Mayor Sylvester Turner announced the grant recipients last week. Photo via evolvehouston.org

Evolve Houston awarded its inaugural microgrants this week to 13 groups, neighborhoods and an individual working to make electric vehicles accessible to all Houstonians.

Launched in 2022, Evolve's eMobility Microgrant Initiative supports community efforts that propose electric vehicle, micro-mobility and charging infrastructure projects in some of Houston's most underserved neighborhoods. The grants ranged from $10,000 to $15,000.

Shell, NRG, CenterPoint, the University of Houston, and the city of Houston are partners in Evolve Houston. GM and bp America helped found the microgrant program.

“The eMobility Microgrant Initiative is a culmination of my vision and the collaborative efforts from many individuals and corporate supporters who recognize the importance of the transition to electric transportation,” Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner says in a statement. “The grant winners we recognized today are trailblazers in their communities, leveraging EV technology to residents in neighborhoods that have been historically underserved.”

Winners of the Round 1 eMobility Microgrants and their proposed projects included:

  • Alliance for Multicultural Community Services: Adding a charging station for the Gulfton area and a youth advocacy initiative
  • Third Ward Real Estate Council & Northern Third Ward Neighborhood Implementation Project: Introducing an interactive “mobility hub” to show what EV infrastructure would look like in Third Ward
  • Coalition of Community Organizations: Bringing eBikes and a charging station in the Fifth Ward
  • Edison Arts Foundation: Installing an EV charging station and green energy awareness at the Edison Center in Fort Bend
  • GROW: Promoting green energy careers to youth in underserved communities through EV education and outreach events
  • Hiram Clarke Fort Bend Houston Redevelopment Authority: Brining a bike share program to Southwest Houston
  • Houston Southeast: Expanding its existing rideshare program that offers free and reduced rides in partnership with Uber EV fleet of electric vehicles
  • Pangea Charging: Adding EV chargers to two Complete Communities apartment complexes/buildings
  • RYDE: Brining a free micro-transit service in the Third Ward, including two electric shuttles that could serve more than 1,000 passengers per month
  • Shawn R. Owens: Introducing a new eBike food delivery service, called Electric Eats, to bring food from from the Third Ward food pantries to the area's senior, underserved and immobile residents
  • South Union Community Development Corporation: Creating a workforce development program for green energy careers
  • The Reflections of Christ's Kingdom (The R.O.C.K.) Church–BroadwayCampus: Adding a DC-Fast charger in the South Houston/Hobby Airport area
  • University of Houston-Downtown: Installing a no-cost EV charging station on campus

“This program is designed to provide launch funding to community-based, EV ecosystem-related projects," says Evolve Houston President and Executive Director Casey Brown. "We see significant opportunities to make meaningful progress by using an exciting new technology that is centered around community-based direction. Our governance system puts the community in charge and knows that the ideas of those that know their communities best will carry the greatest impact.”

Applications for the second round of microgrants are now open.Information can be found here. The application deadline is Friday, September 22, 2023.

Evolve Houston was founded in 2019 through Houston's Climate Action Plan. The nonprofit relaunched in 2022, naming Brown as its new president and executive director. The organization's main goal is to improve air quality, reduce greenhouse gas and to accelerate EV adoption so that half of all new vehicles sold in the Houston area would be EVs by 2030.

At an event last week, Evolve Houston celebrated its relaunch, a new leader, and its microgrant program. Photo courtesy of Evolve

Houston nonprofit relaunches, names new leader, and introduces electromobility initiative

evolve evolves

A Houston organization focused on promoting electromobility in Houston has announced some big updates.

Evolve Houston, founded in 2019 through Houston's Climate Action Plan, has relaunched as of its event Thursday, August 18. The nonprofit has also named Casey Brown as the new president and executive director. Formerly at Halliburton and Coretrax, Brown's appointment went into effect this month.

"I am honored to have been appointed by the board to lead Evolve into the next phase of our electric vehicle journey," says Brown. "I look forward to working with our partners to get more electric cars, buses, and bikes on the road, and to publish Evolve's electrification roadmap 2.0 early next year."

Additionally, thanks to funding from Evolve Corporate Catalysts General Motors and bp, the organization has introduced the eMobility Microgrant Initiative, which will facilitate a peer-review process to award microgrants to local electromobility projects. Applications for the grants are now open online and will be accepted through September 16 at 6 pm.

