This week's roundup of Houston innovators includes Zimri Hinshaw of BUCHA BIO, Kelly Klein of Easter Seals of Greater Houston, ad John Mooz of Hines. Photos courtesy

Editor's note: In this week's roundup of Houston innovators to know, I'm introducing you to three local innovators across industries — from esports to biomaterials — recently making headlines in Houston innovation.

Zimri Hinshaw, CEO of BUCHA BIO

Zimri T. Hinshaw, CEO of BUCHA BIO, joins the Houston Innovators Podcast to discuss how he's planning to scale his biomaterials startup to reduce plastic waste. Photo courtesy of BUCHA BIO

After raising a seed round of funding, BUCHA BIO is gearing up to move into its new facility. The biomaterials company was founded in New York City in 2020, but CEO Zimri T. Hinshaw shares how he started looking for a new headquarters for the company — one that was more affordable, had a solid talent pool, and offered a better quality of life for employees. He narrowed it down from over 20 cities to two — San Diego and Houston — before ultimately deciding on the Bayou City.

Since officially relocating, Hinshaw says he's fully committed to the city's innovation ecosystem. BUCHA BIO has a presence at the University of Houston, Greentown Labs, and the East End Maker Hub — where the startup is building out a new space to fit the growing team.

"By the end of this month, our laboratories will be up and running, we'll have office space adjacent, as well as chemical storage," Hinshaw says on the Houston Innovators Podcast. Listen to the episode and read more.

Kelly Klein, development director of Easter Seals Greater Houston

A nonprofit organization has rolled out an esports platform and event to raise awareness and funding for those with disabilities. Photo via Easter Seals

For many video games is getaway from reality, but for those with disabilities — thanks to a nonprofit organization —gaming can mean a lot more. On Saturday Dec. 3 — International Day of Persons with Disabilities — from 1 to 9 pm, Easter Seals Greater Houston will be joining forces with ES Gaming for the inaugural Game4Access Streamathon.

Gaming helps enhance cognitive skills, motor skills, improve mental well-being, and can help reduce feelings of social isolation due to the interactive nature of playing with others.

“This is really a unique way for (people) to form a community without having to leave their house, and being part of an inclusive environment,” says Kelly Klein, development director of Easter Seals Greater Houston. ”The adaptive equipment and specialized technology just does so many miraculous things for people with disabilities on so many levels — not just gaming. With gaming, it is an entrance into a whole new world.” Read more.

John Mooz, senior managing director at Hines

Levit Green has announced its latest to-be tenant. Photo courtesy

Levit Green, a 53-acre mixed-use life science district next to the Texas Medical Center and expected to deliver this year, has leased approximately 10,000 square feet of commercial lab and office space to Sino Biological Inc. The Bejing-based company is an international reagent supplier and service provider. Houston-based real estate investor, development, and property manager Hines announced the new lease in partnership with 2ML Real Estate Interests and Harrison Street.

“Levit Green was meticulously designed to provide best-in-class life science space that can accommodate a multitude of uses. Welcoming Sino Biological is a testament to the market need for sophisticated, flexible space that allows diversified firms to perform a variety of research,” says John Mooz, senior managing director at Hines, in a press release. “Sino is an excellent addition to the district’s growing life science ecosystem, and we look forward to supporting their continued growth and success.” Read more.Read more.

Levit Green has announced its latest to-be tenant. Rendering courtesy

Rising Houston life science district signs health tech tenant​

growing on the green

A rising life science hub has signed its latest tenant.

Levit Green, a 53-acre mixed-use life science district next to the Texas Medical Center and expected to deliver this year, has leased approximately 10,000 square feet of commercial lab and office space to Sino Biological Inc. The Bejing-based company is an international reagent supplier and service provider. Houston-based real estate investor, development, and property manager Hines announced the new lease in partnership with 2ML Real Estate Interests and Harrison Street.

