LiNova will use the funds to advance its polymer cathode battery technology. Photo via Getty Images

A California startup that's revolutionizing polymer cathode battery technology has announced its series A round of funding with support from Houston-based energy transition leaders.

LiNova Energy Inc. closed a $15.8 million series A round led by Catalus Capital. Saft, a subsidiary of TotalEnergies, which has its US HQ in Houston, and Houston-based Chevron Technology Ventures, also participated in the round with a coalition of other investors.

LiNova will use the funds with its polymer cathode battery to advance the energy storage landscape, according to the company. The company uses a high-energy polymer battery technology that is designed to allow material replacement of the traditional cathode that is made up of cobalt, nickel, and other materials.

The joint development agreement with Saft will have them collaborate to develop the battery technology for commercialization in Saft's key markets.

“We are proud to collaborate with LiNova in scaling up its technology, leveraging the extensive experience of Saft's research teams, our newest prototype lines, and our industrial expertise in battery cell production," Cedric Duclos, CEO of Saft, says in a news release.

CTV recently announced its $500 million Future Energy Fund III, which aims to lead on emerging mobility, energy decentralization, industrial decarbonization, and the growing circular economy. Chevron has promised to spend $10 billion on lower carbon energy investments and projects by 2028.

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This article originally ran on EnergyCapital.

The Corporate of the Year category for the Houston Innovation Awards has four finalists — each playing a role in Houston's innovation ecosystem across energy, tech, and health care innovation. Photos courtesy

Meet the 4 corporations best supporting Houston's innovation ecosystem

Houston innovation awards

What corporations are most supporting Houston's startup ecosystem? The Houston Innovation Awards sought to find that out with a new category for the 2023 event.

The Corporate of the Year category has four finalists — each playing a role in Houston's innovation ecosystem across energy, tech, and health care innovation. Learn about each of these finalists in the interviews below.

Click here to secure your tickets to the November 8 event where we announce the winner of this exciting new category.

Aramco Ventures

Jim Sledzik, North American managing director of Saudi Aramco Energy Ventures, leads the organization locally. Photo via Aramco

Describe your company's work within the Houston innovation ecosystem.

Aramco Ventures has supported the development of Houston's innovation ecosystem as a founding member of the Ion to advance energy transition and Houston's tech economy. Jim Sledzik, managing director, Aramco Ventures North America, serves on the Ion Advisory Council. In addition we support Greentown Labs with its offices in Boston and Houston with Sledzik also named to its Advisory Board. Aramco Venture professionals are frequently tapped as speakers and participants for numerous industry speaking events and "Pitch Competitions" for start-up companies. For example, the 20th Annual Energy Tech Venture Forum held in Houston and organized by the Rice Alliance for Technology and Entrepreneurship; Climate Week NYC; and the first ever Women's Capital Summit in New York City.

Why has your company decided to support the Houston innovation ecosystem?

Houston is considered the energy capital of the world and Aramco's support and involvement will help amplify the city's reputation and presence as a global energy hub.

Describe your company's impact on the Houston innovation ecosystem.

Aramco's impact has been felt throughout the city by our involvement in major innovation events, activities, and investments.

Chevron Technology Ventures

Jim Gable, vice president of innovation at Chevron and president of Chevron Technology Ventures, leads the organization locally. Photo courtesy

Why has your company decided to support the Houston innovation ecosystem?

Investing in the communities where we operate is a core Chevron value, and Chevron is committed to building the innovation ecosystem in Houston. It’s good for our company and it’s good for the city.

The Houston region, with its deep pool of engineering and industry talent, world-class university expertise, growing startup community and vast energy infrastructure, is well-positioned to lead in the creation of lower carbon energy and improve the region’s global competitiveness. By leveraging its strengths, Houston can create its own model for how it’s going to disrupt the energy space.

Describe your company's impact on the Houston innovation ecosystem.

At Chevron Technology Ventures, we leverage our trial and deployment resources, venture investments and strategic partnerships – both internal and external – to support the technological breakthroughs that will enable the evolution to a lower-carbon energy system. CTV is an active sponsor of university programs and accelerators that build up the Houston energy ecosystem. It has led Chevron’s founding partnership with Greentown Labs Houston and was The Ion’s first tenant and program partner. CTV also backs The Cannon and Rice Alliance Clean Energy Accelerator, among others. As a partner and supporter of the innovation ecosystem, Chevron is committed to helping the ecosystem thrive.

