The Bookout Center will focus on enhancing the use of robotics and imaging in medicine. Photo via Houston Methodist

A groundbreaking new institution is coming to Houston Methodist.

The Bookout Center will build on the success of the Houston Methodist Institute for Technology, Innovation and Education (MITIE).

The new center will focus on enhancing the use of robotics and imaging in medicine. Virtual reality, robotics, AI, and other technologies will all play a part in the support that The Bookout Center will provide for health care professionals at all levels and specialties. High-resolution imaging and diagnostics will also be part of the forward-thinking research center.

The Bookout Center, which will be housed in the Houston Methodist Academic Institute, is the result of an undisclosed donation amount from Ann and John F. Bookout III. At the age of 100, John’s father, also named John Bookout, is an active Houston Methodist Board member and served as its chair from 1991 until 2007.

“We’re excited and humbled to have the support of the Bookout family,” Marc L. Boom, president and CEO of Houston Methodist, says in a press release. “The Bookouts believe in what our physicians, researchers and scientists do to bring life-changing treatments to our patients and community, and this gift will help us build on our legacy of leading medicine. We are so very grateful for this gift.”

A medical director for The Bookout Center has already been named. The role will be filled by Alan Lumsden, the Walter W. Fondren III Presidential Distinguished Chair in the Houston Methodist DeBakey Heart & Vascular Center and Chair of the Department of Cardiovascular Surgery. Dr. Lumsden will work alongside Dr. Stuart Corr, newly appointed director of Innovation Engineering for The Bookout Center, and associate professor of Bioengineering, to develop, implement, and lead the center’s activities.

"The Bookout Center will complement our existing programs with robust research, clinical trials and the expertise to develop further innovation in these fields,” Lumsden says. “We are grateful to the Bookouts for giving us the opportunity to lead the world in developing and refining these life-saving technologies, which will continue to improve outcomes and recovery times for patients.”

The new institute will be run by director Alan Lumsden, the Walter W. Fondren III Presidential Distinguished Chair in the Houston Methodist DeBakey Heart & Vascular Center and Chair of the Department of Cardiovascular Surgery. Photo via TMC.edu

Houston Methodist received its second largest gift in the hospital's 102-year history. Courtesy of Methodist Hospital/Facebook

Houston hospital receives anonymous $50M donation to support specialty treatments

big time gift

On the heels of kicking off construction for a $1.4 billion hospital tower at the Texas Medical Center, Houston Methodist has announced an anonymous $50 million gift.

The donation is the second largest received in the 102-year history of Houston Methodist.

Coupled with matching gifts and other sources of money, the gift’s overall impact will exceed $154 million, Houston Methodist says. Among the areas that will benefit from the funds are orthopedics, sports medicine, neuroprosthetics, gastrointestinal medicine, and immunology.

“Houston Methodist is honored to have the support of generous donors who entrust us to continue building on our legacy of leading medicine,” Dr. Marc Boom, president and CEO of Houston Methodist, says in a news release.

“This donor represents the giving spirit of the Houston community and believes in the unparalleled work our physicians, researchers, and staff do to bring lifesaving and life-changing treatments to our patients throughout the city and the country,” Boom adds. “We’re humbled to have this support and excited for what it will help us accomplish in the future.”

Highlights of the gift’s impact include:

  • Creation of an endowed position for the Houston Methodist Neuromodulation & Recovery Laboratory in collaboration with Rice University’s George R. Brown School of Engineering.
  • Support of the Center for Musculoskeletal Regeneration and Joint Preservation and Outcomes Laboratory.
  • Establishment of at least 20 endowments and support of special programs in areas such as imaging, nursing, ophthalmology, reconstructive surgery, surgery, and women’s health.

Earlier this month, Houston Methodist said it started construction on the 26-story Centennial Tower at the Texas Medical Center.

Set to open in 2027, the tower will include a larger emergency department and hundreds of patient beds, among other features. The new tower will replace Houston Methodist’s Houston Main building and West Pavilion.

Houston Methodist received millions in donations to support cancer patients. Courtesy of Methodist Hospital/Facebook

Houston hospital receives $37M in donations to continue its life-saving cancer care

guardian angels

A $25 million gift will support expansion of research conducted at the Houston Methodist Cancer Center and may help the center earn top-tier federal designation.

In honor of the $25 million donation from Dr. Mary Neal and husband Ron Neal, the cancer center is being renamed the Houston Methodist Dr. Mary and Ron Neal Cancer Center. The hospital system will raise an additional $12 million in matching funds, bringing the total to $37 million.

