TRISH’s Diversity Partnership Solicitation Program selected two research teams to receive funding and support. Photo via BCM.edu

A local organization announced two newly funded partnerships to advance research and innovation within space health.

The Translational Research Institute for Space Health, or TRISH, at Baylor College of Medicine has announced — along with partner organizations Caltech and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology — $300,000 in funding for teams at Texas State University and the University of Florida.

The two schools have been named awardees of TRISH’s Diversity Partnership Solicitation Program that was founded to support TRISH’s ongoing commitment to increasing engagement from underrepresented groups in the field of space health research.

“We go to space to improve life everywhere, and we must do so representing everyone,” says Dr. Asha S. Collins, chair of TRISH’s Diversity Advisory Board, in a news release. “The members of TRISH’s Diversity Advisory Board helped select two strong partners through our Diversity Partnership Program, and their work will move us closer to achieving that reality for the future of space exploration for all.”

The two projects that were selected for the program include:

  • B-SURE: Boosting Spaceflight Underrepresented Researcher Equity:
    • Principal Investigator: Dr. Rachael Seidler, University of Florida
    • Co-Investigators: Drs. Josephine Allen and Christine Wegner, University of Florida; Dr. Ana Diaz Artiles, Texas A&M University.
    • Dr. Rachael Seidler and her University of Florida team is partnered with Texas A&M University to survey the field and build a database of underrepresented researchers interested in pursuing space health research and a second database of leaders in this field open to new collaborators and mentorship.
  • Lyndon B. Johnson Institute for STEM Education and Research Space Health Inclusion Partnership
    • Principal Investigator: Dr. Kristina Collins, Texas State University
    • Co-Investigators and Collaborators: Drs. Leslie Huling, Barbie Buckner and Sara Torres, Deepika Sangam, Texas State University.
    • Dr. Collins and her team will use Texas State's existing virtual education tools to launch a set of novel space health content with digital badges and certifications.

Each of the projects were selected for "their innovative means of facilitating underrepresented researcher engagement," per the news release. Both teams will establish a cohort of underrepresented researchers dedicated to innovating future applications for space health research funding.

TRISH is funded by NASA’s Human Research Program and seeks both early stage and translation-ready research and technology to protect and improve the health and performance of space explorers. Last month, TRISH released a free-to-watch documentary on space health.

The program trains health care providers various youth health specialties to help them treat adolescents holistically and comprehensively. Photo via BCM.edu

Houston program pockets $2.3M grant for training youth health care professionals

for the kids

A Houston-based training program focused on training leaders in adolescent and young adult health has just received fresh funding to support its cause.

The Baylor College of Medicine-Texas Medical Center Leadership Education in Adolescent Health, or BCM-TMC LEAH, training program has been awarded a five-year grant totaling $2.3 million. The program is one of only seven such training programs funded by the Health Resources and Services Administration and the Maternal and Child Health Bureau.

“Adolescents make up about 20 percent of the U.S. population yet account for disproportionate rates of mortality from accidents, homicides, suicide, and other conditions related to mental illness,” says Dr. Albert C. Hergenroeder, professor and chief of the division of adolescent medicine and sports medicine and project director for BCM-TMC LEAH, in a news release. “The goal is to train and prepare healthcare professionals to assume leadership roles in the development and improvement of the system of care for adolescents and young adults locally, in Texas, in HRSA Region 6 (Oklahoma, New Mexico, Arkansas and Louisiana), and nationally.”

BCM-TMC LEAH provides didactic, experiential, and research-based interdisciplinary education and training, per the news release, across core health disciplines of medicine, nursing, nutrition, psychology, social work, and public health. It's the fourth time since 1997 the program has received funding.

