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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          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.