Generation Park has announced additional biomanufacturing facility development. Rendering courtesy of McCord

A Houston-based real estate company has reveals its plans to create a 45-acre biomanufacturing campus in the first phase of a life science development in Generation Park.

McCord Development released its plans for BioHub Two this week. The project will include 500,000 square feet for manufacturing, lab, and office space located in Generation Park, a 4,300-acre master-planned development in Northeast Houston.

The news of the BioHub follows Generation Park's December announcement of the San Jacinto College’s Biotech Training Center, a project in partnership with the National Institute of Biotechnology Research and Training. The institute will have a "bioprocessing pilot plant operated in a realistic GMP simulated and operational manufacturing environment," according to a news release from McCord.

“Houston has consistently been ranked as a burgeoning life science cluster, and BioHub Two has the unique advantage of being a short walk from the region’s only Biotech Training Center at San Jacinto College’s Generation Park campus," says John Flournoy, senior director of sales and leasing.

Last year, the Greater Houston Partnership released data showing the potential for the Bayou City as a hub for biomanufacturing, cell and gene therapy, cancer treatment, drug development, and more. Earlier this summer, Houston maintained its standing as a hub for life sciences on an annual report from CBRE.

“Houston’s high concentration of life sciences employment, healthy funding landscape, access to the Texas’ $6 billion CPRIT grant fund, and commitment to translational research is making it one of the country’s fastest growing life science ecosystems,” says Ryan McCord, president of McCord Development, in the release. “BioHub Two’s location in Generation Park is strategic and cost-effective, as the world-leading research and development facilities at the Texas Medical Center, Houston International Airport and Port of Houston are in close proximity.”

The larger Generation Part plans include two multifamily complexes, a mixed-use development called The Commons, and retail and green spaces.

The Texas Medical Center unveiled its plans for the TMC BioPort, a biomanufacturing and medical supplies distribution engine, almost a year ago. This new campus will span several hundred acres just down the road from TMC and will drive the much-needed repatriation of critical medical supplies and new cell and gene therapies, per a news release.

This week's roundup of Houston innovators includes Armand Paradis of ComboCurve, Matthew Nojoomi of Ictero Medical, and Ryan McCord of McCord Development. Courtesy photos

3 Houston innovators to know this week

who's who

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

Armand Paradis, co-founder of ComboCurve

Armand Paradis joins the Houston Innovators Podcast to discuss how his energy software business is scaling rapidly. Photo courtesy

Houston-based ComboCurve is growing rapidly. The energy software company has raised over $60 million in venture capital investment — $50 million of which was closed in the company’s series B round earlier this year. Since the original product launched in May of 2020, CEO and Co-Founder Armand Paradis says the platform has almost 200 companies on it.

“We built something that resonated with the market — and we were super passionate about the product and taking care of our industry,” Paradis says on the Houston Innovators Podcast. “We don’t want to be the best in oil and gas. We want to be the best software company."Click here to read more.

Matthew Nojoomi, CEO and co-founder of Ictero Medical

This innovative medical device company has closed $6 million for further product development and clinical trials. Image via TMC.edu

Houston-based medical device company Ictero Medical closed its oversubscribed series A at $6 million. The funding round was led by MedTex Ventures, S3 Ventures, and an undisclosed strategic investor. The company's novel cryoablation system was designed to treat high-risk gallstone disease patients and provide a less invasive and lower risk alternative to gallbladder removal surgery — something over 1 million Americans undergo annually.

“Our technology provides an immediate solution for critically ill patients who currently have no good treatment options, and also has the potential to benefit healthier patients who want to avoid surgery,” says Ictero Co-Founder and CEO Matthew Nojoomi in the release. Click here to read more.

Ryan McCord, president of McCord Development

Houston real estate expert shares why he thinks the city is prime for smart city tech and implementation. Photo courtesy

Houston has every tool in its toolkit to be able to emerge as a smart city leader. In a guest column for InnovationMap, Ryan McCord of McCord Development explains the momentum the city already has and the existing smart city opportunities already in town.

"Houston’s diversity, business-friendly environment, and workforce make it a prime candidate to become a smart city. Becoming smarter in our transportation, public safety, sustainability practices, and infrastructure will create a better future for Houstonians." Click here to read more.

Houston real estate expert shares why he thinks the city is prime for smart city tech and implementation. Photo via Getty Images

Houston has what it takes to emerge as a smart city leader, expert says

Guest column

While Houston has long been known as the Energy Capital of the World, there’s no reason we, as a city, cannot hold more than one title. What if Houston could take on the title of Smartest City in the World?