“Levit Green was meticulously designed to provide best-in-class life science space that can accommodate a multitude of uses. Welcoming Sino Biological is a testament to the market need for sophisticated, flexible space that allows diversified firms to perform a variety of research,” says John Mooz, senior managing director at Hines, in a press release. “Sino is an excellent addition to the district’s growing life science ecosystem, and we look forward to supporting their continued growth and success.”

With a global presence, Sino Biological is a leading provider of mammalian cell-based recombinant proteins, antibodies, and related contract research services, per the release, and the recently announced location represents the company’s first US-based manufacturing facility.

“We are extremely excited about our new partnership with the Hines team and our forthcoming laboratories and production facilities at Levit Green. Hines is at the forefront of next-generation laboratory space design and development, and our new site at the Levit Green master-planned district in the heart of Houston’s Texas Medical Center will enable Sino Biological to considerably expand its research services and bioreagent manufacture capabilities into the United States,” says Dr. Rob Burgess, chief business officer for Sino Biological, in the release.

Sino's space will be in Building I at Levit Green — a 290,000-square-foot, five-story building with wet lab and incubator space — and is expected to be ready for move-in by the third quarter of 2023. The facility is the first to deliver in the nine-building Levit Green masterplan, which includes office and research space, as well as retail, residential, and more. According to the release, the building will also feature amenities — a 5,800-square-foot fitness center and outdoor garden, a 7,000-square-foot conference center, 3,500 square feet of café and restaurant space, and on-site parking.

Levit Green was first announced in the summer of 2020.

Hines is doubling down on life science real estate development, the firm recently reported. Image courtesy of Hines

Houston-based real estate giant bets on growing life science sector

shifting focus

An international real estate firm announced recently that it would prioritizing investing in life science industry opportunities when it comes to commercial real estate development.

Houston-based Hines reported that the pandemic has heightened the demand for life science real estate, and the firm explained in a news release that it will be delivering purpose-built life science facilities in growing markets that feature state-of-the-art, operator-driven design and amenities.

“The life sciences sector is experiencing an era of unprecedented growth driven by a rise in both public and private funding combined with a post-pandemic sense of urgency and market opportunity,” says David Steinbach, global CIO at Hines, in the release. “As this industry surges, it is pivotal that developers keep pace by delivering spaces that are as innovative as the tenants occupying them. Hines is dedicated to delivering purpose-built facilities that meet the physical, functional and technological needs of the occupiers.”

When it comes to design, Hines will focus on structural specification and the balance of lab and office space, providing tenants — who are all looking or different types of spaces and amenities — with flexibility and modular design.

ESG is something Hines is reportedly considering top of mind for developers, investors and occupiers, with plans to build efficient assets, source from sustainable energy, and provide low-carbon emission options.

Hines has already announced this type of facility currently in construction in Houston. Levit Green is a five-story, 270,000-square-foot Phase I lab building that has flexible Class AA quality labs key features required by top life science tenants. According to Hines, Levit Green's building features will include emergency power sources, 33-foot structural bay depths, allowing for an ideal 11-foot lab module, and floorplates more than 55,000 square feet will also enable research and office teams to create efficient configurations that enable teamwork and collaboration.

“Our carefully built team of national life science leasing, design and capital experts has put a tremendous amount of thought and effort into Levit Green’s planning and design. We are confident that our team will deliver one of the highest-quality commercial laboratory assets in the world once complete,” says John Mooz, senior managing director at Hines, in the release. “We are excited to bring top-tier projects like Levit Green to other highly anticipated, growing markets.”

Boston and San Francisco have become major life science industry hubs, but there are several global cities on the rise that Hines will be targeting, including London, Boulder, Austin, Shanghai Salt Lake City, and Pittsburgh.

Hines’ investment thesis is based on a confluence of factors that are driving the demand within the global landscape for life sciences real estate that are outlined in the new Hines Perspective: “The Potential of Purpose-Built Properties” white paper.

