TMC's bootcamp companies have been announced. The 12 startups get to interact with Houston's health tech ecosystem and potentially join TMCi for its next accelerator cohort. Photo via TMC

The Texas Medical Center's Innovation Factory has brought in 12 life science startups to immerse them in the Houston innovation ecosystem, learn more about their businesses, and select its next cohort for its semiannual accelerator.

Twice a year, the TMC Innovation Factory hosts its HealthTech Accelerator Bootcamp. It a time to see if both sides of the table — TMC and the startups — are a fit for further acceleration. The 12 startups hail from three continents, represent a wide spectrum of specialties, and were widdle down from over 100 applicants.

“These startups are tackling significant challenges facing our health care ecosystem not only locally, but also globally. We are delighted to bring together solutions in the areas of maternal health, enabling care at home, nursing support and education, oncology and neurology, to name a few,” says Devin Dunn, head of the HealthTech Accelerator, in a news release.

Newly appointed entrepreneur in residence, Zaffer Syed, will help in supporting and guiding the cohort. Zaffer has experience as a medtech entrepreneur and has brought health care innovations to market.

“Participation in the Accelerator can certainly fast-track growth for early stage startups,” says Syed in the release. “I am eager to work with the caliber of companies entering bootcamp and to watch what they will achieve with the dedicated support of the TMCi team.”

The 12 companies that were invited to TMCi's bootcamp are as follows, according to TMC.

  • Avia Vascular, from Salt Lake City, Utah, creates Ally, a needle-free blood collection device intended to reduce the need for venipuncture when obtaining blood samples in patients with an established peripheral IV catheter.
  • Queenstown, Singapore-based Biorithm aims to reverse the poor maternal outcomes curve with its remote monitoring system to bring data-driven, accessible, and personalized care to every mother and baby.
  • CranioSense, founded in Bedford, Massachusetts, unlocks the hidden parameters of brain health across the neurological care spectrum with its development of a non-invasive way of assessing and monitoring intracranial pressure.
  • Milwaukee-based Debtle focuses on the patient portion of billing and uses its centralized communications and payment hub to save Revenue Cycle time, improve patient retention, and enable clients to easily resolve their overdue balances.
  • EmpNia Inc., from Minneapolis, enables precision imaging and radiation therapy for all cancer patients by providing an accurate, universal, easy-to-use, and cost-effective respiratory motion management solution.
  • Austin-based Highnote is a generative AI-powered mentor in the nurse’s pocket that build skills and confidence through just-in-time bits of information to make nurses feel supported and better equipped, to provide better patient care, and to improve retention rates.
  • LeQuest, from Rotterdam, Netherlands, aids health care professionals’ skills and knowledge advancement through online stimulation training with its comprehensive remote education solution, resulting in reduced cost of education, increased utilization and better patient outcomes.
  • Lucid Lane, founded in Los Altos, California, provides data-driven digital health solutions to empower both chronic and surgery pain patients, to prevent dependence on prescribed addictive medications and reduces persistent opioid use.
  • RizLab Health Inc., a Princeton, New Jersey company, brings blood cell analysis to patients’ fingertips with its Cytotracker portable device that measures white blood cell counts with a drop of blood to minimize infections from venipuncture in cancer patients.
  • Rose Health, based in Centennial, Colorado, connects occupational therapists and home remodeling service companies to households in need of accessible home modifications to enable homes to age with dignity.
  • Los Angeles-based Spark Neuro offers objective and accessible AI technology for the diagnosis and monitoring of brain health conditions.
  • Vitala, from Stockholm, Sweden, is a digital platform, enables health care providers to prescribe, monitor, and manage diagnoses-specific medical exercises for patients with chronic health conditions.

After the bootcamp, TMCi will decide which of the companies will move on to the six-month accelerator that's slated to start later this year. TMCi recently announced a new accelerator with Denmark, previously announced its spring cohorts.

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CultureMap Emails are Awesome

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.