San Jacinto College's new Center for Biotechnology at the Generation Park Campus is expected to be completed early next year. Photo courtesy of San Jacinto College

San Jacinto College and McCord Development Inc. broke ground on the new Center for Biotechnology at the Generation Park Campus in Northeast Houston.

The 4,000-square-foot, state-of-the-art facility is slated to allow for more hands-on training within simulated environments and will allow students to earn associate of applied science degrees in biomanufacturing technology, as well as credentials for those already in the workforce. It's scheduled to be completed in the first quarter of 2025.

“The Center and the overall components of the Biotechnology program will play a vital role in meeting the growing demand for skilled professionals in the biotechnology sector,” Brenda Hellyer, chancellor of San Jacinto College, says in a statement.

“We are committed to equipping our students with the skills and knowledge necessary for success in the dynamic biopharmaceutical industry," she continues. "Our vision is to not only meet the workforce needs of today but will also shape the future of biotechnology education and training in our region.”

San Jacinto College and McCord Development Inc. celebrated the groundbreaking of the new Center for Biotechnology at the Generation Park Campus in Northeast Houston. Photo courtesy of San Jacinto College

The new Center for Biotechnology curriculum is in partnership with the Ireland-based National Institute for Bioprocessing Research and Training. It is the only NIBRT-licensed training in the Southwest and Southeast region.

At the groundbreaking, San Jacinto College celebrated the ribbon-cutting for the Biomanufacturing Training Program at the South Campus, the first of the college's comprehensive biotechnology offerings.

The Biomanufacturing Training Program will be a customizable two-week hybrid program that combines theoretical teachings with hands-on experience.

“This program is designed to provide a seamless entry into the field for new professionals, with a focus on practical experience and exposure to industry practices,” Christopher Wild, executive director of San Jacinto College Center for Biotechnology, added in a statement.

The new center is part of Generation Park, a 4,300-acre master-planned development in Northeast Houston. In late 2022, San Jac and McCord, which is developing Generation Park, shared that they had signed a memorandum of understanding with the NIBRT to launch the program and center.

At the time, San Jacinto College was slated to be the institute’s sixth global partner and second U.S. partner.

Last summer, McCord also revealed plans for its 45-acre biomanufacturing campus at Generation Park.
Houston's San Jacinto College is launching a biotechnology program in early 2024 to be housed in the Center for Biotechnology in Generation Park. Rendering courtesy of McCord

Houston-area college shares more details on new biotechnology program, center

coming soon

Houston's San Jacinto College will roll out a new biotechnology program in early 2024 as it gets closer to its goal of launching the Center for Biotechnology in Generation Park.

In partnership with the Ireland-based National Institute for Bioprocessing Research and Training, the licensed training curriculum will offer regional biopharmaceutical training at the college's South Campus starting in January.

Initially, the 90-hour hybrid training program will provide opportunities for participants to gain experience with "all aspects of biomanufacturing, specialized instrumentation and equipment training, and advanced techniques," according to a statement. Students will earn an onboarding certificate that will help them enter the field.

The college then plans to open the Center for Biotechnology, developed by McCord Development Inc., at its Generation Park Campus in the first quarter of 2025. The state-of-the-art facility is slated to allow for more hands-on training within simulated environments, and will allow students to earn associate of applied science degrees in biomanufacturing technology, as well as credentials for those already in the workforce.

“The biomanufacturing industry is seeing substantial growth in the Greater-Houston area,” Christopher Wild, executive director for the San Jacinto College Center for Biotechnology, says in a statement. “The College’s partnership to offer NIBRT’s premier, industry-leading training right here in the Houston-area represents a firm commitment to bolstering the biomanufacturing workforce pipeline which will help position the region for continued growth.”

The center will also offer programs that are customizable to industry partners' needs, according to a statement, and will provide cost-effective training for new hires. It will be the only NIBRT-licensed training in the Southwest and Southeast region.

“The NIBRT team have been very impressed by San Jacinto’s excellent track record in developing workforce programmes for the Greater Houston Region across a broad range of industrial sectors," Darrin Morrissey, CEO of NIBRT, says in a statement. We are very much looking forward to working with the San Jacinto team to deliver world class biopharma training programs to their students."

The new center is part of Generation Park, a 4,300-acre master-planned development in Northeast Houston. In late 2022, San Jac and McCord, which is developing Generation Park, shared that they had signed a memorandum of understanding with the NIBRT to launch the program and center.

At the time, San Jacinto College was slated to be the institute’s sixth global partner and second U.S. partner.

Over the summer, McCord also revealed plans for its 45-acre biomanufacturing campus at Generation Park.
Generation Park has announced additional biomanufacturing facility development. Rendering courtesy of McCord

Real estate company unveils plans for 45-acre biomanufacturing campus in Northeast Houston

life science upgrade

A Houston-based real estate company has reveals its plans to create a 45-acre biomanufacturing campus in the first phase of a life science development in Generation Park.

McCord Development released its plans for BioHub Two this week. The project will include 500,000 square feet for manufacturing, lab, and office space located in Generation Park, a 4,300-acre master-planned development in Northeast Houston.

The news of the BioHub follows Generation Park's December announcement of the San Jacinto College’s Biotech Training Center, a project in partnership with the National Institute of Biotechnology Research and Training. The institute will have a "bioprocessing pilot plant operated in a realistic GMP simulated and operational manufacturing environment," according to a news release from McCord.