Levit Green is a 270,000-square-foot Phase I lab building adjacent to the Texas Medical Center. Rendering courtesy of Hines

The new building features a waterfront, wharf environment. Rendering courtesy of Hines

Pivotal new waterfront science lab set to cast off in The Medical Center

LEVIT GREEN BLOOMS

The first step of a pivotal new Medical Center district has been revealed. International real estate firm Hines and partner 2ML Real Estate Interests have unveiled the first look at the initial building at Levit Green.

This new, 53-acre life science complex will sit adjacent to the Texas Medical Center. The five-story, 270,000-square-foot Phase I building is designated for life sciences; JLL has been selected as leasing representative for the project, per a press release.

Sitting on the first of several lakes that create Levit Green's oasis, Phase I boasts a sprawling boardwalk environment. Tenants will enjoy waterfront amenities including a 5,800-square foot fitness center and outdoor garden, 7,000-square-foot conference center, 3,500 square feet of café and restaurant space, and on-site parking.

Ground-floor plans include more than 25,000 square feet of lab incubator space, which will provide entrepreneurs and early-stage life science companies top-tier, strategically located laboratory and office space as well as networking opportunities, per a release.

As for the building itself, amenities include: 100-percent-redundant emergency power, enhanced structural vibration attenuation, and augmented mechanical systems. Work on Phase I is slated to begin in the second quarter of this year, with occupancy beginning in Q4.

The 53-acre Levit Green proposed site. Rendering courtesy of Hines

According to data, Houston produces more medical doctorates than any other MSA and generates more research doctorates in the key life science subject areas of biology and physical sciences (chemistry, physics, etc.) than San Francisco, San Diego, and Seattle. Thus, Levit Green promises to solve the real estate demands of arguably the nation's life science capital.

"Houston is quickly emerging as a top life science cluster city and has been able to do so without the purpose-built product established in other locations," said John Mooz, senior managing director at Hines, in a statement. "The Phase I project at Levit Green has been thoughtfully designed from the inside out to include features that are required of a top-tier research environment. We are excited to deliver the highest quality of building that will enable industry leaders to better conduct their critical research."

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This article originally ran on CultureMap.

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Houston cleantech company tests ​all-electric CO2-to-fuel production technology

RESULTS ARE IN

Houston-based clean energy company Syzygy Plasmonics has successfully tested all-electric CO2-to-fuel production technology at RTI International’s facility at North Carolina’s Research Triangle Park.

Syzygy says the technology can significantly decarbonize transportation by converting two potent greenhouse gases, carbon dioxide and methane, into low-carbon jet fuel, diesel, and gasoline.

Equinor Ventures and Sumitomo Corp. of Americas sponsored the pilot project.

“This project showcases our ability to fight climate change by converting harmful greenhouse gases into fuel,” Trevor Best, CEO of Syzygy, says in a news release.

“At scale,” he adds, “we’re talking about significantly reducing and potentially eliminating the carbon intensity of shipping, trucking, and aviation. This is a major step toward quickly and cost effectively cutting emissions from the heavy-duty transport sector.”

At commercial scale, a typical Syzygy plant will consume nearly 200,000 tons of CO2 per year, the equivalent of taking 45,000 cars off the road.

“The results of this demonstration are encouraging and represent an important milestone in our collaboration with Syzygy,” says Sameer Parvathikar, director of renewable energy and energy storage at RTI.

In addition to the CO2-to-fuel demonstration, Syzygy's Ammonia e-Cracking™ technology has completed over 2,000 hours of performance and optimization testing at its plant in Houston. Syzygy is finalizing a site and partners for a commercial CO2-to-fuel plant.

Syzygy is working to decarbonize the chemical industry, responsible for almost 20 percent of industrial CO2 emissions, by using light instead of combustion to drive chemical reactions.

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This article originally ran on EnergyCapital.

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.