Dr. Marc Boom, president and CEO of Houston Methodist, says the Bellaire couple's gift "plays an important role in advancing our leading medicine mission and bringing potentially life-saving cancer treatments to more patients throughout Houston and the nation."

Mary Neal, previously in private practice as an obstetrician-gynecologist, is now a part-time volunteer physician at Houston Methodist's San Jose Clinic. Ron Neal is co-founder and co-owner of offshore development company Houston Energy. He also is CEO of Houston-based HEQ Deepwater, a more than $400 million venture formed earlier this year by Houston Energy and Houston-based private equity firm Quantum Energy Partners to buy deepwater assets in the Gulf of Mexico.

With the donation from Dr. Mary Neal and husband Ron Neal, the cancer center is being renamed the Houston Methodist Dr. Mary and Ron Neal Cancer Center. Photo courtesy of Houston Methodist

The Neals' donation will boost ongoing research led by Dr. Jenny Chang, director of the cancer center and Emily Herrmann Presidential Distinguished Chair in Cancer Research. Chang's research has advanced cancer therapy with breakthroughs such as targeted drugs for treatment of breast cancer.

Mary Neal says she and her husband believe their contribution "will further advance pivotal and innovative research beyond chemotherapy and radiation."

The gift also will fund and retain three endowed chairs and complementary funding for early stage research and therapies, support recruitment and fellowship training, and expand clinical trials at all of the community hospitals within Houston Methodist. Part of the gift is dedicated to cancer innovation efforts within the Center for Drug Repositioning and Development.

"Our vision for the Dr. Mary and Ron Neal Cancer Center is to grow our network of cancer physicians offering comprehensive care with the latest technologies and clinical trials so that patients across the region have the best access to cancer care," Chang says. "While the gift from the Neal family will have direct impact for patients at the community level in areas that are often deserts for cancer care, my hope is that it will also propel our ongoing research and work to the national level toward NCI designation."

Cancer centers designated by the National Cancer Institute (NCI) meet rigorous standards for research and clinical care. The Neals' gift is aimed at elevating research done at the cancer center and helping retain talent to accelerate Houston Methodist's pursuit of NCI designation.

Texas is home to four NCI-designated cancer centers:

  • Dan L Duncan Comprehensive Cancer Center at Houston's Baylor College of Medicine.
  • University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center, also in Houston.
  • Harold C. Simmons Comprehensive Cancer Center at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center in Dallas.
  • Mays Cancer Center at the University of Texas Health Science Center in San Antonio.

NCI designation represents "the highest federal rating a cancer center can achieve," according to the University of Chicago's NCI-designated cancer center. "It's the gold standard for cancer programs, and is bestowed upon the nation's top cancer centers in recognition of their innovative research and leading-edge treatments."

This designation can lead to benefits such as more research grants, quicker access to clinical trials for cancer treatments, and stepped-up recruitment of high-profile cancer researchers.

"At any given time, hundreds of research studies are under way at the cancer centers, ranging from basic laboratory research to clinical assessments of new treatments," the NCI says. "Many of these studies are collaborative and may involve several cancer centers, as well as other partners in industry and the community."

Houston Methodist is offering COVID-19 monoclonal antibody treatment thanks to a new partnership with Soleo Health. Photo via Getty Images

Houston hospital taps Texas company to offer in-home COVID-19 treatment

home care

Houston Methodist has tapped Frisco-based Soleo Health to provide in-home monoclonal antibody therapy for COVID-19 patients in the Houston area.

The Houston Methodist health care system has a partnership with the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services aimed at boosting access to COVID-19 monoclonal antibody treatment for underserved and disadvantaged patients in the Houston area.

Monoclonal antibodies are laboratory-made proteins that mimic the immune system's ability to fight off harmful pathogens such as viruses. If administered within 10 days of the onset of COVID-19 symptoms, the one-time therapy can neutralize the virus and prevent symptoms from worsening.

Soleo, a provider of specialized pharmacy services that has a location in Houston, says treating COVID-19 patients at home with monoclonal antibodies is expected to help reduce hospital admissions.

"By teaming up with Houston Methodist to help patients receive therapy and stay in their homes, we are helping reduce the chance of increased infections and the spread of COVID-19 in a hospital setting," Shahram Badrei of Houston, regional business leader at Soleo, says in a news release.