Houston Methodist

Michelle Stansbury, vice president of innovation and IT applications at Houston Methodist, leads the company's innovation efforts. Photo courtesy of Houston Methodist

Describe your company's work within the Houston innovation ecosystem.

Our new collaborative space, the Tech Hub at Ion, is one way we are expanding our culture of innovation within Houston and its growing innovation ecosystem. Beyond showcasing ongoing technology, the Tech Hub at Ion also serves as a nucleus for community engagement and networking and hosting educational initiatives, with additional programming opportunities like reverse pitch sessions in the works.

Why has your company decided to support the Houston innovation ecosystem?

Healthcare is evolving at a rapid pace thanks to digital technology, so it’s important to search for solutions that are beyond the traditional walls of the hospital and even beyond our own industry. Serving our patients both in and outside the walls, especially in the community, has been a priority for Houston Methodist since our inception. We’ve had success in the healthcare innovation space, so we think it’s important to pay it forward and support the Houston innovation community.

Describe your company's impact on the Houston innovation ecosystem.

Our new collaborative space, the Tech Hub at Ion, is one way we are expanding our culture of innovation within Houston and its growing innovation ecosystem. Beyond showcasing ongoing technology, the Tech Hub at Ion also serves as a nucleus for community engagement and networking and hosting educational initiatives, with additional programming opportunities like reverse pitch sessions in the works. Houston Methodist’s Center for Innovation often collaborates with technology companies with solutions that provide a better patient experience and/or support clinicians and often these are technology companies early in their start-up journey. One Houston start-up Houston Methodist at the beginning of the pandemic and continues to use is MIC Sickbay, the technology that powers the virtual ICU and uses algorithms and AI to monitor patients.

Microsoft

Rob Schapiro, Energy Acceleration Program director and Houston site leader for Microsoft, leads the company's local innovation support efforts. Photo courtesy of Microsoft

Describe your company's work within the Houston innovation ecosystem.

Microsoft is committed to driving tech and innovation in the Houston community with a specific focus on underrepresented communities. Microsoft is financially supporting the ion, Greentown Labs Accel, DivInc, Tejano Tech Summit, and the Rice Alliance Clean Energy Accelerator as well as programs designed to bring the next generations of Houston founders to the forefront (G-Unity Business Lab, SuperGirls Shine Foundation, Tech Fest Live, PVAMU). Aside from the financial support, Microsoft brings a dedicated team of volunteers and mentors to each of these engagements, and they are helping shape the future of innovation in the city of Houston.

Why has your company decided to support the Houston innovation ecosystem?

We believe that it is our duty to be an active and engaged corporate partner to any and all communities in which we operate. We decided to invest in Houston because of the rich, diverse talent pool and the growing energy transition industry.

Describe your company's impact on the Houston innovation ecosystem.

  • Partnered with DivInc to create an Energy Tech Accelerator program that had its first cohort of seven companies this year.
  • Driving thought leadership and bringing attention to valuable initiatives through serving on the advisory boards of the Ion (Vice Chair position), Greentown Labs Houston, Rice Alliance Clean Energy Accelerator.
  • Supporting the next generation of innovators: 120 high school students received hands on training in innovation and prototyping as part of the G-Unity Business Lab. This program doubled in size due to its success. Microsoft sponsored prototyping and design thinking training. We also seated one of the Hustle Tank judges.
  • Graduated 14 students from the Level Up fellowship program in partnership with Prairie View A&M University and Accenture; most students received and accepted employment offers from Accenture.
  • Sponsored 20 high school girls who participated in the SuperGirls Shine Foundation's 40/40 mentorship program.
  • Ten women founders received mentoring and training as part of the DivInc Women in Tech Cohort
  • Held a four-week high school internship program for BIPOC students

Jim Gable, vice president of innovation at Chevron and president of Chevron Technology Ventures, joins the Houston Innovators Podcast. Photo courtesy

Houston energy innovator on why now's the right time for energy transition innovation

HOUSTON INNOVATORS PODCAST EPISODE 190

The cleantech innovation space has momentum, and Chevron strives to be one of the incumbent energy companies playing a role in that movement, Jim Gable, vice president of innovation at Chevron and president of Chevron Technology Ventures, shares on the Houston Innovators Podcast.

