president and CEO of TMC, in the release. "Their move to TMC Helix Park will serve as a catalyst for enhanced collaboration with TMC’s other esteemed Institutions, as well as with industry leaders from around the world."

BCM is the first anchor tenant announced for TMC Helix Park. Rendering via TMC.edu

Houston is home to many talented researchers — and about 60 have been recognized by a global study for being among the most cited individuals in their fields. Photo via Getty Images

These elite Houston researchers were named among the most-cited in their fields

MVPs

Nearly 60 scientists and professors from Houston-area universities and institutions, working in fields from ecology to immunology, have been named among the most-cited researchers in the world.

The Clarivate Highly Cited Researchers 2022 list considers a global pool of public academic papers that rank in the top 1 percent of citations for field and publication year in the Web of Science. It then ranks researchers by the number of times their work has been cited, or referenced, by other researchers, which, according to the University of Houston, helps their findings "become more impactful and gain further credibility."

This year 6,938 researchers from 70 different countries were named to this list. About 38 percent of the researchers are based in the U.S.

“Research fuels the race for knowledge and it is important that nations and institutions celebrate the individuals who drive the wheel of innovation. The Highly Cited Researchers list identifies and celebrates exceptional individual researchers who are having a significant impact on the research community as evidenced by the rate at which their work is being cited by their peers," says David Pendlebury, head of research analysis at the Institute for Scientific Information at Clarivate, in a statement. "These individuals are helping to transform human ingenuity into our world’s greatest breakthroughs.”

Harvard University was home to the most researchers, with 233 researchers making the list, far outpacing Stanford University, which had the second highest total of 126 researchers.

Texas universities and institutions had a strong showing, too. The University of Texas at Austin had 31 researchers on the list, tying UT with the University of Minnesota and Peking University in China for the No. 35 spot. MD Anderson had 30 researchers on the list, the most among organizations in Houston, earning it a 38th place ranking, tied with the University of Maryland and University of Michigan.

Below is a list of the Houston-area highly cited researchers and their fields.

From UT MD Anderson Cancer Center

  • Jaffer Ajani (Cross-Field)
  • James P. Allison (Immunology)
  • Jan A. Burger (Clinical Medicine)
  • George Calin (Cross-Field)
  • Jorge Cortes (Clinical Medicine)
  • Courtney DiNardo (Clinical Medicine)
  • John V. Heymach (Clinical Medicine)
  • David Hong (Cross-Field)
  • Gabriel N. Hortobagyi (Cross-Field)
  • Robert R. Jenq (Cross-Field)
  • Hagop M.Kantarjian (Clinical Medicine)
  • Marina Y. Konopleva (Clinical Medicine)
  • Dimitrios P. Kontoyiannis (Cross-Field)
  • Scott E. Kopetz (Clinical Medicine)
  • Alexander J. Lazar (Cross-Field)
  • J. Jack Lee (Cross-Field)
  • Anirban Maitra (Clinical Medicine)
  • Robert Z. Orlowski (Clinical Medicine)
  • Padmanee Sharma (Clinical Medicine and Molecular Biology and Genetics)
  • Anil K. Good (Cross-Field)
  • Jennifer A. Wargo (Molecular Biology and Genetics)
  • William G. Wierda (Clinical Medicine)

From Baylor College of Medicine

  • Erez Lieberman Aiden (Cross-Field)
  • Nadim J. Ajami (Cross-Field)
  • Christie M. Ballantyne (Clinical Medicine)
  • Malcolm K. Brenner (Cross-Field)
  • Hashem B. El-Serag (Clinical Medicine)
  • Richard Gibbs (Cross-Field)
  • Heslop, Helen Cross-Field
  • Joseph Jankovic (Cross-Field)
  • Sheldon L. Kaplan (Immunology)
  • Joseph F. Petrosino (Cross-Field)
  • Cliona Rooney (Cross-Field)
  • James Versalovic (Cross-Field)
  • Bing Zhang (Cross-Field)

From Rice University

  • Plucker M. Ajayan (Materials Science)
  • Pedro J. J. Alvarez (Environment and Ecology)
  • Naomi Halas (Materials Science)
  • Jun Lou (Materials Science)
  • Antonios G. Nikos (Cross-Field)
  • Aditya D. Mohite (Cross-Field)
  • Peter Nordlander (Materials Science)
  • Ramamoorthy Ramesh (Physics)
  • James M. Tour (Materials Science)
  • Robert Vajtai (Materials Science)
  • Haotian Wang (Chemistry)
  • Zhen-Yu Wu (Cross-Field)

From University of Houston

  • Jiming Bao (Cross-Field)
  • Shuo Chen (Cross-Field)
  • Whiffing Ren (Cross-Field)
  • Zhu Han (Computer Science)

From UTMB Galveston

  • Vineet D.Menachery (Microbiology)
  • Nikos Vasilakis (Cross-Field
  • Scott C. Weaver (Cross-Field)
  • From UT Health Science Center-Houston
  • Eric Boerwinkle (Cross-Field)
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10+ can't-miss Houston business and innovation events for April

where to be

It's time to look at what's on the agenda for April for Houston innovators — from pitch competitions to networking events.

Here's a roundup of events not to miss this month. Mark your calendars and register accordingly.

Note: This post might be updated to add more events.

April 4 — A.I. Digital and the Future of Energy

In the latest installment of UH Energy's "Critical Issues in Energy" Symposium Series, the speakers will take a deeper dive into the role of A.l. within the energy marketplace, specifically with what is being done with A.I. and what is capable of being done. In addition to this pivotal look at one crucial aspect of the energy transition, attendees will be afforded networking opportunities with speakers and distinguished guests, and food/refreshments will be provided.