"Evolve Houston is committed to supporting a just transition to a more sustainable transportation system, so all residents can receive the benefits of eMobility," says Grace Millsap, Evolve Houston director of equity and investment, in a news release. "The Greater Houston area has made significant progress in improving livability. We must continue and bring the eMobility revolution to Houston's communities that remain disproportionately in need of a cleaner environment, better services, and diversified economic development.

"Evolve's eMobility Microgrant Initiative will empower and elevate residents' voices, drive further community investment, and prioritize the communities who are most impacted by climate and mobility challenges," she continues.

A community-focused initiative, the Equity Program has been established to address poor air quality and limited access to public transportation in vulnerable communities, per the release. This fall, Evolve will invest the microgrants into community-led efforts that are increasing access to all forms of electric mobility and EV charging stations.

"The Complete Communities Initiative bridges the gap between equity and opportunity for our city's most under-resourced and underserved neighborhoods. Residents living in the Complete Communities have made it clear that its past time to address the transportation and climate change challenges that impact their quality of life," says Shannon Buggs, director of the Mayor's Office for Complete Communities, in the release.

"Increasing chronic air pollution and lack of equitable mobility has disproportionately affected low-to-moderate income neighborhoods," she continues. "With the help of community leaders, the Evolve Houston Equity Program provides a pathway for our City to ensure that every resident lives in a healthy, sustainable and thriving community."

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Houston family's $20M donation drives neurodegeneration research

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Neurodegeneration is one of the cruelest ways to age, but one Houston family is sharing its wealth to invigorate research with the goal of eradicating diseases like Alzheimer’s.

This month, Laurence Belfer announced that his family, led by oil tycoon Robert Belfer, had donated an additional $20 million to the Belfer Neurodegeneration Consortium, a multi-institutional initiative that targets the study and treatment of Alzheimer’s disease.

This latest sum brings the family’s donations to BNDC to $53.5 million over a little more than a decade. The Belfer family’s recent donation will be matched by institutional philanthropic efforts, meaning BNDC will actually be $40 million richer.

BNDC was formed in 2012 to help scientists gain stronger awareness of neurodegenerative disease biology and its potential treatments. It incorporates not only The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center, but also Baylor College of Medicine, Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) and Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai.

It is the BNDC’s lofty objective to develop five new drugs for Alzheimer’s disease and related disorders over the next 10 years, with two treatments to demonstrate clinical efficacy.

“Our goal is ambitious, but having access to the vast clinical trial expertise at MD Anderson ensures our therapeutics can improve the lives of patients everywhere,” BNDC Executive Director Jim Ray says in a press release. “The key elements for success are in place: a powerful research model, a winning collaborative team and a robust translational pipeline, all in the right place at the right time.”

It may seem out of place that this research is happening at MD Anderson, but scientists are delving into the intersection between cancer and neurological disease through the hospital’s Cancer Neuroscience Program.

“Since the consortium was formed, we have made tremendous progress in our understanding of the molecular and genetic basis of neurodegenerative diseases and in translating those findings into effective targeted drugs and diagnostics for patients,” Ray continues. “Yet, we still have more work to do. Alzheimer's disease is already the most expensive disease in the United States. As our population continues to age, addressing quality-of-life issues and other challenges of treating and living with age-associated diseases must become a priority.”

And for the magnanimous Belfer family, it already is.

3 Houston innovators to know this week

who's who

Editor's note: Every week, I introduce you to a handful of Houston innovators to know recently making headlines with news of innovative technology, investment activity, and more. This week's batch includes a podcast with the founder of a new venture firm, a former astronaut and recent award recipient, and a health care innovator with fresh funding.

Zach Ellis, founder and managing partner of South Loop Ventures

Zach Ellis explains on the Houston Innovators Podcast that South Loop Ventures plans to invest in promising companies from across the country and bring them into Houston's ecosystem to grow and scale. Photo via LinkedIn

Houston has a lot of the right ingredients for commercialization and scaling up companies, so when Zach Ellis moved to town to stand up a venture capital firm that made investments in diverse founders, he decided to go about it in an innovative way.

South Loop Ventures, which Ellis launched two years ago, invests in pre-seed and seed-stage startups across health care, climatetech, aerospace, sports, and fintech. While the first handful of investments, which have already been made, are into Houston-based companies, Ellis explains on the Houston Innovators Podcast that the firm plans to invest in promising companies from across the country and bring them into Houston's ecosystem to grow and scale.

"Any investor wants to feel like they are looking at the best possible investment opportunities in which to deploy capital," Ellis says on the show. "So that's reason No. 1 to cast your net as widely as possible.