"People call it cleantech 2.0, but it's really cleantech 3.0," Gable says, explaining how he's been there for each wave of cleantech. "The people are better now — the entrepreneurs are better, the investors are better. Exits are here in the cleantech space."

"It's all driven by policy-enabled markets, and the policy is here now too. Twenty years ago, you didn't have nearly the same level of policy influence that you do now," he continues. "Things are coming together to help us really create and deliver that affordable, reliable, ever cleaner energy that's going to be needed for a long time."

Both CTV and Gable have been operating with this vision of cleaner, more reliable and affordable energy for over two decades. Gable, who's worked in various leadership roles across the company, returned to a job in the venture side of the business in 2021. He's officially relocated to Houston to lead CTV, which is based in the Ion.

CTV acts as Chevron's external innovation bridge, evaluating pitches from around 1,000 companies a year, funding and accelerating startups, working with internal teams to implement new tech, and more, as Gable explains. Under CTV's umbrella is the venture fund, the Catalyst Program, and the Chevron Studio, a newer initiative that matches entrepreneurs with technology research in order to take that tech to market.

"We say we open doors to the future within Chevron," he says on the show. "We're the onramp for early stage technology to get into the company."

Now that he's firmly planted in the Houston innovation ecosystem, Gable says is optimistic about the incumbents and the innovators coming together in Houston to forge the future of energy.

"I would just encourage Houston to not try to be something that we're not. Houston's got to be Houston, and I don't think we should try, necessarily, to follow the same path as Palo Alto or Boston," Gable says, adding that Houston's large and specialized energy sector is not a disadvantage. "We may not have the same breadth of primary research that other ecosystems have, and that's perfectly OK."

Gable shares more on his perspective of Houston's ecosystem and the energy transition as a whole on the podcast. Listen to the interview below — or wherever you stream your podcasts — and subscribe for weekly episodes.

Here's your roundup of energy innovation news coming out of Houston. Photo via Getty Images

Incubator announces new program, Houston startup names new partner, and more energy innovation news

short stories

Houston's energy innovation ecosystem has seen a busy spring season, with startup accelerator cohorts announced, expanded corporate partnerships, and recent funding raised.

In this roundup of short stories within Houston energy innovation, a startup enters into a strategic partnership, Greentown Labs announces a new accelerator, and more.

Syzygy taps global company to lead scaling for tech development 

Syzygy has brought on a new partner that's key to its future growth and tech production. Photo via Emerson

Houston-based Syzygy Plasmonics, which has developed a light-based catalyst reactor technology that originated out of Rice University, has selected global technology and software company Emerson (NYSE: EMR) to automate electrification of chemical production processes.

The reactor technology uses light instead of thermal energy for chemical manufacturing. The all-electric production method has the opportunity to replace fossil fuel-based combustion, making energy generation more sustainable. Syzygy estimates, according to the news release, that its reactor systems could eliminate 1 gigaton of CO2 emissions by 2040.

“We are excited to advance this opportunity with Emerson not only for its automation technologies and software but also its sustainability leadership and domain expertise in chemical engineering, electrification and hydrogen production,” says Syzygy CEO Trevor Best in the release. “As we expand beyond traditional paradigms of reactor technology and launch a new way to electrify chemical manufacturing, we wanted a technology partner who can help us scale our technology efficiently, safely and reliably.”

Emerson will provide its suite of hardware, software, and services for the Syzygy modular reactors.

"Emerson is excited to collaborate with Syzygy Plasmonics on such promising technology that could have a significant impact on industries that are some of the most challenging to decarbonize," says Peter Zornio, CTO at Emerson. “This aligns with Emerson’s culture of innovation that takes on our customers’ biggest challenges.”

Greentown Labs announces applications opening for Shell accelerator

Shell is seeking energy tech companies. Photo via greentownlabs.com

Greentown Labs, a climatetech incubator co-located in Houston and Boston, has teamed up with Shell for a Greentown Go program, geared at accelerating startup-corporate partnerships, to focus on technologies for carbon utilization, storage, and traceability.

Greentown Go Make 2023 zeroing in on alternative carbon feedstocks for carbon-intensive commodities; biogenic and nature-based solutions; and solutions for carbon storage and traceability, according to a news release.