Houston Methodist reported in May that it had administered monoclonal antibodies to nearly 4,200 patients since the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) issued emergency use authorization for the treatment last November. The health care system said it was rolling out monoclonal antibody therapy at its more than 40 clinics in the Houston area. Houston Methodist ranks among the largest providers of monoclonal antibodies in the U.S.

Harris County, the state's most populous county, has recorded the most COVID-19 cases (539,000) and deaths (nearly 7,900) of any county in Texas.

"Houston Methodist continues to serve the Houston area and beyond in the fight against COVID-19 through patient care and its commitment to research that brings promising new therapies to fight the disease," Dr. Marc Boom, president and CEO of Houston Methodist, said in May.

Peter Pisters is one of the top 10 CEOs, according to Glassdoor. Photo courtesy of MD Anderson

3 Houston head honchos rank among America's top CEOs in new report

best of

Three Houston-area CEOs are doing a exemplary job of leading, says a new report.

Dr. Peter Pisters (MD Anderson Cancer Center), Dr. Marc Boom (Houston Methodist), and Worthing Jackman (Waste Connections) appear on Glassdoor's new list of the top 100 CEOs for 2021.

Pisters scored particularly well; he ranked third overall on the prestigious list and earned a 99-percent approval rating from MD Anderson employees who shared anonymous feedback on the Glassdoor platform, which publishes reviews and salary information for employers.

Meanwhile, Boom ranked 60 overall with a 93 percent approval, while Jackman came in at 76 overall with a 92 percent approval.

Other Texas executives appearing on the new Glassdoor list are:

  • Seventh-ranked Charles Butt, CEO of San Antonio-based H-E-B (96 percent).
  • Fourth-ranked Gary Kelly, who just announced he's stepping down as CEO of Dallas-based Southwest Airlines (98 percent approval).
  • 55th-ranked Sean Yalamanchi, chairman and president of Richardson-based Infovision (93 percent approval).

"Over the past year, company leaders around the world faced unprecedented challenges to support employees during the COVID-19 crisis. Now, the employees have spoken and it's clear that these CEOs excelled and found new ways to support their people when the world of work flipped upside down," Christian Sutherland-Wong, Glassdoor's CEO, says in a news release.

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This article originally ran on CultureMap.

Health care leaders joined a virtual panel to discuss the effects of COVID-19 and more. Photo by Dwight C. Andrews/Greater Houston Convention and Visitors Bureau

Overheard: Houston health care experts sound off on how tech and COVID-19 have affected the industry

eavesdropping in houston

There has been an undeniable paradigm shift in the health care industry due to COVID-19 as well as the growth of technology. A group of professionals sat down to discuss what in particular has changed for the industry as a whole as well as at local institutions.

At a panel for Venture Houston, a two-day conference put on by the HX Venture Fund on February 4th and 5th, a few health care professionals weighed in on all the changes to the industry for the startups, investors, corporations, and more who attended the virtual event. Here are some significant overheard moments from the virtual panel — Thinking Past a COVID World.

“For most of health care, this last year has been probably five years of rapid cycle re-innovation and movement forward — particularly in the digital realm.”

Marc Boom, president and CEO of Houston Methodist. From rapid adoption of telemedicine to developing a COVID-19 vaccine in less than a year, health care has seen rapid growth. However, there's fine tuning still needed, Boom continues.

"At the end of the day there's only so much we can do virtually," he adds.

“The most incredible thing was how the vaccines got developed so quickly.”

Chris Rizik, CEO of Renaissance Venture Partners. A large portion of the industry wasn't excited about RNA vaccines, but the COVID-19 vaccines might have changed some minds. It took 11 months to get it out into the world, but 10 of that was purely regulatory, he adds.

"One of the sustaining changes of the COVID-19 pandemic is I think RNA vaccines are here to stay."

​— Paul Klotman, executive dean of Baylor College of Medicine. Klotman adds that the vaccine's trials were so impressively quick because there were just so many COVID patients sick and eligible to enroll.

“I think one of the things the TMC institutions did really well was to decide really early on was to share data.”

Boom says, adding that the TMC represents around 70 percent of Houston's adults and around 90 percent of the city's pediatric patients. This opportunity for data is "one of the most robust sources of real-time data."

"Yes, you're going to compete clinically, but there's a lot of collaboration to be done especially during a pandemic," Boom says of the TMC's member organizations prioritizing collaboration with data sharing.

“Houston has done better than almost all major metropolitan areas because we have came together as a city and a community.”

Klotman says, adding that the vast patient base the TMC is key.

"There's a huge opportunity here for early biotech development," he says. "Because there are so many patients, there are huge opportunities to do new trials."