The event is Tuesday, April 4, from 5:30 to 7:30 pm, at the University of Houston. Click here to register.

April 5 — Creating & Sustaining Innovation & Entrepreneurship

Join us for a fireside chat discussing the growth of entrepreneurship & a panel on demystifying the patent process.

The event is Wednesday, April 5, from 9 to 11:30 am, at the Ion. Click here to register.

April 5 — HAN Angel Academy

Learn angel investing best practices from Capital Factory co-founder and chairman, Gordon Daugherty in a half-day bootcamp format for accredited investors.

The event is Wednesday, April 5, from 11 am to 4 pm, at Rice University - Shell Auditorium. Click here to register.

April 11 — Future of Health Care

The Greater Houston Partnership's inaugural Future of Health Care event highlights one of the region's major industry sectors driven by world-class institutions and professional talent.

The event is Wednesday, April 11, from 10:30 am to 1:30 pm, at the Royal Sonesta. Click here to register.

April 11 — Idea to Impact: Navigating the Challenges to Commercializing University Discoveries

Amazing discoveries are made in university labs every day, yet most of them never develop into widely accessible commercial products. Why? And what can universities do to change that? As part of Rice University's "Betterment of the World" Scientia Lecture Series, join Rice Business on April 11 at 4 pm virtually or in person (Shell Auditorium, McNair Hall) to hear Yael Hochberg, Professor in Entrepreneurship at the Jones Graduate School of Business, as she discusses the challenges in commercializing university research discoveries.

The event is Wednesday, April 11, from 4 to 5 pm, at Rice University and online. Click here to register.

April 11 — Greentown Houston Climatetech Career Fair 2023

Greentown Labs and ALLY Energy welcomes all professionals, students, and soon-to-be graduates to join us for the Greentown Houston Career Fair, which focuses on connecting professionals directly with Greentown Houston’ network of founders, CEOs, and cutting-edge climatetech startups looking for bright and eager talent.

The event is Tuesday, April 11, from 4:30 to 6:30 pm, at Greentown Houston. Click here to register.

April 15 — Earth Day Clothing Swap Party with Sustainable Fashion & Earth Month HTX

A clothing swap is a fun, alternative solution to thrift shopping or secondhand fashion that allows you to clean out the clothes you no longer wear and in return bring home new additions to your closet - all for free and hosted by Houston startup RESTATEMENT.

The event is Saturday, April 15, from noon to 5 pm, at Patterson Park. Click here to register.

April 17-18 — AI Powered Renewable Energy Workshop

AI Houston Institute of Rice University in partnership with Ion is getting together experts from academia and industry working on the application of artificial intelligence in solving some of the most complex challenges facing the Energy industry as it transitions into alternative sources of energy that are green and sustainable.

The event is Monday, April 17, to Tuesday, April 18, at the Ion. Click here to register.

April 19 — Investor Studio Series: Dream Big Ventures x Ion x Mendoza Ventures

Underrepresented founders face a lot of barriers, including rarely seeing VC dollars. However, Dream Big Ventures and Mendoza Ventures are looking to change those statistics to help diverse founders succeed. Join Dream Big Ventures Founder and CEO Staci LaToison, and Mendoza Ventures Co-Founders Senofer Mendoza and Adrian Mendoza, as they discuss the growth of women and Latinas in Fintech, AI, and Cybersecurity in this fireside chat.

The event is Wednesday, April 19, from 5 to 7 pm, at the Ion. Click here to register.

April 19 — The H. Albert Napier Rice Launch Challenge Championships

Join Liu Idea Lab for Innovation and Entrepreneurship and support Rice University student ventures at the H. Albert Napier Rice Launch Challenge (NRLC) Championships on Wednesday, April 19. Five student finalists will pitch their ventures to compete for the chance to win a share of $100,000 in equity-free funding.

The event is Wednesday, April 19, from 5:30 to 9 pm, at Rice University. Click here to register.

April 20 — Female Founders and Funders

Calling all rockstar female founders and investors in the Houston area. Mark your calendars for this month's Female Founders and Funders meetup. Coffee and breakfast is provided and the event is free to attend.

The event is Thursday, April 20, from 9 to 10 am, at Sesh Coworking. Click here to register.

Texas researchers name ancient beaver fossil after favorite Texas gas station

Beaver Country

The legend of a treasured gas station chain continues with a new chapter: a rediscovered beaver fossil is being named after Buc-ee’s.

The ancient animal was named Anchitheriomys buceei (A. buceei) by Steve May, a research associate at the University of Texas Jackson School of Geosciences and lead author of the Palaeontologia Electronica paper that describes the beaver.

A. buceei fossils were rediscovered by researchers in UT Austin’s collections and include fossils from six different Texas sites. May decided to name A. buceei after Buc-ee’s after spotting a “This is Beaver Country” billboard in 2020 that reminded him of the fossils he was studying at the time.

Though Buc-ee’s was founded in 1982, CEO Arch “Beaver” Alpin III said in a press release that his business’ history is longer than he thought, and that he may “need to rethink [their] beginnings.”

Occurrences of A. buceei can be found between 15 and 22 million years ago along the state’s gulf coast. At first glance, they don’t appear much different from current native Texas beavers. But according to the report’s co-author Matthew Brown, who is also the director of the Jackson School’s vertebrate paleontology collections, they are nearly 30 percent bigger than today’s beavers.

A partial skull fossil of the beaver was originally collected in 1941 by paleontologists. One of the original finders was Texas A&M University museum curator Curtis Hesse, who passed away four years later before he could name it a new species and publish his study.

More information about A. buceei can be found on UT Austin’s website.

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This article originally ran on CultureMap.