Applications are open now, and the selected startups will have access to mentorship from Shell and Greentown's networks, desk space and membership within Greentown, $15,000 in non-dilutive grant funding, and educational workshops throughout the duration of the six-month program.

“Greentown Go brings together groundbreaking climatetech startups and the corporations that can help commercialize and scale their technologies,” says Kevin T. Taylor, interim CEO and CFO at Greentown Labs, in a news release. “Every Greentown Go program aims to drive climate impact and accelerate the energy transition. We look forward to working with Shell, a long-time Greentown partner, on this important program and supporting the latest innovations in carbon utilization, storage, and traceability.”

The program will help support Shell’s strategy through the development and scaling of technologies for carbon utilization, storage, and traceability across chemicals, carbon fuels, and more.

“Collaboration to accelerate technology development is critical to developing the energy solutions we need for a low-carbon energy future, and I am excited to see what novel technologies arise from startups participating in the Greentown Go Make 2023 program,” says Ed Holgate, commercial partnerships manager at Shell.

Chevron Technology Ventures adds Canadian startup to its Catalyst Program

Motive.io ia using AI to optimize workforce training. Photo via Motive.io

Chevron Technology Ventures announced the addition of Vancouver-based Motive.io, which provides immersive training solutions that leverage virtual and augmented reality technologies, to its Catalyst program. The program seeks out and helps to grow breakthrough technologies and solutions that have the potential to disrupt the energy industry.

"We are honored and thrilled to be selected as part of Chevron Technology Ventures' Catalyst program," says Ryan Chapman, CEO of Motive.io, in a news release. "Selection for this program represents a tremendous opportunity for Motive.io to collaborate with Chevron Technology Ventures as we continue to advance our cutting-edge immersive training solutions for the energy sector."

Motive.io's technology, called the XR Management System, "aims to revolutionize how companies train their employees by providing realistic and interactive simulations that allow learners to practice their skills in a safe and controlled environment," according to a news release.

This week's roundup of Houston innovators includes Gautam Phanse of Chevron Technology Ventures, Dede Raad of Dress Up Buttercup, and Benjamin Foster of Nurseify. Photos courtesy

3 Houston innovators to know this week

who's who

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


Gautam Phanse, strategic relationship manager for Chevron Technology Ventures

Gautam Phanse of Chevron Technology Ventures answers questions about this unique program. Photo courtesy

Houston-based Chevron Technology Ventures has applications open for its second Chevron Studio cohort that matches entrepreneurs with promising technologies coming out of universities and labs. The overall goal of the studio — a collaboration between Chevron and the National Renewable Energy Laboratory, or NREL — is to scale up and commercialize early-stage technologies that have the potential to impact the future of energy.

"The goal of Chevron Studio is to scale up and commercialize technology developed in the Universities and National Labs. We curate the intellectual property developed at universities and national labs and provide a platform to match entrepreneurs with the IP," says Gautam Phanse, the strategic relationship manager for Chevron Technology Ventures. "The program provides seed funding and a pathway through incubation, pilot and field trials to scale up the technologies. The uniqueness of this program is its target and the breadth of its scope — all the way from incubation to field trials."

Phanse joins InnovationMap for a Q&A to explain more about the opportunity. Read more.

Dede Raad, founder of Dress Up Buttercup

Dede Raad of Dress Up Buttercup created a unique pitch series — completely fueled by her social media community — that gave a spotlight to eight businesses. Photo via dressupbuttercup.com

After growing her audience to over a million followers on Instagram, Houston fashion blogger Dede Raad felt the pressure to expand her business — but she didn't feel inspired by any particular line of business to grow into.

"In the blogging world, which I've been doing for about seven years, everyone's next step is to start a brand and to start something of their own," Raad, founder of Dress Up Buttercup, tells InnovationMap. "I just don't have anything in my heart that I was really passionate about. I know once you start something, you have to give it your all."

But what Raad realized — after a year of thinking about her next move and a chance viewing of Shark Tank — was that tons of business founders were passionate about their own brands, and there was an opportunity for Raad use her community to support them instead of coming up with something of her own. She launched "Build Up Buttercup," an initiative that featured small business pitches for a select group of investors. Read more.

Benjamin Foster, CEO and founder of Nurseify

In honor of Black History Month, Houstonian Benjamin Foster shares some of his lessons learned about navigating the business world as a Black founder. Photo courtesy

Last month was a time to reflect on Black history — as well as to look forward to the future of Black Americans. Benjamin Foster, a Houston entrepreneur, wrote a guest column about his experience as a Black founder.