Along with Hergenroeder, Dr. Connie Wiemann, director of research in the division of adolescent medicine and sports medicine, based at Texas Children’s Hospital, is co-director of the program. The two medical professionals also collaborate with:

  • Dr. Diane Santa-Maria, dean and associate professor in the Department of Research at the University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston Cizik School of Nursing
  • Dr. Christine Markham, chair of health promotion and behavioral sciences and deputy director for the Texas Prevention Research Center at University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston School of Public Health
  • Dr. Sarah Norendorf, associate professor and associate dean for research and faculty development
  • Shelley Gonzales, clinical assistant professor and assistant director of field education at the University of Houston Graduate College of Social Work.

“There has been an increased urgency during the last few years of the need to address adolescent health problems, such as suicide, eating disorders and violence in adolescents,” Hergenroeder says. “These problems require solutions for populations as well as individuals.

"For example," Hergenroeder continues, "an individual patient with an eating disorder will require treatment with an interdisciplinary team of physicians, psychologists, nurses, dietitians and social workers yet for a population, the expertise of researchers and public health experts should look at what broader interventions might be used in the prevention of eating disorders. LEAH is designed to give comprehensive training in all aspects of the threats to adolescent and young adult health in the U.S.”

The program trains pre- and postdoctoral students, medicine fellows, and residents by connecting them with faculty across a multitude of related specialized fields. The trainees then go into communities prepared to holistically treat and focus on problems adolescents and young adults are facing, going beyond just physical and mental health.

“The comprehensive training experience also includes a focus on skills to conduct and disseminate research to promote practices and policies that impact adolescents and young adults in a variety of settings,” said Wiemann. "All trainees will learn tools to engage stakeholders and identify opportunities to improve systems of care. In this way, all disciplines play an important role in improving the health and well-being of this population. And healthcare administrative training is incorporated into the LEAH program so that LEAH trainees will be able to successfully execute great research, clinical, teaching and advocacy programs to improve adolescent and young adult health."

These cancer research professionals just got fresh funding from a statewide organization. Photo by Dwight C. Andrews/Greater Houston Convention and Visitors Bureau

Texas nonprofit cancer research funder doles out millions to health professionals moving to Houston

money moves

Thanks in part to multimillion-dollar grants from the Cancer Prevention and Research Institute of Texas, two top-flight cancer researchers are taking key positions at Houston’s Baylor College of Medicine.

Dr. Pavan Reddy and Dr. Michael Taylor each recently received a grant of $6 million from the Cancer Prevention and Research Institute of Texas (CPRIT).

Reddy is leaving his position as chief of hematology-oncology and deputy director at the University of Michigan’s Rogel Cancer Center to become director of the Baylor College of Medicine’s Dan L. Duncan Comprehensive Cancer Center. Dr. C. Kent Osborne stepped down as the center’s director in 2020; Dr. Helen Heslop has been the interim director.

Taylor, a pediatric neurosurgeon at the University of Toronto, is set to become the first-ever director of pediatric neuro-oncology research at Texas Children’s Hospital. The hospital is affiliated with the Baylor College of Medicine. Taylor is an expert in children’s brain tumors.

In all, 11 researchers recruited by three health care institutions in Houston recently received $34 million in CPRIT grants. The nine other grant recipients in Houston are:

  • Dr. Christine Lovly, M.D. Anderson Cancer Center, $4 million. She is co-leader of the Translational Research and Interventional Oncology Research Program at the Vanderbilt-Ingram Cancer Center in Nashville.
  • Hans Renata, Rice University, $4 million. He is an associate professor at UF Scripps Biomedical Research in Jupiter, Florida.
  • Mingjie Dai, Rice University, $2 million. He is a technology development fellow at Harvard University’s Weiss Institute for Biologically Inspired Engineering.
  • William Hudson, Baylor College of Medicine, $2 million. He is a postdoctoral fellow at Emory University in Atlanta.
  • Deepshika Ramanan, M.D. Anderson Cancer Center, $2 million. She is a research fellow in immunology at Harvard Medical School.
  • Jason Schenkel, M.D. Anderson Cancer Center, $2 million. He is an instructor in pathology at Harvard’s Brigham and Women’s Hospital.
  • Aria Vaishnavi, M.D. Anderson Cancer Center, $2 million. She is a postdoctoral scholar at the University of Utah’s Huntsman Cancer Institute.
  • Samantha Yruegas, Rice University, $2 million. She is a postdoctoral research associate at Princeton University in New Jersey.
  • Qian Zhu, Baylor College of Medicine, $2 million. He is a research fellow at Harvard’s Dana-Farber Cancer Institute.