“The real challenge is for investors to be in tune to know what’s here to stay, and to invest around that."

Rizik says, adding that 2020 was the biggest year for health care investment with more money going into deals, rather than more deals occuring.

“We’re seeing a huge uptick in people interested in health professions, thanks to COVID.”

Boom says of the industry's workforce, which has usually been hard to recruit and grow.

“The medical school communities are all racing to change the way we teach and the kind of information we teach.”

Klotman says of the future of the workforce.

“Unlike most industries, technology is tended to be cumbersome in health care.

​— Boom says adding that new technology means added costs and slowed down processes that can't replace the human touch. Houston Methodist is looking for innovations that don't take health care professionals away from patients.

“If there’s anything this last year has shown us is that as fast as we thought we were going, we need to go faster. We’re excited to work with companies with great ideas.”

— Boom says of the future of tech in health care. "I think we're on a very transformational era in digital health right now — but there's a lot of work to be done still."

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New Houston venture studio emerges to target early-stage hardtech, energy transition startups

funding the future

The way Doug Lee looks at it, there are two areas within the energy transition attracting capital. With his new venture studio, he hopes to target an often overlooked area that's critical for driving forward net-zero goals.

Lee describes investment activity taking place in the digital and software world — early stage technology that's looking to make the industry smarter. But, on the other end of the spectrum, investment activity can be found on massive infrastructure projects.

While both areas need funding, Lee has started his new venture studio, Flathead Forge, to target early-stage hardtech technologies.

“We are really getting at the early stage companies that are trying to develop technologies at the intersection of legacy industries that we believe can become more sustainable and the energy transition — where we are going. It’s not an ‘if’ or ‘or’ — we believe these things intersect,” he tells EnergyCapital.

Specifically, Lee's expertise is within the water and industrial gas space. For around 15 years, he's made investments in this area, which he describes as crucial to the energy transition.

“Almost every energy transition technology that you can point to has some critical dependency on water or gas,” he says. “We believe that if we don’t solve for those things, the other projects won’t survive.”

Lee, and his brother, Dave, are evolving their family office to adopt a venture studio model. They also sold off Azoto Energy, a Canadian oilfield nitrogen cryogenic services business, in December.

“We ourselves are going through a transition like our energy is going through a transition,” he says. “We are transitioning into a single family office into a venture studio. By doing so, we want to focus all of our access and resources into this focus.”

At this point, Flathead Forge has seven portfolio companies and around 15 corporations they are working with to identify their needs and potential opportunities. Lee says he's gearing up to secure a $100 million fund.

Flathead also has 40 advisers and mentors, which Lee calls sherpas — a nod to the Flathead Valley region in Montana, which inspired the firm's name.

“We’re going to help you carry up, we’re going to tie ourselves to the same rope as you, and if you fall off the mountain, we’re falling off with you,” Lee says of his hands-on approach, which he says sets Flathead apart from other studios.

Another thing that's differentiating Flathead Forge from its competition — it's dedication to giving back.

“We’ve set aside a quarter of our carried interest for scholarships and grants,” Lee says.

The funds will go to scholarships for future engineers interested in the energy transition, as well as grants for researchers studying high-potential technologies.

“We’re putting our own money where our mouth is,” Lee says of his thesis for Flathead Forge.

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This article originally ran on EnergyCapital.

Houston-based lunar mission's rocky landing and what it means for America's return to the moon

houston, we have a problem

A private U.S. lunar lander tipped over at touchdown and ended up on its side near the moon’s south pole, hampering communications, company officials said Friday.

Intuitive Machines initially believed its six-footed lander, Odysseus, was upright after Thursday's touchdown. But CEO Steve Altemus said Friday the craft “caught a foot in the surface," falling onto its side and, quite possibly, leaning against a rock. He said it was coming in too fast and may have snapped a leg.

“So far, we have quite a bit of operational capability even though we’re tipped over," he told reporters.

But some antennas were pointed toward the surface, limiting flight controllers' ability to get data down, Altemus said. The antennas were stationed high on the 14-foot (4.3-meter) lander to facilitate communications at the hilly, cratered and shadowed south polar region.

Odysseus — the first U.S. lander in more than 50 years — is thought to be within a few miles (kilometers) of its intended landing site near the Malapert A crater, less than 200 miles (300 kilometers) from the south pole. NASA, the main customer, wanted to get as close as possible to the pole to scout out the area before astronauts show up later this decade.