"At the same time, you want to give any investment that you make greatest chances of success," he continues. "The biggest factor of success outside of the team and the capital you give them, is the customers that they can call upon. In bringing targeted companies to Houston or connecting them with Houston, you introduce the opportunity for them to achieve rapid scale and work with world-class partners very efficiently." Read more.


Toby R. Hamilton, founder and CEO of Hamilton Health Box

Dr. Toby Hamilton has secured $10 million to grow his company. Photo via tmc.edu

A Houston company that is working on a value-based model for primary care has fresh funding to support its mission.

Hamilton Health Box announced the completion of a $10 million series A funding round led by 1588 Ventures with participation from Memorial Hermann Health System, Impact Ventures by Johnson & Johnson Foundation, Texas Medical Center Venture Fund, and the Sullivan Brothers.

The company, founded in 2019 by Dr. Toby R. Hamilton, will use the funding to fuel its expansion into rural areas to help assist those living in Health Professional Shortage Areas, or HPSAs. Read more.

Ellen Ochoa, former astronaut and center director at the NASA's Johnson Space Center

Ellen Ochoa was recognized for her leadership at NASA Johnson and for being the first Hispanic woman in space. Photo via NASA

Two astronauts recently received Presidential Medals of Freedom from President Joe Biden for their leadership in space.

Ellen Ochoa, the former center director and astronaut at the NASA's Johnson Space Center in Houston, and Jane Rigby, senior project scientist for NASA’s James Webb Space Telescope, were honored at the White House on May 3.

Ochoa spent 30 years with NASA, which included being the 11th director of JSC, deputy center director of JSC, and director of Flight Crew Operations. She served on the nine-day STS-56 mission aboard the space shuttle Discovery in 1993, and became the first Hispanic woman in space. She flew four more times to space with STS-66, STS-96, STS-110, and more.

“I’m so grateful for all my amazing NASA colleagues who shared my career journey with me,” Ochoa says in a NASA news release. Read more.

Houston health care institutions receive $22M to attract top recruits

coming to Hou

Houston’s Baylor College of Medicine has received a total of $12 million in grants from the Cancer Prevention & Research Institute of Texas to attract two prominent researchers.

The two grants, which are $6 million each, are earmarked for recruitment of Thomas Milner and Radek Skoda. The Cancer Prevention & Research Institute of Texas (CPRIT) announced the grants May 14.

Milner, an expert in photomedicine for surgery and diagnostics, is a professor of surgery and biomedical engineering at the Beckman Laser Institute & Medical Clinic at the University of California, Irvine and the university’s Chao Family Comprehensive Cancer Center

In 2013, Milner was named Inventor of the Year by the University of Texas at Austin. At the time, he was a professor of biomedical engineering at UT. One of his major achievements is co-development of the MasSpec Pen, a handheld device that identifies cancerous tissue within 10 seconds during surgical procedures.

Skoda is a professor of molecular medicine in the Department of Biomedicine at the University of Basel and the University Hospital Basel, both in Switzerland. He specializes in developing treatments for myeloproliferative neoplasms, which are a group of blood diseases including leukemia.

Other recruitment grants provided by the institute to Houston-area organizations are:

  • $4 million for recruitment of Susan Bullman to the University of Texas M.D. Anderson Cancer Center. She was an assistant professor at Seattle’s Fred Hutchinson Cancer Center, where she studied the connection between microbes and cancer.
  • $4 million for recruitment of Oren Rom to the University of Texas M.D. Anderson Cancer Center. Rom is an assistant professor of pathology and translational pathobiology at Louisiana State University Shreveport.
  • Nearly $2 million for recruitment of Lauren Hagler to conduct RNA cancer biology at Texas A&M University. She is a postdoctoral scholar in biochemistry at Stanford University.

The institute also awarded grants to five companies in the Houston area:

  • $4.7 million to 7 Hills Pharma for development of immunotherapies to treat cancer and prevent infectious diseases.
  • $4.5 million to Indapta Therapeutics for the Phase 1 trial of a cell therapy for treatment of multiple myeloma and non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma.
  • $2.75 million to Bectas Therapeutics for development of antibodies and biomarkers to overcome a type of resistance T-cell checkpoint therapy.
  • $2.69 million to MS Pen Technologies for development of technology that differentiates between normal tissue and cancerous tissue during surgery.
  • $2.58 million to Crossbridge Bio for development of an antibody-drug combination to treat certain solid tumors.