A CPRIT committee recently approved 17 recruitment grants totaling nearly $48 million for cancer research institutions in Texas.

“CPRIT’s mission is to invest in the research prowess of Texas institutions while expediting breakthroughs in cancer cures and prevention … . These 17 highly respected researchers will join an impressive roster of cancer-fighters who call the Lone Star State home,” says Wayne Roberts, CEO of CPRIT.

Since its creation, CPRIT has awarded $2.9 billion in grants to cancer research organizations around the state.

Baylor College of Medicine hosted U.S. Rep. Sylvia Garcia (TX-29) for a check presentation. Photo courtesy of BCM

Houston institution receives $1.1M for long-COVID clinic

research funding

A new funding project that's a part of the Bipartisan Omnibus Appropriations Bill doled out over $10 million to health care institutions — and a Houston initiative is cashing in on a chunk of that funding.

Baylor College of Medicine and Harris Health’s long-COVID care clinics received $1.1 million from the the Congressional Community Project Funding program. U.S. Rep. Sylvia Garcia (TX-29) attended the check presentation of the funding, as did Harris Health CEO Dr. Esmaeil Porsa, BCM President, CEO, and Executive Dean Dr. Paul Klotman, and Regional Director of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Sima Ladjevardian.

Long-COVID symptoms, which are categorized by any level of severity of the disease, can affect organ systems such as the heart, lungs, or brain, and include persistent shortness of breath, brain fog or anxiety. BCM started post-COVID treatment initiatives in 2021.

The organization's long-COVID care facilities will be expanding to Harris Health’s Strawberry Clinic located in East Harris County in the 29th Congressional District. Baylor's Institute for Clinical and Translational Research experts will also work to develop, maintain, and analyze a COVID-19 database.

“Rep Garcia was instrumental in guiding this project through to its approval,” says Klotman in a news release. “She understands the health disparities of her district and the greater Houston community and spearheaded efforts for the BCM program’s inclusion in the Appropriations Bill.”

Garcia, according to the release, is responsible for spearheading the effort for nine Houston area community projects that are currently being funding.

"In my district we know we have a high rate of COVID and we know we will have a high long-COVID impact," says Rep. Garcia. "It is important to support care and research because it is impacting their quality of life and it is impacting their ability to work. The long-COVID treatment and research projects going on here at Baylor are some of the best. We are doing the work, we are doing the research, and we will continue to do it together."

A team of Houston nurses won a national innovation award for a new game-changing training tool. Photos via Texas Children's Hospital

Houston nurses win national innovation prize for developing life-like training technology

winner, winner

A team of Houston nurses was awarded the 2022 American Nursing Association Innovation Award last month for an engaging training tool that has already helped their peers locally and in sub-Saharan Africa become better equipped at performing essential medical skills.

Michael Pickett, Jaime Choate, and Jeannie Eggers with Texas Children's Hospital along with Marilyn Hocken and Tadala Mulemba with Baylor College of Medicine took home the nurse-led team award and $50,000 monetary prize for developing a group of devices known as the RediStik Wearable Simulation Trainers.

Resembling a CPR dummy and accompanied by immersive videos and live feedback via Zoom, the devices were designed to teach nurses how to insert Port-a-Cath and Central Venous Catheters (CVC) and perform peripheral intravenous (PIV) therapies, which are used to administer fluids, draw blood, and deliver medications.

The multidisciplinary team with support from the Texas Children’s Innovative Solutions Council developed five products (in two skin tones) over the course of three years that today can be worn by trainees and replicate textured skin and subcutaneous tissue to provide a realistic training experience.

