These three health tech startups are moving on in TMCi's accelerator program. Photo courtesy of TMC

Thee Texas Medical Center named three companies to its accelerator program. The health tech startups will join the program and make key connections to grow their technology and business.

Texas Medical Center Innovation announced this year's cohort for the TMC Innovation Accelerator for HealthTech. The companies attended TMCi's boot camp earlier this year before being named to the cohort.

“It is always exciting to introduce a new group of talented entrepreneurs into our community,” says Tom Luby, director of TMC Innovation, in a news release. “Each with their own goals, and at their individual stage, we’ll work closely together to help them learn, grow and navigate this rich clinical landscape. We are honored to be the bridge between these innovators and the world’s largest medical city.”

The selected startups include Oxford, United Kingdom-based CardMedic, which joins the program by way of TMC's UK BioBridge, an international partnership established to bring cutting-edge health tech startups to the United States by way of Houston. The company's technology is a digital "One Stop Communication Shop" — an extensive library of pre-written scripts that help staff and patients communicate across any barrier, including language, deafness, cognitive impairment, or disability.

“The opportunity to connect with Texas Medical Center member institutions, understand their problem domain, and in what ways that may differ from the United Kingdom is invaluable. We are really excited about learning from the expert team of strategic advisors at the TMCi Accelerator about areas we needed to focus on to grow our company in the United States,” says Rachael Grimaldi, co-founder and CEO of CardMedic.

Chicago-based CareAdvisors, which helps hospitals and clinical social workers connect patients to the best resources and benefits to address social care needs, also joins the TMCi accelerator. The company's technology, the Social Care Automation tool, enables hospitals to generate revenue from preventive health programs and helps health plans reduce overutilization by putting the focus on preventive care.

Roboligent, based in Austin, designs and manufactures robotic and automated physical therapy exercises for patients with upper and lowers limb musculoskeletal issues. This robotic-assisted rehab help promotes recovery while increasing rehab centers’ operational efficiency.

“Introducing a new and innovative product, especially in the medical device field, is a thorough and collaborative effort,” says Bongsu Kim, founder and CEO of Roboligent, in a news release. “TMC’s HealthTech Accelerator is the perfect place to make connections with experts and stakeholders to help guide us in reaching our next milestone.”

Texas Medical Center Innovation announced the seven health tech startups that joined the 2022 accelerator bootcamp. Photo courtesy of TMC

7 health tech startups flock to Houston for TMC bootcamp

ready to accelerate

The Texas Medical Center's innovation arm welcomed seven companies to its 2022 health tech accelerator program bootcamp.

TMC Innovation Accelerator for HealthTech is aimed at supporting early-stage life science startups through fundraising, connecting with mentors and potential customers, and more.

“Healthtech startups who connect with our network will emerge more prepared to access their customers and grow into their markets," says Emily Reiser, associate director of TMC Innovation, in a news release. "Our advisors, members, and partners unlock insights for these entrepreneurs about how to more effectively build a strategic plan for improved market access and adoption. Bootcamp ignites these connections, providing immediate value to entrepreneurs and enabling our team to define a long term plan for continued collaboration."

If selected following the bootcamp, founders will spend six months at TMCi with strategic mentorship, clinical validation, and other customized milestone development from the organization.

“Bootcamp is an intensive period of discovery and mutual selection," says Devin Dunn, head of the Accelerator for HealthTech, in the release. "Founders get a chance better understand everything that TMCi brings to bear and our team has the opportunity to select those growing companies that will add significant value to our community.”

The bootcamp focused on several innovation areas — including surgical devices, access to care, robotics, and hospital efficiency. The participating companies include:

  • CardMedic, headquartered in Oxford, United Kingdom, aims to improve communication between staff and patients across any barrier-language, deafness, cognitive impairment or disability-with an A to Z library of pre-written scripts replicating common clinical conversations.
  • Chicago-baseed CareAdvisors is connecting health plans, hospitals, and community-based organizations to streamline high risk case management and quickly close the loop on care.
  • Endolumik, founded in Morgantown, West Virginia, has developed a fluorescence-guided device that uses near-infrared light to enhance visualization for safer, faster, and more consistent bariatric surgery.
  • Orcha, based in Daresbury, United Kingdom, rigorously reviews apps to help systems, clinicians, patients, or consumers find their way to the best health-related apps.
  • Austin-based Roboligent has created a rehabilitation robot, the Optimo Regen, that provides evidence-based therapeutic interventions for upper and lower limbs.
  • Boston-founded ScienceIO's platform transforms unstructured text into structured records in real-time. The company's core product is a HIPAA-compliant API for real-time text processing and analytics.
  • Semantic Health, founded in Toronto, Canada, uses artificial intelligence to complete secondary reviews of all coded and claims data to optimize revenue cycle management.
The application for future cohorts and more information about the program are available online. The 2022 cohort will join the ranks of TMCi's community of 305 life science startups and 221 TMC Innovation Accelerator companies and will receive access to the center's dozens of member organizations.

"Having a product that the market truly needs is critical but not enough," says Bongsu Kim, founder and CEO of Roboligent, in the release. "Especially for the medical device market, I realize that introducing a new product is a thorough and collaborative effort from a variety of stakeholders and experts. Without knowing the mechanism and the right connection, it seems almost impossible to get into the market. The TMC Innovation Accelerator is the perfect place to make it happen."

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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.