Sixteen startup teams pitched at the seventh annual — but first-ever virtual – Bayou Startup Showcase. Photo courtesy of OwlSpark and RED Labs

Even despite a global pandemic, two university-based summer startup accelerator programs were determined to continue on. And, that's exactly what they did.

University of Houston's RED Labs and Rice University's OwlSpark pivoted their summer program, which they put on collaboratively, to a virtual approach. On Thursday, August 6, the program's 16 startup teams pitched their projects at the seventh annual Bayou Startup Showcase.

Here are this year's Class 8 presentations:

EVA

Vascular access requires a medical team to use an ultrasound machine to help navigate a needle's precision during the procedure. However, 5 percent of procedures result in an inexact and painful outcome. OwlSpark company, EVA — which stands for Exact Vascular Access, has created a device that works with the ultrasound machine to endure navigation of the needle during the procedure.

CareSafe

Seven million people fall every year, but as great and helpful wearable devices are, they aren't foolproof. CareSafe, a RED Labs company, taps into home WiFi to visualize when a fall occurs and the company can even notify emergency contacts and emergency services.

Ai-Ris

People who live in underserved and rural areas don't have regular access to eye care — which means that these people are exposed to preventable eye diseases. Ai-Ris has created a portable, telemedicine-ready device that can help get these populations access to eye care.

Dividends360

Ninety million people invest in the stock market — and more than half of those investors are self directed and spending several hours a week on planning their investments. RED Labs company Dividends360 is a web-based platform to help the modern investor make his or her decisions in a more efficient way.

FirstGen Solutions

Expecting mothers can't take the majority of medications in the market because the effects of the chemicals on the unborn child is unknown, and testing is limited to costly, inaccurate, and highly regulated animal testing. FirstGen Solutions, an OwlSpark company, is producing a stem cell testing kit for pharmaceutical companies to use as an earlier and easier way to indicate potential risks a medicine could have.

nisa EFFECT

Women undergoing menopause have no control over their hot flashes, which can happen often, last up to 20 minutes, and be debilitating to daily activities. Nisa EFFECT has created a cooling bra so that the 80 percent of women who experience hot flashes during menopause can have a discrete way to cool down.

FreeFuse

Five hundred hours of video content is uploaded every minute, and the sheer oversaturation of the industry makes growing an audience extremely difficult for content producers. Interactive video platform FreeFuse, an OwlSpark company, wants to flip the script and allow content creators to see what its audient wants to see in terms of content.

Morpheus Health

Pharmaceutical companies don't make it easy to find out about side effects medicines can have on its users. Morpheus Health, an OwlSpark company, uses data and patient information to better customize and predict potential side effects a medicine can have. Morpheus's results don't replace prescriptions or doctor consultations, but instead allow the patient to take that information into the consultation room.

Phase Filter

​Changing the air filters is an easily forgotten chore that, if undone, can cause unnecessary air quality issues and a higher electricity bill for homeowners. Phase Filter has designed a self-scrolling air filter that's easy to install and only needs to be changed once a year,

Bloodhound

The OwlSpark and RED Labs summer programs are meant to help early-stage startups figure out their market need and determine whether or not their product is a viable business. The Bloodhound team explains how they came up with their idea for a software that helps detect bleed in surgeries, and then how they realized, after research and mentorship through the program, that it wasn't an idea worth pursuing. Doctors need more help with stopping bleeds than finding them.

Crew Trace Solutions

The Navy needs an upgrade to their accountability practice. That's where Crew Trace Solutions, an OwlSpark company run by two military veterans, comes in. The technology mirrors something like EZ-Tag where personnel onboard are tracked throughout the ship as they pass through sensors set up in doorways around the boat.

VAYL

Everyone dreads the discomfort and disappointment that usually comes with dental appointments. The oral hygiene tools on the market today aren't cutting it, says the VAYL team, a RED Labs company. VAYL has created a device that brushes the entire mouth in an optimal way for time and for cavity prevention.

MoodyCorium

Finding the right moisturizer is a costly and exhausting industry for women. MoodyCorium, an OwlSpark company, is working on a solution so that women can navigate the hundreds of products available on the market.

ElastEye

Half of the glaucoma patients could have had their disease prevented by better diagnostics — and that's exactly what ElastEye has developed. The RED Labs company has created a non-invasive, early detection device that determines the elasticity of the eye.