The accompanying training materials and videos are often filmed from the nurse's point of view and are easily accessible via YouTube or a QR code.

The tools have already been utilized by nurses throughout Texas Children's, as well as in Sub-Saharan Africa through the hospital's partnership with the Global HOPE (Hematology Oncology Pediatric Excellence) initiative.

According to the ANA, after training with the RediStik devices, 96 percent of surveyed nurses reported that they felt confident in starting PIV lines, compared to only 15 percent of surveyed nurses prior to training.

The funds from the award will allow the RediStik team to distribute the devices to additional health care systems and nursing schools within Houston and internationally, according to a statement from ANA. Funds can also be used to support translational research, development, prototyping, production, testing, and the implementation of the technology.

The award winners—which also includes Kasheta Jackson of Vidant Health who took home the individual prize—have one year to further develop their products and report their outcomes.

The ANA innovation awards are sponsored by medical device company Stryker. The RediStik devices were engineered and produced by Sawbones, a Washington-based anatomical medical training models company.

February was a big month for Texas Children's and BCM.

In addition to the honor from the ANA, BCM Drs. Maria Elena Bottazzi and Peter Hotez, co-directors of the Center for Vaccine Development at Texas Children’s Hospital, were also nominated for the 2022 Nobel Peace Prize for their development of a low-cost COVID vaccine.

From a low-cost vaccine to an app that can help reduce exposure, here are the latest COVID-focused and Houston-based research projects. Photo via Getty Images

2 COVID-19-focused research projects happening in Houston

research roundup

While it might seem like the COVID-19 pandemic has settled down for the time being, there's plenty of innovative research ongoing to create solutions for affordable vaccines and tech-enabled protection against the spread of the virus.

Some of that research is happening right here in Houston. Here are two innovative projects in the works at local institutions.

UH researcher designs app to monitor best times to shop

A UH professor is putting safe shopping at your fingertips. Photo via UH.edu

When is the best time to run an errand in the pandemic era we currently reside? There might be an app for that. Albert Cheng, professor of computer science and electrical and computer engineering at the University of Houston, is working on a real-time COVID-19 infection risk assessment and mitigation system. He presented his plans at the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers conference HPC for Urgent Decision Making and will publish the work in IEEE Xplore.

Cheng's work analyzes up-to-date data from multiple open sources to see when is the best time to avoid crowds and accomplish activities outside the home.

"Preliminary work has been performed to determine the usability of a number of COVID-19 data websites and other websites such as grocery stores and restaurants' popular times and traffic," Cheng says in a UH release. "Other data, such as vaccination rates and cultural factors (for example, the percentage of people willing to wear facial coverings or masks in an area), are also used to determine the best grocery store to shop in within a time frame."

To use the app, a user would input their intended destinations and the farthest distance willing to go, as well as the time frame of the trip. The risk assessment and mitigation system, or RT-CIRAM, then "provides as output the target location and the time interval to reach there that would reduce the chance of infections," said Cheng.

There's a lot to it, says Cheng, and the process is highly reliant on technology.

"We are leveraging urgent high-performance cloud computing, coupled with time-critical scheduling and routing techniques, along with our expertise in real-time embedded systems and cyber-physical systems, machine learning, medical devices, real-time knowledge/rule-based decision systems, formal verification, functional reactive systems, virtualization and intrusion detection," says Cheng.

2 Houston hospitals team up with immunotherapy company for new vaccine for Africa

The new vaccine will hopefully help mitigate spread of the disease in Sub-Saharan Africa. Photo via bcm.edu

Baylor College of Medicine and Texas Children's Hospital have teamed up with ImmunityBio Inc. — a clinical-stage immunotherapy company — under a licensing agreement to develop a safe, effective and affordable COVID-19 vaccine.

BCM has licensed out a recombinant protein COVID-19 vaccine candidate that was developed at the Texas Children's Hospital Center for Vaccine Development to ImmunityBio. According to the release, the company engaged in license negotiations with the BCM Ventures team, about the vaccine that could address the current pandemic needs in South Africa.