There are many factors that create a smart city, and it is deeper than just implementing new smart technology – it is a city that better supports the lifestyles of its residents seamlessly and unobtrusively. To effectively understand what the needs of the community are and the right types of technologies to implement when urban planning, data collection and data security measures are vital.

The City of Houston has already begun to use data and emerging technology to improve the quality of life for citizens, share information with the public, drive economic growth, and build a more inclusive society. To be successful and provide enriching experiences for Houstonians, these updates must happen at the infrastructure level, working as an integrated system that can be continuously optimized.

In 2015, Houston adopted an Open Data policy to support data sharing efforts between the government, its citizens, businesses and researchers. In addition to this, our city has made strategic investments in artificial intelligence, the Cloud, the Edge, smart sensors, big data, and more. These investments are being bolstered by private companies and institutions, building on these technologies to tackle urban problems, identify better solutions and enact privacy protections. These companies, such as McCord, are helping execute the city’s vision around development, transportation, public safety and community engagement.

Houston already has a case study

Citizens also play an active role in building the future of Houston through their behaviors and consumption patterns.

Take Generation Park, one of the largest privately held commercial developments in the country, sitting on 4,200 contiguous acres in Northeast Houston. As this land continues to be built out, developers at McCord partnered with Bosch technologies to implement sensors and other smart technologies to better understand how visitors are utilizing the trails, parking and space. These insights will then help McCord recognize parking patterns or which areas of the trails are most heavily trafficked, allowing the company to make more informed decisions regarding maintenance and infrastructure updates, ultimately providing a better experience for their visitors.

The data can also be factored in when planning events for the community. McCord will be able to use the data collected to determine things like the optimal times, preferred days and the need for parking at Redemption Square.

But the data use doesn’t stop at just events - tenants can use it to determine when to expect the dinner rush and apply that to staffing, prepping, happy hour specials and ultimately, factor it into better servicing their customers. Those living at Redemption Square’s 255 Assay Luxury Apartments will also benefit as McCord uses data trends to optimize their curbside management practices to better accommodate rideshare and food delivery services.

The plans for Redemption Square and Generation Park continue to adapt as data is collected and visitor behavior better understood. The goal of this data collection is to make Generation Park a citizen-optimized environment via cutting-edge technology where residents, visitors, employees, and businesses will thrive while knowing that their privacy is not at risk.

The bottom line

Houston’s diversity, business-friendly environment, and workforce make it a prime candidate to become a smart city. Becoming smarter in our transportation, public safety, sustainability practices, and infrastructure will create a better future for Houstonians.

Creating secure, holistic systems that work and learn together is central to successful smart city infrastructure. Private and public organizations must work together to collect data, pivot plans when needed and implement the correct technologies to ensure that these efforts ultimately make Houston a better place to live.

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Ryan McCord is president of Houston-based McCord Development.

A new executive hire for McCord is going to focus on bringing smart city technology to Generation Park. Rendering courtesy of McCord

East Houston development launches smart city initiative with new hire

smart city

A 4,200-acre master-planned development that's rising on the east side of town has created a new role within their executive suite to drive innovation and a new smart city initiative.

Houston-based real estate developer, McCord, has hired Nick Cardwell as vice president of digital innovation. In the newly created role, Cardwell will be tasked with bringing data-driven solutions, digital transformation, and other smart city innovation to Generation Park.

"Sensor technology, machine learning, and big data capabilities have exploded in the last decade and are rapidly outpacing the built world," says Ryan McCord, president of McCord, in a press release. "Bolting this digital future onto aging cities is no easy task. With Generation Park, we have a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to start from the beginning and rapidly prove up hardware and software technology solutions, at a massive scale."

Both the size of the development — which is larger than Google's Sidewalk Labs project in Canada and Toyota's Woven City in Japan, according to the release — and location are what provides Generation Park with this opportunity for smart city technology.

"Generation Park, while being physically many times larger than most smart city projects, also benefits from being located in a more physically, socially, and economically diverse test bed of a notoriously low-regulation part of the United States — Houston, Texas," McCord continues.

As the development is currently still being worked on, McCord's current focus right now is tapping into data to drive project and design decisions.

Cardwell has a background in technology and was previously overseeing operations and engineering at Austin-based construction software company, Bractlet.

