Houston medtech accelerator announces inaugural cohort

future of health care

Five companies have been selected for a brand new accelerator program in Houston. Image via Getty Images

A Houston medical technology organization has announced the inaugural cohort of a new early-stage accelerator.

M1 MedTech, launched this year by Houston-based Proxima Clinical Research, announced its Fall 2022 cohort.

“This initial cohort launches M1 MedTech with an interactive 14-week agenda covering the basics every emerging MedTech business needs to progress from a startup to an established solution in their market,” says Sean Bittner, director of programs at M1 MedTech, in a news release.

The accelerator will equip early-stage startups with storytelling, business plan support, investor connections, FDA guidance, research, and more through one-on-one consultations, workships, and in-kind services.

The first cohort includes five startups, per the release from the company:

  1. Linovasc. Providing a long overdue major update to balloon angioplasty devices in over 50 years, the Linovasc solution offers a safer branch occlusion and aortic stent dilatation using a toroidal balloon that expands the aorta uniformly without the ischemia caused by current treatments. The company is founded by Bruce Addis.
  2. Grapheton. Founded by Sam Kassegne and Bao Nguyen, Grapheton's patented carbon materials work with electrically active devices to improve the longevity and outcome of bioelectric implants in the body. Terry Lingren serves as the CEO of the startup.
    • Rhythio Medical. Founded by Kunal Shah and Savannah Esteve, Rhythio is the first preventative approach to heart arrhythmias.The chief medical officer is Dr. Mehdi Razavi.
      • PONS Technology. An AI cognitive functioning ultrasound device attempting to change the way ultrasound is done, PONS is founded by CEO: Soner Haci and CTO: Ilker Hacihaliloglu.
        • Vivifi Medical. Founded by CEO Tushar Sharma, Vivifi is the first suture-less laparoscopic technology that connects vessels to improve male infertility and benign prostatic hyperplasia. The company's senior R&D engineer is Frida Montoya.

          The program includes support from sponsors and experts from: Proxima Clinical Research, Greenlight Guru, Medrio, Galen Data, Merge Medical Device Studio, Venn Negotiation, Engagement PR & Marketing, Aleberry Creative, and others.

          “This is an amazing opportunity for emerging founders to learn the progression of pipelining their ideas through the FDA and absorb the critical strategies for success early in their business development,” says Isabella Schmitt, principal at M1 MedTech and director of regulatory affairs at Proxima CRO, in the release.

          Proxima Clinical Research has its New Year's resolution and is ready to start working hands on with health tech startups. Graphic via proximacro.com

          Houston organization plans to launch health tech accelerator in 2022

          ready to grow

          A contract research organization based in Houston has announced its new accelerator program aimed at helping startups quickly grow their health tech businesses.

          Proxima Clinical Research released details of M1 MedTech, which expects to launch early next year. The CRO has raised funds to launch and invest in members of the inaugural cohort.

          “Our goal is to move these companies substantially forward in a short amount of time,” says Kevin Coker, CEO of Proxima, in a news release. “Proxima is in a unique position to leverage our experienced team of regulatory, quality, and clinical experts. We won’t be working at arm’s length from these companies. We will be a big part of what they do every day.”

          The program will focus on a small group of companies and the Proxima team will provide hands-on support, including instruction, workshops, and one-on-one mentoring.

          “This will be a unique experience for all parties involved, as Proxima is also a young, yet established, company that is now creating a program to assist companies at an earlier stage,” says Larry Lawson, co-founder of Proxima, in the release. “Our experience in the CRO realm and ability to provide coaching in clinical, regulatory, quality, and go-to-market strategies will only strengthen M1 MedTech’s ability to support the success of emerging companies and provide more life-saving technology to the public.”

          Kevin Coker and Larry Lawson co-founded Proxima in 2017. Photos courtesy

          The accelerator will target Class II and III medical devices for its initial cohort. In the future, Proxima plans to expand to include an even more extensive incubator focused solely on Class III devices, according to the release.