BitGrange

Supporting local farmers can be hard — it might raise the price of produce for consumers while orders tend to be smaller than farmers prefer. BItGrange, an OwlSpark company, created an e-commerce platform to allow consumers to go in on purchases together to create a win-win situation for both sides of the transaction.

dext

Simple daily tasks can be overwhelming to stroke survivors and the only solution is exercise and rehabilitation. Dext is a wearable tool to help take that exercise and rehab into a daily, easy to use setting.

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Early-stage cancer-fighting startup raises pre-seed, launches under Houston life science leader

ready to grow

Fannin Partners has done it again. The Houston-based life science development group behind medtech companies Procyrion and Allterum Therapeutics announced yesterday that it has launched Radiomer Therapeutics. With an undisclosed amount of pre-seed funding, Radiomer joins the $242 million-strong Fannin portfolio.

Radiomer uses Fannin’s proprietary Raptamer platform to target vectors and ligands for theranostic application. The cancer-fighting technology is a targeting agent that can address serious maladies including breast, lung, colorectal, prostate, and head and neck cancers.

And with Radiomer’s launch, Fannin is moving with its trademark aggressiveness. Lead programs expected to complete Phase 0 imaging/dosimetry trial(s) in cancer patients in the first quarter of next year. Those will be closely followed by therapeutic programs.

“Raptamers combine antibody level affinities with desirable physical and pharmacokinetic properties, and a rapid path to clinic,” Dr. Atul Varadhachary, CEO of Radiomer Therapeutics and Fannin managing partner, says in a press release. “We are deploying this unique platform to develop novel therapies against attractive first-in-class oncology targets.”

Varadhachary has operated Radiomer in stealth mode since its 2023 inception. However, Raptamer has been in the company’s portfolio since 2019. The new company has been using the platform to generate data with the rights to radiopharmaceutical applications for the past year.

“Our lead programs include Radiomers targeting both well-established and first-in-class cancer targets,” adds Dr. Phil Breitfeld, Radiomer’s chief medical officer. “Our imaging/dosimetry trials are designed to provide clinical evidence of tumor targeting and biodistribution information, positioning us to rapidly initiate a therapeutic program(s) if successful.”

For over a decade, Fannin has developed and supported promising life science innovations by garnering grant funding and using its team of expert product developers to build out the technology or treatment. The life science innovation timeline is very different from a software startup's, which can get to an early prototype in less than a year.

"In biotech, to get to that minimally viable product, it can take a decade and tens of millions of dollars," Varadhachary said on the Houston Innovators Podcast earlier this year.

Houston innovator drives new accelerator toward supporting promising bioindustrial startups

HOUSTON INNOVATORS PODCAST EPISODE 238

Bioindustrial technologies have a high potential for impacting sustainability — but they tend to need a little bit more help navigating the startup valley of death. That's where the BioWell comes in.

Carlos Estrada, head of Venture Acceleration at BioWell, says the idea for the accelerator was came to First Bight Ventures, a Houston-based biomanufacturing investment firm, as it began building its portfolio of promising companies.

"While we were looking at various companies, we found ourselves finding different needs that these startups have," Estrada says on the Houston Innovators Podcast. "That's how the opportunity for the BioWell came about."

Specifically, bioindustrial companies, which are tapping into life science innovation to create more sustainable products or services, need early funding, lab space, and strategic corporate partners to help research and develop their startups.

"The very direct challenge that we are seeing is that these companies very often have to spend their funds to build out their own lab spaces," Estrada says, "so by the time they're trying to focus back on the product itself, they are starting to run out of funding."

BioWell is currently selecting its inaugural cohort and is also actively searching for its physical location to build out the program and facilities. Last year, BioWell secured $741,925 of the $53 million doled out as a part of the "Build to Scale" Grant program from the U.S. Economic Development Administration.

In addition to solving for specific challenges bioindustrial companies face, Estrada says the program will provide support for general startup and entrepreneurial guidance, like business plan development, navigating investors and grant funding, and more.

Just as First Bight Ventures was founded strategically in Houston to make the most of the local resources, the BioWell will operate out of the Bayou City — a market Estrada says has everything the industry needs.

"We have the right talent — our universities produce great researchers. We have the energy companies that are utilizing (a workforce) with transferable skills," he says on the show. "We also have the infrastructure, the square footage, and various real estate companies creating shells for lab space. We have the know how, the universities, and all at a lower cost, which plays a big role in the equation."