"McCord's vision for Generation Park is the future of commercial development, pushing digital innovation into the forefront and leveraging cutting-edge technologies throughout their portfolio. I am beyond thrilled to join the McCord team and help make that vision a reality," says Cardwell, in the release. "Through the use of experiences, data, and collaborations, we will accelerate learnings and, in turn, advance resources that will truly improve people's lives."

Nick Cardwell has been hired as vice president of digital innovation at McCord. Photo courtesy of McCord

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Houston researchers create AI model to tap into how brain activity relates to illness

brainiac

Houston researchers are part of a team that has created an AI model intended to understand how brain activity relates to behavior and illness.

Scientists from Baylor College of Medicine worked with peers from Yale University, University of Southern California and Idaho State University to make Brain Language Model, or BrainLM. Their research was published as a conference paper at ICLR 2024, a meeting of some of deep learning’s greatest minds.

“For a long time we’ve known that brain activity is related to a person’s behavior and to a lot of illnesses like seizures or Parkinson’s,” Dr. Chadi Abdallah, associate professor in the Menninger Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences at Baylor and co-corresponding author of the paper, says in a press release. “Functional brain imaging or functional MRIs allow us to look at brain activity throughout the brain, but we previously couldn’t fully capture the dynamic of these activities in time and space using traditional data analytical tools.

"More recently, people started using machine learning to capture the brain complexity and how it relates it to specific illnesses, but that turned out to require enrolling and fully examining thousands of patients with a particular behavior or illness, a very expensive process,” Abdallah continues.

Using 80,000 brain scans, the team was able to train their model to figure out how brain activities related to one another. Over time, this created the BrainLM brain activity foundational model. BrainLM is now well-trained enough to use to fine-tune a specific task and to ask questions in other studies.

Abdallah said that using BrainLM will cut costs significantly for scientists developing treatments for brain disorders. In clinical trials, it can cost “hundreds of millions of dollars,” he said, to enroll numerous patients and treat them over a significant time period. By using BrainLM, researchers can enroll half the subjects because the AI can select the individuals most likely to benefit.

The team found that BrainLM performed successfully in many different samples. That included predicting depression, anxiety and PTSD severity better than other machine learning tools that do not use generative AI.

“We found that BrainLM is performing very well. It is predicting brain activity in a new sample that was hidden from it during the training as well as doing well with data from new scanners and new population,” Abdallah says. “These impressive results were achieved with scans from 40,000 subjects. We are now working on considerably increasing the training dataset. The stronger the model we can build, the more we can do to assist with patient care, such as developing new treatment for mental illnesses or guiding neurosurgery for seizures or DBS.”

For those suffering from neurological and mental health disorders, BrainLM could be a key to unlocking treatments that will make a life-changing difference.

Houston-based cleantech unicorn named among annual top disruptors

on the rise

Houston-based biotech startup Solugen is making waves among innovative companies.

Solugen appears at No. 36 on CNBC’s annual Disruptor 50 list, which highlights private companies that are “upending the classic definition of disruption.” Privately owned startups founded after January 1, 2009, were eligible for the Disruptor 50 list.

Founded in 2016, Solugen replaces petroleum-based products with plant-derived substitutes through its Bioforge manufacturing platform. For example, it uses engineered enzymes and metal catalysts to convert feedstocks like sugar into chemicals that have traditionally been made from fossil fuels, such as petroleum and natural gas.

Solugen has raised $643 million in funding and now boasts a valuation of $2.2 billion.

“Sparked by a chance medical school poker game conversation in 2016, Solugen evolved from prototype to physical asset in five years, and production hit commercial scale shortly thereafter,” says CNBC.

Solugen co-founders Gaurab Chakrabarti and Sean Hunt received the Entrepreneur of The Year 2023 National Award, presented by professional services giant EY.

“Solugen is a textbook startup launched by two partners with $10,000 in seed money that is revolutionizing the chemical refining industry. The innovation-driven company is tackling impactful, life-changing issues important to the planet,” Entrepreneur of The Year judges wrote.

In April 2024, Solugen broke ground on a Bioforge biomanufacturing plant in Marshall, Minnesota. The 500,000-square-foot, 34-acre facility arose through a Solugen partnership with ADM. Chicago-based ADM produces agricultural products, commodities, and ingredients. The plant is expected to open in the fall of 2025.

“Solugen’s … technology is a transformative force in sustainable chemical manufacturing,” says Hunt. “The new facility will significantly increase our existing capabilities, enabling us to expand the market share of low-carbon chemistries.”

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.