Emerson Perin of the Texas Heart Institute, recently published the largest clinical trial of cell therapy for patients with chronic heart failure to-date included 580 patients at 52 sites throughout North America. Photo via texasheart.org

Emerson Perin’s end goal isn’t to treat heart failure. The medical director of The Texas Heart Institute says that he has his sights set firmly on curing the malady altogether. And, with the power of innovation and a strong team, the Houston-based cardiologist has a good chance of meeting his objective.

Perin first came to THI for fellowship training in 1988, following his residency in Miami and medical school in his birthplace of Brazil.

“This is a very special place,” the physician and researcher, whose titles also include director for THI’s Center for Clinical Research and vice president for medical affairs, tells InnovationMap. “It has a worldwide-reaching reputation. I’ve always liked research and this is a great place in terms of innovation and practicing high-level cardiology.”

For decades, Perin has followed in THI founder Denton Cooley’s footsteps with world-changing research. In 2001, the founding medical director of THI’s Stem Cell Center was the first person to inject stem cells into a failing human heart. It led to a trial of 17 patients that year.

“A couple of the patients did remarkably well — more than you could ever expect. These guys who couldn’t’ walk across the room pretty much were jogging on the beach. That gave me the initial insight that this works,” Perin recalls.

What exactly is heart failure? The term refers to the condition of a heart that can’t pump enough blood to sustainably power the body through oxygenation of the tissues from blood flow. It may sound like a death sentence, but with appropriate care, it can usually be managed with medicines and if worsening occurs, devices and, ultimately, heart transplantation.

And Perin is proving that there’s a lot of life ahead for heart failure patients. Earlier this year, he published another groundbreaking clinical trial, DREAM-HF. The largest clinical trial of cell therapy for patients with chronic heart failure to-date included 580 patients at 52 sites throughout North America.

With the goal of getting a new cell therapy approved for heart failure, the primary endpoint was to prove that the therapy could prevent recurrent hospitalizations.

“It was a total negative,” says Perin. That’s because the cells don’t have a decongestant effect such as the medicines currently used to treat heart failure.

But that doesn’t mean that the trial was a failure. Quite the opposite. That’s because Perin and his team proved something else: The trial was able to prove that there was significant improvement in patients with inflammation. After those patients were injected with mesenchymal precursor cells (MPC), they showed a 70-percent reduction in heart attacks and strokes. Cardiovascular deaths also decreased.

These are blockbuster numbers, and big news for patients dealing with heart failure. What it means is that the cells addressed a different aspect of heart failure that until now had been left untreated which was the inflammation — how heart failure starts and what keeps it going.

So what’s next? Going to the FDA.

“They said, ‘We can’t approve it with one trial, but we’ll approve it with two,’” says Perin.

This time, his primary endpoint will be tailored to suit the positive outcome he knows he’ll be able achieve. This next round will begin in 2024.

Once the FDA approves a new catheter system for injecting the heart with stem cells and genes, the team will proceed with new studies. Gene therapy will be another frontier for Perin — and patients with heart failure.

“I think the combination of cells and genes is even more powerful,” he says. “That will help save lives in a completely new way and do away with heart failure.”

Perin's work is just one piece of the puzzle, and Dr. Joseph Rogers, who was appointed president and CEO of THI in 2021, is leading the organization's initiative in several ways. THI, recently buoyed by a $32 million donation from a patient — the largest charitable donation in its history — is exploring several innovative therapeutics, devices, and treatments.

THI recently received a two-year, $1.14 million grant from The National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute to develop a novel, first-in-class drug to treat the cardiovascular disease that arises from atherosclerosis. Another THI innovator, Camila Hochman-Mendez — along with her research team — is studying the effects of regenerative medicine on hearts.

Ad Placement 300x100
Ad Placement 300x600

CultureMap Emails are Awesome

Houston cardiac health startup raises $43 million series B to grow AI-backed platform

money moves

A Houston-based tech company that has a product line of software solutions for cardiac health has raised funding.

Octagos Health, the parent company of Atlas AI — a software platform for cardiac devices like pacemakers, defibrillators, ambulatory monitors and consumer wearables — has announced a $43 million series B raise that will bring their technology to many more hearts.

Morgan Stanley Investment Capital led the investment, which also included funds from Mucker Capital and other continuing strategic investors. The goal of the raise is to supply funds to accelerate Atlas AI’s growth across the United States and to expand into other areas of care, including ambulatory monitors, consumer wearables, and sleep.

"This investment will enable us to accelerate enhancements to our platform, in addition to scaling our commercial team and operations. We are currently the only company that helps cardiology practices migrate their historical data from legacy software providers and fully integrates with any EHR (exertion heart rate) system. We do this while enabling customized reporting supported by patient and practice decision-support analytics," says Eric Olsen, COO of Octagos Health, in a press release.

Octagos Health was founded by a team of healthcare pros including CEO Shanti Bansal, a cardiologist and founder of Houston Heart Rhythm, an atrial fibrillation center. The goal was to find a new way to deal with the massive amount of data that clinicians encounter each day in a way that combines software and the work of human doctors.

According to the Octagos Health website, “Our solution allows clinicians to focus on other ways of delivering meaningful healthcare and more efficiently manage their remotely monitored patients.”