"We hope that our COVID-19 vaccine for global health might become an important step towards advancing vaccine development capacity in South Africa, and ultimately for all of Sub-Saharan Africa," says Dr. Peter Hotez, professor and dean of the National School of Tropical Medicine at Baylor and co-director of the Texas Children's Hospital Center for Vaccine Development.

ImmunityBio, which was founded in 2014 by Dr. Patrick Soon-Shiong, is working on innovative immunotherapies that address serious unmet needs in infectious diseases, according to a news release from BCM.

"There is a great need for second-generation vaccines, which are accessible, durable and offer broad protection against the emerging variants," says Soon-Shiong. "ImmunityBio has executed on a heterologous ("mix-and-match") strategy to develop a universal COVID-19 vaccine. To accomplish this, we have embarked upon large-scale good manufacturing practices and development of DNA (adenovirus), RNA (self-amplifying mRNA) and subunit protein (yeast) vaccine platforms. This comprehensive approach will leverage our expertise in these platforms for both infectious disease and cancer therapies."

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7+ can't-miss Houston business and innovation events in July

where to be

Houstonians are transitioning into a new summer month, and the city's business community is mixing in networking and conference events with family vacations and time off. Here's a rundown of what all to throw on your calendar for July when it comes to innovation-related events.

This article will be updated as more business and tech events are announced.

July 10 — Have a Nice Day Market at the Ion

Stop by for a one-of-a-kind vendor market - #HaveANiceDayHTX - taking place at the Ion, Houston's newest urban district and collaborative space that is designed to provide the city a place where entrepreneurial, corporate, and academic communities can come together. Free to attend and free parking onsite.

Have a Nice Day is a creative collective with a goal of celebrating BIPOC makers, creators, and causes.

The event is Sunday, July 10, 4 to 8 pm, at The Ion. Click here to register.

July 12 — One Houston Together Webinar Series

In the first installment of the Partnership's One Houston Together webinar series, we will discuss supplier diversity an often underutilized resource for business. What is it and why is it important? How can supplier diversity have long-term impact on your business, help strengthen your supply chain, and make a positive community impact?

The event is Tuesday, July 12, noon to 1 pm, online. Click here to register.

July 14 — Investor Speaker Series: Both Sides of the Coin

In the next installment of Greentown Labs' Investor Speaker Series, sit down with two Greentown founders and their investors as they talk about their experiences working together before, during, and after an equity investment was made in the company. Attendees will get a behind-the-scenes look at one of the most important relationships in a startup’s journey and what best practices both founders and investors can follow to keep things moving smoothly.

The event is Thursday, July 14, 1 to 2:30 pm, online. Click here to register.

July 15 — SBA Funding Fair

Mark Winchester, the Deputy District Director for the Houston District Office of the U.S. Small Business Administration, will give a short intro of the programs the mentors will discuss. There will be three government guaranteed loan mentors and two to three mentors co-mentoring with remote SBIR experts.

The event is Friday, July 15, 10:30 am to 1 pm, at The Cannon - West Houston. Click here to register.

July 16 — Bots and Bytes: Family STEAM Day

Join the Ion for a hands-on learning experience to learn about tech and robotics and gain insight into the professional skills and concepts needed to excel in a robotics or tech career. This event will be tailored for 9-14-year-olds for a fun STEM experience.

The event is Saturday, July 16, 10 am to 1 pm, at The Ion. Click here to register.

July 19 — How to Start a Startup

You have an idea...now what? Before you start looking for funding, it's important to make sure that your idea is both viable and valuable -- if it doesn't have a sound model and a market willing to pay for it, investors won't be interested anyway.

The event is Tuesday, July 19, 5:30 to 7:30 pm, at The Ion. Click here to register.

July 20 — Perfecting Your Pitch

Join the Ion for their series with DeckLaunch and Fresh Tech Solutionz as they discuss the importance and value of your pitch deck when reaching your target audience.

The event is Wednesday, July 20, 5:30 to 6:30 pm, at The Ion. Click here to register.

