Here's what you missed at Houston House at SXSW. Photos courtesy

SXSW has descended on Austin, and while the two-week conference and festival is still going strong, the Greater Houston Partnership's Houston-focused activation has wrapped for 2022.

Houston House, which first originated last year in digital form in 2021, took place Sunday, March 13, and Monday, March 14. The nine panels and two nights of networking covered topics from energy transition and med tech to diversity in venture capital and innovation in aerospace.

For SXSW badge holders, some of the Houston House discussions are available online. However if you’re not out and about at SX and you missed these incredible panels, I spoke to four Houstonians after their discussions to dig a little deeper into some key points from the panels.

Here are the Houston Innovators I spoke with at SXSW:

  • Denise Hamilton, CEO of WatchHerWork
  • Kevin Coker, president and CEO, Proxima
  • Grace Chan, investment associate at bp Ventures
  • Dale Winger, managing director of Halliburton Labs

Listen to these conversations below — or wherever you stream your podcasts — and subscribe for weekly episodes, which will return to interview-style conversations featuring Houston guests next Wednesday.

Three Houston innovators discussed the strides the city is making in terms of equitable funding opportunities. Photos courtesy

SXSW panel: What Houston needs to do to develop as an equitable tech ecosystem

houston house

Houston has consistently been recognized as one of the most diverse cities in the country — but is that translating into equitable funding opportunities for diverse founders? A panel at SXSW this year discussed whether or not Houston's playing field is level for people of color within the innovation ecosystem.

"People do business with who they know — and who they like," says Felix Chevalier, co-founder of Urban Capital Network, when the panel was asked where the disconnect is with funding diverse founders. "I think it boils down to a lack of exposure and a lack of relationships."

Chevalier was joined by Jesse Martinez of Resolved Ventures and VamosVentures and Denise Hamilton of WatchHerWork, who moderated the discussion, which was hosted in the Greater Houston Partnership's Houston House on Sunday, March 13, at SXSW in Austin.

"We have to look at the pipeline — what the existing ecosystem looks like," says Martinez, who leads the LatinX Alliance, an organization that's relocating its operations to Houston. "We have new funds, new diverse GPs, and we have more investors — and we're building talent. ... We are making great strides, but we still need more of us to be funding our diverse founders."

The key to the equation, the panelists agreed, is education and programming — both for potential investors, like UCN does with its hands-on support for its diverse investor base, and for founders of color who might be more hesitant to plunge by starting a company.

"The way you start to dissolve that fear for folks, for example, who may be in a corporate space but may want to spread their entrepreneur wings, is to just get involved with the ecosystem," Chevalier says. "What ends up happening is you bump into someone you know or someone who is from the same talent you are originally — all you have to do is immerse yourself in the environment."

"The opportunities are out there, but it is incumbent upon in those who want it to put themselves in a position to meet people who are in the environments that are going to help facilitate whatever your objectives are," he continues.

Hamilton explained her experience raising money as a Black woman — investors didn't want to bet on her. It's a chicken and an egg situation, she says, and support for diverse founders in terms of programming and investors focused specifically on underserved communities are going to help break the cycle. It's not about charity, but equitable opportunities.

"I don't want any charity – I don't want an overabundance of kindness. Scaffold me like you scaffolded Mark Zuckerberg," Hamilton says, giving Facebook as an example of a company that was supported in a way she never had. "If you are going to be in a nascent ecosystem, you need to have structures that explain why your pitch deck has to be efficient, why you need a team. We've got to not focus just on the money piece, but on this whole psychosocial aspect."

With Hamilton's call to Houston's development as an equitable tech ecosystem, the conversation turned to discuss whether or not Houston is ready to provide this support to startups and rise to being the global innovation hub the city wants to be.

"We've got to find our tribe. We have all the pieces," Martinez says. "It's going to take time, and we have to be very intentional. ... It's really about thinking of Houston as a startup itself. How do we act as a team, and bring in partners and investors to make it a thriving ecosystem over time."

It takes commitment, Hamilton says, and that's happening in the Bayou City.

"Everything is not figured out right now — but there's a commitment to figuring it out," she says. "It's not going to be Silicon Valley overnight — it will never be Silicon Valley. Because this is Houston."

Make your SXSW plan — SXSW starts today. SXSW/Instagram

Everything you need to know about SXSW’s anticipated in-person return to Austin

know before you go

SXSW starts this week, and it’s the first in-person event since 2019, which had more than 400,000 people attend.

The Austin Convention Center will play host to SXSW EDU through Thursday, March 10; SXSW Film Fest runs from Friday, March 11-Saturday, March 19; SXSW Music Fest runs from Monday, March 14-Sunday, March 20, Interactive runs from Friday, March 11-Saturday, March 19, and Flatstock 77 runs from Thursday, March 17- Saturday, March 19. At the Palmer Events Center, the SXSW Wellness Expo will be held from Saturday, March 12-Sunday, March 13.

Click here for your guide to connecting with Houston innovators this year at SXSW.

If you’re one of the many people attending, here are some things you should know before you go.

First things first: COVID-19 protocols. Austin is now in Stage 2 of its COVID-19 risk-based guidelines, and SXSW has made the decision to keep its existing guidelines in place. That means anyone who is attending needs to provide proof of vaccination against COVID-19 or a negative COVID-19 test in order to pick up credentials.

Speaking of credentials, they can only be issued to, picked up by, and used by the participant named in the registration. All badge types can be picked up at Exhibit Hall 1 of the Austin Convention Center through March 19. For a list of the SXSW credential pickup dates and times, click here. Don’t forget to bring a government-issued photo ID and verification of vaccination or recent negative COVID-19 test.

