In the latest round up of Houston innovation news you may have missed, Houston has been deemed an affordable city for tech careers, HighRadius has a new product, and more. Photo via Getty Images

It's been a busy summer for the Houston innovation ecosystem, and for this reason, local startup and tech news may have fallen through some of the cracks.

In this roundup of short stories within Houston innovation, a software company has a new game-changing product, Houston was named an affordable city for a tech career, a health tech startup has a new C-suite leader, and more.

Houston ranks as affordable tech city

Houston is an affordable city to start off your career in tech, per this new report. Image courtesy of CodingDojo

While the coasts have some of the most booming tech hubs, Coding Dojo set off to identify the hubs with affordability for young professionals just starting off. The coding bootcamp started off by identifying the fastest growing cities in America using data from the Census, and factored in Apartment List's housing price data and the number of engineering jobs available in each city.

"The purpose of the report is to highlight cities that may be overlooked but have affordable living costs, plenty of open developer jobs in the vicinity and thus, are viable options to start or continue a career in tech," reads the report.

Houston ranks as No. 6 on the list, following Dallas at No. 1 and Austin suburb Leander as No. 2.

"With major campuses or headquarters in town for companies like FlightAware, Microsoft, Halliburton, and many others, you won't have a problem with Houston as your tech career destination," the report writes.

Houston data in the report:

  • Median Rent: $1,141
  • Entry-Level Developer Jobs: 81
  • Mid-Level Developer Jobs: 278

HighRadius announces new product

HighRadius has a new game-changing software update. Photo via highradius.com

Houston unicorn fintech SaaS company HighRadius has a new product that hit a milestone. The RadiusOne AR achieved "Built for NetSuite" status, according to a news release from the company.

"With RadiusOne AR, we can help NetSuite customers automate their AR processes, manage their operational costs, and increase efficiency," says Sayid Shabeer, chief product officer at HighRadius, in the release. "The RadiusOne AR SuiteApp will allow our joint customers to have stronger cash-flow using AI-based technology to automate their electronic invoicing, collections, cash reconciliation, and credit risk."

The product is aimed at streamlining invoicing and collections, cash reconciliation and credit risk services. The software is affordable and easy to deploy, potentially delivering value in as little as four weeks, per the release.

"Businesses continue to look for ways to bring automation and intelligence to their AR processes to better manage their working capital," says Guido Haarmans of Oracle NetSuite in the release. "This new SuiteApp extends our robust solution for receivables management and helps NetSuite customers further optimize their cash flow management."

Ignite Healthcare's pitch application deadline looms

Now's the time to apply for Ignite's annual accelerator. Photo courtesy of Ignite

Ignite Healthcare Network has opened applications for its annual mini accelerator programs for women-led digital health and med tech companies. The deadline to apply online is July 19.

The program "provides women-led healthcare startups the unique opportunity to engage with potential customers and investors who will assess and advise on the strengths and weaknesses of their companies," according to the website.

Following the mentorship and acceleration, Ignite's Pitch Competition Event allows finalists a chance to compete for several hundred thousand dollars in cash and investment prizes from health care executives and investors. This year, the audience will include parties interested in social impact investing, in search of companies that have solutions to the needs of underserved populations, reads the website.

Pulmotect names new CFO

Bill Noss joined Houston-based Pulmotect's C-suite in June. Photo courtesy of Pulmotect

Houston-based Pulmotect Inc., a clinical-stage biotechnology company, announced a new CFO late last month. William J. Noss III joined the company's team.

"I am delighted to welcome Bill to Pulmotect at such an important time for the company," says Dr. Colin Broom, CEO of Pulmotect, in the news release. "His expertise and experience will help build our infrastructure as we continue the clinical development of PUL-042. It is an exciting time to join Pulmotect, with two Phase 2 clinical trials for the prevention and treatment of COVID-19 that have been supported with funding from the Department of Defense and our planned clinical trials for the prevention of respiratory complications in cancer patients."

Noss has over 15 years of experience in the life science industry, formerly at Harmony Biosciences, where he helped lead the company through their commercial launch and subsequently through their initial public offering of $148 million, per the release.

"I am very excited to join this outstanding team as the company grows," says Noss in the release. "PUL-042 has the potential to protect patients from a broad range of viral and other pulmonary infections by activating the innate immune system. I look forward to playing a key role in the drug development program by working hard for the future benefit of patients and creating long-term value for the company and our stakeholders."

Hess makes $9M donation to STEM initiatives in the community

Houston-based Hess Corp. has contributed to a citywide initiative. Photo via trammellcrow.com

Last month, Hess Corp. announced a $9 million donation over the next three years. The gift is a part of its Learning for Life Partnership to fund educational programs and support services for Mayor Sylvester Turner's Complete Communities Initiative.

About 22 schools and over 13,000 children from pre-K through high school will benefit from the funds in the Third Ward, Magnolia Park-Manchester, and Second Ward Complete Communities neighborhoods.

Among other initiatives, the Hess Learning for Life Partnership will fund STEM equipment and curricula, teacher training, computer equipment, mentorship programs, accreditation initiatives, career life guidance counseling, and other support, according to a news release.

"Our company has a proud history of social investment programs that make a positive and lasting impact on the communities where we operate," says CEO John B. Hess in the news release. "In partnership with Mayor Turner's initiative, we are delighted to expand our commitment to provide children in the neighborhoods adjacent to Hess Tower in downtown Houston with the academic and social resources they need to reach their full potential."

Second Servings of Houston has amped up its cause to feed unemployed hospitality workers. Courtesy of Second Servings

2 big companies team up with Houston nonprofit to feed unemployed hospitality workers

food for thought

Two companies have stepped up in a big way to help a local nonprofit distribute thousands of meals to unemployed hospitality workers who lost their jobs due to the coronavirus shutdown.

By partnering with energy company Hess Corporation and food distribution giant Sysco, Second Servings of Houston will distribute 10,000 meals each week to unemployed hospitality workers through its newly established the "Dinner's On Us" program.

Hess' staff prepares the meals, which are available both fresh and frozen, utilized ingredients supplied by Sysco. Designed to provide approximately eight servings, the meals consist of hearty, classic fare such as chicken 'n biscuits, red beans and rice, and penne pasta with sausage.

Meals are distributed every Tuesday and Thursday from 10 am to noon in the LAM parking lot at 702 Avenida De Las Americas. A drive-thru setup allows for contact-free distribution, and Second Servings volunteers wear masks and gloves. To receive a meal, people should demonstrate eligibility with a recent paystub from a restaurant, caterer, hotel, sports stadium, or other hospitality-related business.

Typically, Second Servings works with restaurants, hotels, caterers, and others to rescue surplus food that would otherwise go to waste; it is also the beneficiary of the 2020 CultureMap Tastemaker Awards. Now, the organization is aiding the people who usually assist its mission.

"We saw the impact first-hand last month, when we rescued valuable perishable food from hotels, event venues, business cafeterias, schools and restaurant kitchens that were forced to close," Second Servings founder Barbara Bronstein says in a statement. "We created this program because we wanted to help the people who serve the community and donate surplus food to us all year long."

Second Servings will continue the program for as long as it has the funding to do so. In addition to Hess an Sysco, sponsors include real estate firm BHW Capital, ACME Party & Tent Rental, and Mucasey & Associates Architects. Those interested in making a contribution to continue the program may do so via the Second Servings website.

The meal options include chicken and biscuits. Courtesy of Second Servings

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This article originally ran on CultureMap.

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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.