The gift will create the John M. O’Quinn Foundation Neurodegenerative Disorders Laboratory at Houston Methodist. Photo via houstonmethodist.org

Houston Methodist announced that it has received a $10 million gift from the The John M. O’Quinn Foundation to support research into neurological disorders, including Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s disease and others.

The gift will create the John M. O’Quinn Foundation Neurodegenerative Disorders Laboratory at Houston Methodist, which will be led by Dr. Jun Li, who chairs the department of neurology at the Houston Methodist Neurological Institute. The NIH-backed researcher and his team will provide care, clinical trial opportunities and subspecialty programs through the lab, according to a release from Houston Methodist.

The funds will also be used to recruit neurodegenerative disorders specialists to lab by creating endowed research chairs, research fellowships and funding for pilot studies.

"Many neurodegenerative diseases are chronic and significantly impact the quality of life, causing pain, weakness, loss of ambulation and sensory loss,” Li says in a statement. “Our team is committed to working with patients to help make their lives better through treatment, and this generous gift fuels our determination to do even more and to help find therapies for these neurological diseases. This commitment from The John M. O’Quinn Foundation will support an interdisciplinary team of neurologists and neuroscientists to further explore treatment options.”

The O'Quinn Foundation has been a long-time supporter of the hospital group, according to Houston Methodist, and has had members of its organization suffer from neurodegenerative disorders.

"As our population continues to live longer, we believe it’s critical to help now, and we know Houston Methodist is best positioned with its renowned researchers and clinicians like Dr. Li to help those with neurodegenerative diseases to have a better quality of life, and ultimately, a treatment for these diseases that impact so many,” President and Executive Director of the foundation Robert C. Wilson III says in the statement.

Earlier this year, Houston Methodist also received a $1 million grant from Susan and William “Dub” Henning, Jr. to support Alzheimer’s research at the Nantz National Alzheimer Center at the hospital. It created the Susan and William Henning Jr. Neurodegenerative Research Endowment.

Meanwhile, over the summer, a Houston clinical-stage biotech that treats neurodegenerative diseases company went public. The company, Coya Therapeutics (Nasdaq: COYA), has developed a biologics therapy that prevents further spreading of neurodegenerative diseases by making regulatory T cells functional again and closed a $15.25 million IPO in January. Click here to learn more about the company's treatments for ALS and Alzheimer's.

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Houston chemist lands $2M NIH grant for cancer treatment research

future of cellular health

A Rice University chemist has landed a $2 million grant from the National Institute of Health for his work that aims to reprogram the genetic code and explore the role certain cells play in causing diseases like cancer and neurological disorders.

The funds were awarded to Han Xiao, the Norman Hackerman-Welch Young Investigator, associate professor of chemistry, from the NIH's Maximizing Investigators’ Research Award (MIRA) program, which supports medically focused laboratories.

Xiao will use the five-year grant to develop noncanonical amino acids (ncAAs) with diverse properties to help build proteins, according to a statement from Rice. He and his team will then use the ncAAs to explore the vivo sensors for enzymes involved in posttranslational modifications (PTMs), which play a role in the development of cancers and neurological disorders. Additionally, the team will look to develop a way to detect these enzymes in living organisms in real-time rather than in a lab.

“This innovative approach could revolutionize how we understand and control cellular functions,” Xiao said in the statement.

According to Rice, these developments could have major implications for the way diseases are treated, specifically for epigenetic inhibitors that are used to treat cancer.

Xiao helped lead the charge to launch Rice's new Synthesis X Center this spring. The center, which was born out of informal meetings between Xio's lab and others from the Baylor College of Medicine’s Dan L Duncan Comprehensive Cancer Center at the Baylor College of Medicine, aims to improve cancer outcomes by turning fundamental research into clinical applications.

They will build upon annual retreats, in which investigators can share unpublished findings, and also plan to host a national conference, the first slated for this fall titled "Synthetic Innovations Towards a Cure for Cancer.”

Houston neighbor ranks as one of America's most livable small cities

mo city

Some Houston suburbs stick out from the rest thanks to their affluent residents, and now Missouri City is getting time in the spotlight, thanks to its new ranking as the No. 77 most livable small city in the country.

The tiny but mighty Houston neighbor, located less than 20 miles southwest of Houston, was among six Texas cities that earned a top-100 ranking in SmartAsset's 2024 " Most Livable Small Cities" report. It compared 281 U.S. cities with populations between 65,000 and 100,000 residents across eight metrics, such as a resident's housing costs as a percentage of household income, the city's average commute times, and the proportions of entertainment, food service, and healthcare establishments.

According to the U.S. Census Bureau, Missouri City has an estimated population of over 76,000 residents, whose median household income comes out to $97,211. SmartAsset calculated that a Missouri City household's annual housing costs only take up 19.4 percent of that household's income. Additionally, the study found only six percent of the town's population live below the poverty level.

Here's how Missouri City performed in two other metrics in the study:

  • 1.4 percent – The proportion of arts, entertainment, and recreation businesses as a percentage of all businesses
  • 29.9 minutes – Worker's average commute time

But income and housing aren't the only things that make Missouri City one of the most livable small cities in Texas. Residents benefit from its proximity from central Houston, but the town mainly prides itself on its spacious park system, playgrounds, and other recreational activities.

Missouri City, Texas

Missouri City residents have plenty of parkland to enjoy. www.missouricitytx.gov

The Missouri City Parks and Recreation Departmen meticulously maintains 21 parks spanning just over 515 acres of land, an additional 500 acres of undeveloped parkland, and 14.4 miles of trails throughout the town, according to the city's website."Small cities may offer cost benefits for residents looking to stretch their income while enjoying a comfortable – and more spacious – lifestyle," the report's author wrote. "While livability is a subjective concept that may take on different definitions for different people, some elements of a community can come close to being universally beneficial."

Missouri City is also home to Fort Bend Town Square, a massive mixed-use development at the intersection of TX 6 and the Fort Bend Parkway. It offers apartments, shopping, and restaurants, including a rumored location of Trill Burgers.

Other Houston-area cities that earned a spot in the report include

Spring (No. 227) and Baytown (No. 254).The five remaining Texas cities that were among the top 100 most livable small cities in the U.S. include Flower Mound (No. 29), Leander (No. 60), Mansfield (No. 69), Pflugerville (No. 78), and Cedar Park (No. 85).

The top 10 most livable small cities in the U.S. are:

  • No. 1 – Troy, Michigan
  • No. 2 – Rochester Hills, Michigan
  • No. 3 – Eau Claire, Wisconsin
  • No. 4 – Franklin, Tennessee
  • No. 5 – Redmond, Washington
  • No. 6 – Appleton, Wisconsin
  • No. 7 – Apex, North Carolina
  • No. 8 – Plymouth, Minnesota
  • No. 9 – Livonia, Michigan
  • No. 10 – Oshkosh, Wisconsin

The report examined data from the U.S. Census Bureau's 2022 1-year American Community Survey and the 2021 County Business Patterns Survey to determine its rankings.The report and its methodology can be found on

smartasset.com

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This article originally ran on CultureMap.