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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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.