“Houston has consistently been ranked as a burgeoning life science cluster, and BioHub Two has the unique advantage of being a short walk from the region’s only Biotech Training Center at San Jacinto College’s Generation Park campus," says John Flournoy, senior director of sales and leasing.

Last year, the Greater Houston Partnership released data showing the potential for the Bayou City as a hub for biomanufacturing, cell and gene therapy, cancer treatment, drug development, and more. Earlier this summer, Houston maintained its standing as a hub for life sciences on an annual report from CBRE.

“Houston’s high concentration of life sciences employment, healthy funding landscape, access to the Texas’ $6 billion CPRIT grant fund, and commitment to translational research is making it one of the country’s fastest growing life science ecosystems,” says Ryan McCord, president of McCord Development, in the release. “BioHub Two’s location in Generation Park is strategic and cost-effective, as the world-leading research and development facilities at the Texas Medical Center, Houston International Airport and Port of Houston are in close proximity.”

The larger Generation Part plans include two multifamily complexes, a mixed-use development called The Commons, and retail and green spaces.

The Texas Medical Center unveiled its plans for the TMC BioPort, a biomanufacturing and medical supplies distribution engine, almost a year ago. This new campus will span several hundred acres just down the road from TMC and will drive the much-needed repatriation of critical medical supplies and new cell and gene therapies, per a news release.

The San Jacinto College Biotechnology Center is aimed at training workers in life science and at helping firm up Houston’s status in life science manufacturing. Rending courtesy of San Jacinto College

New biotech training center to rise in Northeast Houston

coming soon

A biotech training center is in the works at San Jacinto College in Houston, which the school says is positioned to become a global leader in biomanufacturing.

The San Jacinto College Biotechnology Center, to be located at the 4,300-acre Generation Park in Northeast Houston, is aimed at training workers in life science and at helping firm up Houston’s status in life science manufacturing.

A recent study commissioned by the Greater Houston Partnership identified development of a well-trained workforce as a key component to the region’s success in attracting and retaining life science companies.

San Jac and McCord Development, the Houston-based developer of Generation Park, have signed a memorandum of understanding with the National Institute for Bioprocessing Research and Training (NIBRT) in Ireland that is supposed to lead to the college becoming the exclusive provider of institute-licensed training in the Southwest and Southeast regions of the U.S.

The college says the center “will offer students hands-on experience in a pilot-scale bioprocessing center that includes upstream, downstream, and fill-finish facilities, as well as specific curriculum in cell and gene therapy and other innovative and developing industry sectors.”

San Jacinto College will be the institute’s sixth global partner and second U.S. partner.

“Building on San Jacinto College’s established track record of working with industry to develop need-specific training and accreditation centers, the partnership with NIBRT represents an opportunity to train the workforce that Houston's biopharma industry needs to sustain its rapid growth,” Brenda Hellyer, chancellor of the college, says in a news release. “We also expect to contribute to the global market by training people eager to enter this growing industry from around the United States and beyond.”

A study will be undertaken to determine details about the center, including its curriculum and size.

“San Jacinto College’s Biotechnology Center at Generation Park is the catalyst our region needs to fill the gap in our existing life science ecosystem and accelerate biomanufacturing in Houston,” says Ryan McCord, president of McCord Development.

A new executive hire for McCord is going to focus on bringing smart city technology to Generation Park. Rendering courtesy of McCord

East Houston development launches smart city initiative with new hire

smart city

A 4,200-acre master-planned development that's rising on the east side of town has created a new role within their executive suite to drive innovation and a new smart city initiative.

Houston-based real estate developer, McCord, has hired Nick Cardwell as vice president of digital innovation. In the newly created role, Cardwell will be tasked with bringing data-driven solutions, digital transformation, and other smart city innovation to Generation Park.

"Sensor technology, machine learning, and big data capabilities have exploded in the last decade and are rapidly outpacing the built world," says Ryan McCord, president of McCord, in a press release. "Bolting this digital future onto aging cities is no easy task. With Generation Park, we have a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to start from the beginning and rapidly prove up hardware and software technology solutions, at a massive scale."

Both the size of the development — which is larger than Google's Sidewalk Labs project in Canada and Toyota's Woven City in Japan, according to the release — and location are what provides Generation Park with this opportunity for smart city technology.

"Generation Park, while being physically many times larger than most smart city projects, also benefits from being located in a more physically, socially, and economically diverse test bed of a notoriously low-regulation part of the United States — Houston, Texas," McCord continues.

As the development is currently still being worked on, McCord's current focus right now is tapping into data to drive project and design decisions.

Cardwell has a background in technology and was previously overseeing operations and engineering at Austin-based construction software company, Bractlet.

"McCord's vision for Generation Park is the future of commercial development, pushing digital innovation into the forefront and leveraging cutting-edge technologies throughout their portfolio. I am beyond thrilled to join the McCord team and help make that vision a reality," says Cardwell, in the release. "Through the use of experiences, data, and collaborations, we will accelerate learnings and, in turn, advance resources that will truly improve people's lives."

Nick Cardwell has been hired as vice president of digital innovation at McCord. Photo courtesy of McCord

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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.