"No matter how smart or hard working you are, it is impossible for a nonprofit owner, entrepreneur, or business owner to know everything about running and managing a business," he writes. "For me, I understood the health care industry and business management side, but I acknowledged that as a founder, it was okay to not know it all and to need the support of a village to get traction to keep moving forward." Read more.

Chevron Technology Ventures, which has an office in the Ion, has applications open for entrepreneurs looking for an opportunity in cleantech. Photo courtesy of Gensler

Q&A: Chevron introduces unique clean energy studio to Houston entrepreneur community

Seeing green

Calling all innovators looking for the next big climate technology — Chevron wants to help you find your next big opportunity.

Houston-based Chevron Technology Ventures has applications open for its second Chevron Studio cohort that matches entrepreneurs with promising technologies coming out of universities and labs. The overall goal of the studio — a collaboration between Chevron and the National Renewable Energy Laboratory, or NREL — is to scale up and commercialize early-stage technologies that have the potential to impact the future of energy.

Applications for entrepreneurs are open through March 14. Once selected, there are three phases of the program. The first includes matching the selected entrepreneurs with the inventors of the selected intellectual properties, which will occur over three to four months. The next phase includes scaling up the product — something that will take one to two years, depending on the tech. The last step would be a trial or a pilot program that includes rolling out a minimum viable product at commercial scale at Chevron or an affiliate.

Gautam Phanse is the strategic relationship manager for Chevron Technology Ventures. He joins InnovationMap for a Q&A to explain more about the opportunity.

Gautam Phanse of Chevron Technology Ventures answers questions about this unique program. Photo courtesy

InnovationMap: What types of technologies is Chevron looking to bring into commercialization through this program? How is the program different from existing accelerators/incubators/etc.?

Gautam Phanse: Chevron Technology Ventures brings external innovation to Chevron. Key focus areas for CTV are industrial decarbonization, emerging mobility, energy decentralization, and the growing circular carbon economy. Chevron Studio is one of the tools to achieve this goal. The current focus areas for Chevron Studio are: carbon utilization, hydrogen and renewable energy, energy storage systems, and solutions for circular economy. These focus areas will be reviewed every year and additional areas could be brought into the mix.

The goal of Chevron Studio is to scale up and commercialize technology developed in the Universities and National Labs. We curate the intellectual property developed at universities and national labs and provide a platform to match entrepreneurs with the IP. The program provides seed funding and a pathway through incubation, pilot and field trials to scale up the technologies. The uniqueness of this program is its target and the breadth of its scope — all the way from incubation to field trials.

IM: How does Chevron Technology Ventures and the National Renewable Energy Laboratory collaborate on this project? What role does each entity play?

GP: CTV has a long history of supporting innovation and the startup community. And over the years we’ve seen the consistent gaps and the struggles that the startup companies have in scaling up technologies. We also have a long history of working with national labs and universities and have seen the challenges in getting these technologies out of the labs. The idea for Chevron Studio grew out of these challenges.

NREL’s Innovation and Entrepreneurship Center manages Chevron Studio, working closing with entrepreneurs and guiding them through the program while leveraging capabilities at the lab and activating the IEC’s network of cleantech startups, investors, foundations, and industry partners.

IM: What are you looking for from the entrepreneur applicants? Who should apply?

GP: We are looking for entrepreneurs who are seeking their next opportunity. They should have a passion in lower carbon solutions and the patience to work on early-stage technologies to see them through scale up and commercialization. Aspiring entrepreneurs with demonstrated passion are also welcome to apply. The entrepreneurs are expected to build a team, raise funds and grow the business providing competitive solutions to the industry.

IM: Tell me about cohort 1. How did it go and what were the participants able to accomplish?

GP: We were really excited about the response we got from both the entrepreneur community and the universities and national labs. We had a strong pool of entrepreneurs and a great mix of IP and frankly had a tough time making the selection. The first cohort had four entrepreneurs in the initial discovery phase. Some of them have now graduated, and we will be announcing the participants in the next phase — for scaling up — shortly.

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This conversation has been edited for brevity and clarity.

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Houston family's $20M donation drives neurodegeneration research

big impact

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.