July 21 — Transition On Tap: Investor Readiness with Vinson & Elkins LLP

Attorneys from Greentown Labs’ Gigawatt Partner Vinson & Elkins LLP, a leading fund- and company-side advisor for clean energy financing, will present an overview of legal considerations in cleantech investing, geared especially toward early-stage companies and investors. The presentation will cover the types of investors and deals in the cleantech space and also provide background on negotiating valuation, term sheets, and preparing for diligence.

The event is Thursday, July 21, 5 to 7 pm, at Greentown Houston. Click here to register.

July 28 — The Cannon Community 2nd Annual Town Hall Event

Partner of The Cannon, Baker Tilly, has played an integral part in the success of Cannon member companies. Join the Cannon community for The Cannon's 5-year anniversary celebration!

The event is Thursday, July 28, 4 to 7 pm, at The Cannon - West Houston. Click here to register.

Texas-based dating app sponsors 50 female athletes to honor 50 years of Title IX

teaming up

Bumble is causing a buzz once again, this time for collegiate women athletes. Founded by recent Texas Business Hall of Fame inductee Whitney Wolfe Herd, the Austin-based and female-first dating and social networking app this week announced a new sponsorship for 50 collegiate women athletes with NIL (name, image, and likeness) deals in honor of the 50th anniversary of Title IX.

Established in 1972, the federal law prohibits sex-based discrimination in any school or other education program or activity that receives federal money. According to the Women’s Sports Foundation, the number of women in collegiate athletics has increased significantly since Title IX, from 15 percent to 44 percent.

That said, equity continues to lag in many ways, specifically for BIPOC women who make up only 14 percent of college athletes. The findings also share that men have approximately 60,000 more collegiate sports opportunities than women, despite the fact that women make up a larger portion of the collegiate population.

With this in mind, Bumble’s new sponsorship seeks to support “a wealth of overlooked women athletes around the country,” according to the beehive’s official 50for50 program page.

“We're embarking on a yearlong sponsorship of 50 remarkable women, with equal pay amounts across all 50 NIL (name, image, and likeness) contracts,” says the website. “The inaugural class of athletes are a small representation of the talented women around the country who diligently — and often without recognition — put in the work on a daily basis.”

To celebrate the launch of the program, Bumble partnered with motion graphic artist Marlene “Motion Mami” Marmolejos to create a custom video and digital trading cards that each athlete will post on their personal social media announcing their sponsorship.

“These sponsorships are an exciting step in empowering and spotlighting a diverse range of some of the most remarkable collegiate women athletes from across the country. Athletes who work just as hard as their male counterparts, and should be seen and heard,” says Christina Hardy, Bumble’s director of talent and influencer, in a separate release. “In honor of the 50th anniversary of Title IX, we are so proud to stand alongside these women and are looking forward to celebrating their many achievements throughout the year.”

“Partnering with Bumble and announcing this campaign on the anniversary of Title IX is very special,” said Alexis Ellis, a track and field athlete. “I am grateful for the progress that has been made for women in sports, and am proud to be part of Bumble’s ’50for50’ to help continue moving the needle and striving for more. I look forward to standing alongside so many incredible athletes for this campaign throughout the year.”

“I am so grateful to team up with Bumble and stand alongside these incredible athletes on this monumental anniversary,” said Haleigh Bryant a gymnast. “Many women continue to be overlooked in the world of sports, and I am excited to be part of something that celebrates, and shines a light on, the hard work, tenacity, and accomplishments of so many great athletes.”

Last year, the NCAA announced an interim policy that all current and incoming student athletes could profit off their name, image, and likeness, according to the law of the state where the school is located, for the first time in collegiate history.

The 50for50 initiative adds to Bumble’s previous multi-year investments in sports. In 2019, Bumble also launched a multi-year partnership with global esports organization Gen.G to create Team Bumble, the all-women professional esports team.

To see the 50for50 athletes, visit the official landing page.

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This article originally ran on CultureMap.