          “M1 will be a place where startups can go to receive concrete resources to further their development. The participant success is our sole focus, and the ultimate goal is to have a substantial impact on the ideation-to-market process for Class II and Class III medical devices,” says Isabella Schmitt, director of regulatory affairs at Proxima and a principal at M1, in the release. “Proxima’s specific expertise alongside our M1 partners will provide resources for all key areas of a medical device entrepreneur’s journey to market and beyond.”

          The M1 MedTech applications will open online in the spring.

          “We don’t view M1 as competitive to other accelerators, rather we believe it will offer a different experience. Our team will strive to create a personalized program where companies have a dedicated touch point throughout the process,” says Sean Bittner, director of programs at M1 MedTech, in the release. “We will also provide specific, tailored connections and resources vetted by our team through professional partnerships, not just a general list of industry contacts.”

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          Houston biotech company expands leadership as it commercializes sustainable products

          joining the team

          Houston-based biotech company Cemvita recently tapped two executives to help commercialize its sustainable fuel made from carbon waste.

          Nádia Skorupa Parachin came aboard as vice president of industrial biotechnology, and Phil Garcia was promoted to vice president of commercialization.

          Parachin most recently oversaw several projects at Boston-based biotech company Ginkjo Bioworks. She previously co-founded Brazilian biotech startup Integra Bioprocessos.

          Parachin will lead the Cemvita team that’s developing technology for production of bio-manufactured oil.

          “It’s a fantastic moment, as we’re poised to take our prototyping to the next level, and all under the innovative direction of our co-founder Tara Karimi,” Parachin says in a news release. “We will be bringing something truly remarkable to market and ensuring it’s cost-effective.”

          Moji Karimi, co-founder and CEO of Cemvita, says the hiring of Parachin represents “the natural next step” toward commercializing the startup’s carbon-to-oil process.

          “Her background prepared her to bring the best out of the scientists at the inflection point of commercialization — really bringing things to life,” says Moji Karimi, Tara’s brother.

          Parachin joins Garcia on Cemvita’s executive team.

          Before being promoted to vice president of commercialization, Garcia was the startup’s commercial director and business development manager. He has a background in engineering and business development.

          Founded in 2017, Cemvita recently announced a breakthrough that enables production of large quantities of oil derived from carbon waste.

          In 2023, United Airlines agreed to buy up to one billion gallons of sustainable aviation fuel from Cemvita’s first full-scale plant over the course of 20 years.

          Cemvita’s investors include the UAV Sustainable Flight Fund, an investment arm of Chicago-based United; Oxy Low Carbon Ventures, an investment arm of Houston-based energy company Occidental Petroleum; and Japanese equipment and machinery manufacturer Mitsubishi Heavy Industries.

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          This article originally ran on EnergyCapital.

          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 logistics startup founder, a marketing expert, and a solar energy innovator.

          Matthew Costello, CEO and co-founder of Voyager Portal

          Houston logistics SaaS innovator is making waves with its expanded maritime shipping platform. Photo courtesy of Voyager

          For several years now, Matthew Costello has been navigating the maritime shipping industry looking for problems to solve for customers with his company, Voyager Portal.

          Initially, that meant designing a software platform to enhance communications and organization of the many massive and intricate global shipments happening every day. Founded in 2018 by Costello and COO Bret Smart, Voyager Portal became a integral tool for the industry that helps users manage the full lifecycle of their voyages — from planning to delivery.

          "The software landscape has changed tremendously in the maritime space. Back in 2018, we were one of a small handful of technology startups in this space," Costello, who serves as CEO of Voyager, says on the Houston Innovators Podcast. "Now that's changed. ... There's really a huge wave of innovation happening in maritime right now." Read more.