NASA's Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter will attempt to pinpoint the lander's location, as it flies overhead this weekend.

With Thursday’s touchdown, Intuitive Machines became the first private business to pull off a moon landing, a feat previously achieved by only five countries. Japan was the latest country to score a landing, but its lander also ended up on its side last month.

Odysseus' mission was sponsored in large part by NASA, whose experiments were on board. NASA paid $118 million for the delivery under a program meant to jump-start the lunar economy.

One of the NASA experiments was pressed into service when the lander's navigation system did not kick in. Intuitive Machines caught the problem in advance when it tried to use its lasers to improve the lander's orbit. Otherwise, flight controllers would not have discovered the failure until it was too late, just five minutes before touchdown.

“Serendipity is absolutely the right word,” mission director Tim Crain said.

It turns out that a switch was not flipped before flight, preventing the system's activation in space.

Launched last week from Florida, Odysseus took an extra lap around the moon Thursday to allow time for the last-minute switch to NASA's laser system, which saved the day, officials noted.

Another experiment, a cube with four cameras, was supposed to pop off 30 seconds before touchdown to capture pictures of Odysseus’ landing. But Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University’s EagleCam was deliberately powered off during the final descent because of the navigation switch and stayed attached to the lander.

Embry-Riddle's Troy Henderson said his team will try to release EagleCam in the coming days, so it can photograph the lander from roughly 26 feet (8 meters) away.

"Getting that final picture of the lander on the surface is still an incredibly important task for us,” Henderson told The Associated Press.

Intuitive Machines anticipates just another week of operations on the moon for the solar-powered lander — nine or 10 days at most — before lunar nightfall hits.

The company was the second business to aim for the moon under NASA's commercial lunar services program. Last month, Pittsburgh's Astrobotic Technology gave it a shot, but a fuel leak on the lander cut the mission short and the craft ended up crashing back to Earth.

Until Thursday, the U.S. had not landed on the moon since Apollo 17's Gene Cernan and Harrison Schmitt closed out NASA's famed moon-landing program in December 1972. NASA's new effort to return astronauts to the moon is named Artemis after Apollo's mythological twin sister. The first Artemis crew landing is planned for 2026 at the earliest.

3 female Houston innovators to know this week

who's who

Editor's note: Welcome to another Monday edition of Innovators to Know. Today I'm introducing you to three Houstonians to read up about — three individuals behind recent innovation and startup news stories in Houston as reported by InnovationMap. Learn more about them and their recent news below by clicking on each article.

Emma Konet, co-founder and CTO of Tierra Climate

Emma Konet, co-founder and CTO of Tierra Climate, joins the Houston Innovators Podcast. Photo via LinkedIn

If the energy transition is going to be successful, the energy storage space needs to be equipped to support both the increased volume of energy needed and new energies. And Emma Konet and her software company, Tierra Climate, are targeting one part of the equation: the market.

"To me, it's very clear that we need to build a lot of energy storage in order to transition the grid," Konet says on the Houston Innovators Podcast. "The problems that I saw were really on the market side of things." Read more.

Cindy Taff, CEO of Sage Geosystems

Houston-based Sage Geosystems announced the first close of $17 million round led by Chesapeake Energy Corp. Photo courtesy of Sage

A Houston geothermal startup has announced the close of its series A round of funding.

Houston-based Sage Geosystems announced the first close of $17 million round led by Chesapeake Energy Corp. The proceeds aim to fund its first commercial geopressured geothermal system facility, which will be built in Texas in Q4 of 2024. According to the company, the facility will be the first of its kind.

“The first close of our Series A funding and our commercial facility are significant milestones in our mission to make geopressured geothermal system technologies a reality,” Cindy Taff, CEO of Sage Geosystems, says. Read more.

Clemmie Martin, chief of staff at The Cannon

With seven locations across the Houston area, The Cannon's digital technology allows its members a streamlined connection. Photo courtesy of The Cannon

After collaborating over the years, The Cannon has acquired a Houston startup's digital platform technology to become a "physical-digital hybrid" community.

Village Insights, a Houston startup, worked with The Cannon to create and launch its digital community platform Cannon Connect. Now, The Cannon has officially acquired the business. The terms of the deal were not disclosed.

“The integration of a world-class onsite member experience and Cannon Connect’s superior virtual resource network creates a seamless, streamlined environment for member organizations,” Clemmie Martin, The Cannon’s newly appointed chief of staff, says in the release. “Cannon Connect and this acquisition have paved new pathways to access and success for all.” Read more.