It works thanks to customizable reporting features that allow patients’ healthcare teams to get help while monitoring them, but to do it precisely as they would if they were crunching numbers themselves.

"We are excited to partner with Octagos Health and support their vision of transforming cardiac care," says Melissa Daniels, managing director of Morgan Stanley Expansion Capital. "Octagos Health has demonstrated exceptional growth and innovation in a critical area of healthcare. We believe their platform and vertically integrated software and services significantly improve patient care and streamline cardiac monitoring processes for healthcare providers."

Will Hsu, co-founder and partner of Mucker Capital, agrees. “Octagos Health is poised for scale – industry leading gross margins, a very sticky product that doctors and clinical staff love, and a market ready for disruption with artificial intelligence. This is the new wave for diagnostic care,” he says. And with this raise, it will be available to even more clinicians and patients across the country.

Houston biotech company expands leadership as it commercializes sustainable products

joining the team

Houston-based biotech company Cemvita recently tapped two executives to help commercialize its sustainable fuel made from carbon waste.

Nádia Skorupa Parachin came aboard as vice president of industrial biotechnology, and Phil Garcia was promoted to vice president of commercialization.

Parachin most recently oversaw several projects at Boston-based biotech company Ginkjo Bioworks. She previously co-founded Brazilian biotech startup Integra Bioprocessos.

Parachin will lead the Cemvita team that’s developing technology for production of bio-manufactured oil.

“It’s a fantastic moment, as we’re poised to take our prototyping to the next level, and all under the innovative direction of our co-founder Tara Karimi,” Parachin says in a news release. “We will be bringing something truly remarkable to market and ensuring it’s cost-effective.”

Moji Karimi, co-founder and CEO of Cemvita, says the hiring of Parachin represents “the natural next step” toward commercializing the startup’s carbon-to-oil process.

“Her background prepared her to bring the best out of the scientists at the inflection point of commercialization — really bringing things to life,” says Moji Karimi, Tara’s brother.

Parachin joins Garcia on Cemvita’s executive team.

Before being promoted to vice president of commercialization, Garcia was the startup’s commercial director and business development manager. He has a background in engineering and business development.

Founded in 2017, Cemvita recently announced a breakthrough that enables production of large quantities of oil derived from carbon waste.

In 2023, United Airlines agreed to buy up to one billion gallons of sustainable aviation fuel from Cemvita’s first full-scale plant over the course of 20 years.

Cemvita’s investors include the UAV Sustainable Flight Fund, an investment arm of Chicago-based United; Oxy Low Carbon Ventures, an investment arm of Houston-based energy company Occidental Petroleum; and Japanese equipment and machinery manufacturer Mitsubishi Heavy Industries.

------

This article originally ran on EnergyCapital.

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 logistics startup founder, a marketing expert, and a solar energy innovator.

Matthew Costello, CEO and co-founder of Voyager Portal

Houston logistics SaaS innovator is making waves with its expanded maritime shipping platform. Photo courtesy of Voyager

For several years now, Matthew Costello has been navigating the maritime shipping industry looking for problems to solve for customers with his company, Voyager Portal.

Initially, that meant designing a software platform to enhance communications and organization of the many massive and intricate global shipments happening every day. Founded in 2018 by Costello and COO Bret Smart, Voyager Portal became a integral tool for the industry that helps users manage the full lifecycle of their voyages — from planning to delivery.

"The software landscape has changed tremendously in the maritime space. Back in 2018, we were one of a small handful of technology startups in this space," Costello, who serves as CEO of Voyager, says on the Houston Innovators Podcast. "Now that's changed. ... There's really a huge wave of innovation happening in maritime right now." Read more.

Arielle Rogg, principal and founder of Rogg Enterprises

Arielle Rogg writes in a guest column for InnovationMap about AI in the workforce. Photo via LinkedIn

Arielle Rogg isn't worried about artificial intelligence coming for her job. In fact, she has three reasons why, and she outlines them in a guest column for InnovationMap.

"The advent of AI pushes us humans to acquire new skills and hone our existing abilities so we can work alongside these evolving technologies in a collaborative fashion. AI augments human capabilities rather than replacing us. I believe it will help our society embrace lifelong learning, creating new industries and jobs that have never existed before," she writes in the piece. Read more.

Nathan Childress, founder of Solar Slice

Solar Slice Founder Nathan Childress says his new venture offers a fulfilling way to encourage and promote solar energy and a greener planet. Photo via LinkedIn

Nuclear engineer and entrepreneur Nathan Childress wants consumers to capture their own ray of sunlight to brighten the prospect of making clean energy a bigger part of the power grid. That's why he founded Solar Slice. The new venture offers a fulfilling way to encourage and promote solar energy and a greener planet.

Although trained in nuclear power plant design, solar power drew his interest as a cheaper and more accessible alternative, and Childress tells InnovationMap that he thinks that the transition to cleaner energy, in Texas especially, needs to step up.

Recent studies show that 80 to 90 percent of the money invested into fighting climate change “aren’t going to things that people actually consider helpful,” Childress says, adding that “they’re more just projects that sound good, that are not actually taking any action." Read more.