          Arielle Rogg, principal and founder of Rogg Enterprises

          Arielle Rogg writes in a guest column for InnovationMap about AI in the workforce. Photo via LinkedIn

          Arielle Rogg isn't worried about artificial intelligence coming for her job. In fact, she has three reasons why, and she outlines them in a guest column for InnovationMap.

          "The advent of AI pushes us humans to acquire new skills and hone our existing abilities so we can work alongside these evolving technologies in a collaborative fashion. AI augments human capabilities rather than replacing us. I believe it will help our society embrace lifelong learning, creating new industries and jobs that have never existed before," she writes in the piece. Read more.

          Nathan Childress, founder of Solar Slice

          Solar Slice Founder Nathan Childress says his new venture offers a fulfilling way to encourage and promote solar energy and a greener planet. Photo via LinkedIn

          Nuclear engineer and entrepreneur Nathan Childress wants consumers to capture their own ray of sunlight to brighten the prospect of making clean energy a bigger part of the power grid. That's why he founded Solar Slice. The new venture offers a fulfilling way to encourage and promote solar energy and a greener planet.

          Although trained in nuclear power plant design, solar power drew his interest as a cheaper and more accessible alternative, and Childress tells InnovationMap that he thinks that the transition to cleaner energy, in Texas especially, needs to step up.

          Recent studies show that 80 to 90 percent of the money invested into fighting climate change “aren’t going to things that people actually consider helpful,” Childress says, adding that “they’re more just projects that sound good, that are not actually taking any action." Read more.

          Report: Amid difficult market, Houston sees uptick in VC funding

          seeing green

          Houston-area startups saw a healthy increase in venture capital funding during the first half of 2024 compared with the same period last year, new data shows.

          In the first six months of this year, Houston-area startups attracted $760.55 million in VC funding, according to the latest PitchBook-NVCA Venture Monitor. That’s up 17.7 percent from the $645.99 million collected in the first six months of 2023.

          Keep in mind that these figures might not match previously reported numbers. That’s because PitchBook regularly adjusts data as new information becomes available.

          In light of various factors, such as the ongoing hype over artificial intelligence, fundraising will likely continue to be challenging for U.S. startups as a whole, according to Nizar Tarhuni, vice president of institutional research and editorial at PitchBook, a provider of VC data.

          Nonetheless, Bobby Franklin, president and CEO of the National Venture Capital Association (NVCA), points out that American venture capital “is finding its footing in 2024.”

          Across the country, VC funding for startups in the first half of 2024 totaled $93.4 billion, up 6.5 percent from the $87.7 billion raised during the same period last year, according to the PitchBook-NVCA Venture Monitor.

          “With steadily increasing deal values, especially across early-stage investments, more first-time financings, and increased crossover investor participation, [the second quarter of 2024] was a good one for VC,” says Franklin. “Now it’s up to founders, investors, and regulators to support, rather than stifle, these green shoots as the market heads toward a recovery.”

          In the second quarter alone, VC funding in the U.S. jumped from $35.4 billion in 2023 to $55.6 billion in 2024. That’s an increase of 57 percent.

          By contrast, the Houston area’s VC funding went in the opposite direction. Startups in the region scored $231.79 million in VC during the second quarter of 2024 vs. $333.17 million during the same period a year earlier. That’s a drop of 30 percent.

          So far in 2024, Houston-based Fervo Energy dominates VC hauls for startups in the metro area. In March, the provider of geothermal power announced it had secured $244 million in funding, with Oklahoma City-based oil and gas company Devon Energy leading the round.

          Fervo’s latest pot of VC represents more than 30 percent of all Houston-area VC funding during the first six months of 2024.

          Tim Latimer, co-founder and CEO of Fervo, says the $244 million investment enables his company “to continue to position geothermal at the heart of 24/7 carbon-free energy production.”

          Fervo says the latest VC round will support development of its 400-megawatt geothermal project in Beaver County, Utah. The Cape Station facility is expected to start generating power for the grid in 2026.