As for getting around, you can catch a free ride on one of the circulating festival shuttles. You can also use pedicabs or public transit, or you can park close by and do some walking. Most of the venues are walkable and within a few minutes of the Austin Convention Center. For a look at road closures and commuting options, click here.

One way to help organize your time is by downloading the SXSW GO app. From the app, you can link your badge, RSVP for events, build your schedule, and sign up for notifications so you don’t miss those things you really want to see.

SXSW is a huge festival featuring events for many different genres, including music, film, television, gaming, and more. It will be difficult to attend everything you want.

Here’s some advice from Jim Kolmar, consulting film programmer for SXSW, and long-time attendee.

“I always tell people pick out three things you really want to do and make sure you do those,” he says. “Everything else, just have a plan, but leave it open to serendipity because your plan is going to fall apart at some point. There’s just no way to do everything exactly the way you want to. And I think that’s the best way to experience it, too. Just be in the moment.”

For those who don’t want to spend money but still want a SXSW experience, you can subscribe to free events here.

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Here's everything you should attend at SXSW this year. Photo courtesy of SXSW

Houston innovators: Here's what not to miss at SXSW

Where to be

Headed to SXSW this year and hoping to make meaningful Houston tech and innovation connections and hear from thought leaders? Look no further than these key events and panels.

From meetups to fireside chats, here's everything you need to know about tapping into the Houston innovation ecosystem by way of the Austin festival.

Missing something? Shoot an email to natalie@innovationmap.com for event consideration.

Friday, March 11

ZenBusiness Startup Crawl

Capital Factory is bringing back its Startup Crawl. One hundred startups and partners set up tables to demo their products and talk to thousands of potential customers, investors, and employees who can be found walking from table to table with their beverage of choice. Grab a group of your friends, hit up the Public Lounge presented by Cisco, and find out what happens when the hottest startups come together at the same time and in the same place. The event begins at 5 pm. Click here to learn more.

Saturday, March 12

SXSW Pitch

The 14th annual SXSW Pitch will take place at the Hilton Austin Downtown on Saturday, March 12, and Sunday, March 13. A live audience, as well as a panel of expert judges, will discover advancements in various sectors of emerging technology. The best part – product demonstrations by the most ambitious talents in the world with the creative new ideas to change it. Catch a glimpse of the industry’s future, with a guided tour by our emcees and judges.

Houston-based Case CTRL will pitch within the Enterprise & Smart Data Technology category on Saturday at 11:30 am. For more information, click here.

Sunday, March 13

Houston House

The Greater Houston Partnership's Houston House begins Sunday at 10 am. The line-up of programming, which is available to badge holders at The Line Hotel, is as follows:

  • 10 am: Funding the Next Generation of Diverse Founders — speakers include:
    • Felix Chevalier, Co-Founder, Urban Capital Network
    • Denise Hamilton, Work Futurist and CEO, WatchHerWork
    • Jesse Martinez, Investment Partner/Venture Partner, Resolved Ventures/VamosVentures
  • 11:30 am: Game Changers - The Rise of Sports Tech — speakers include:
    • David Gow, CEO, Gow Media & SportsMap Tech Acquisition Corp.
    • Chris Buckner, CEO, Mainline
    • Lori Burgess, Chief Operating Officer, Beasley Esports
    • Ashley Dewalt, Managing Director, DivInc
  • 1 pm: The commercial Space Age is Here — speakers include:
    • Dr. Douglas Terrier, Associate Director for Vision and Strategy, NASA’s Johnson Space Center
    • R. Matthew Ondler, CTO, Axiom Space
    • Timothy Crain, Chief Technology Officer, Intuitive Machines
    • Arturo Machuca, Director, Ellington Airport and Houston Spaceport
  • 2:30 pm: Accelerating Solutions in Medtech — speakers include:
    • Joanna Nathan, Manager, New Ventures, Johnsons & Johnson Center for Device Innovation
    • James Andrew Reinstein, President & CEO, Saranas Inc.
    • Kevin Coker, President & CEO, Proxima
  • 4 pm: Paradigm Shift - Breakthroughs in Cell Technology
    • Jason Bock, VP, Biologics Development, MD Anderson
    • Michael A Curran, Associate Professor / Founder, The UT MD Anderson Cancer Center / ImmunoGenesis, Inc.
    • Larry Hope, New Ventures and Business Development, MD Anderson
  • 5:30 pm: Networking reception
For more information on Houston House, click here.

Founded in Texas

Project W, Artemis Fund, HearstLab, and Beam have teamed up at SXSW to present the second Founded in Texas, a showcase of female founders of seed stage B2B and B2B2C technology companies located in Texas. Founded in Texas will feature 12 founders selected by application and will be an opportunity for investors from across the country to get a glimpse of the innovation and creativity at work in the growing Texas startup ecosystem.

The event begins at 9 am at Relay Coworking (Springdale General) with investor feedback. A brunch follows at 11:30 am. For more information, click here.

SXSW Official 3D Printing Hangout

Houston-based re:3D invites you to celebrate the Texas 3D Printing community with some bomb brews and primo prints at the Draught House Pub & Brewery during SXSW. Connect with fellow 3D printing enthusiasts and innovators, and bring your 3D printers and 3D prints and share what you've been up to.

The event begins at noon and runs until 3 pm. Click here for more information.

Monday, March 14

Houston House

Monday is day two of the GHP's Houston House, and the programming also begins at 10 am for badge holders at The Line Hotel.

  • 10 am: Funding the Global Energy Transition — speakers include:
    • Hossam Elbadawy, Managing Director and Technology Partner, SCF Partners
    • Shawn Cumberland, Managing Partner, EnCap Investments L.P.
    • Grace Chan, Investment Associate, bp Ventures
    • Vidisha Prasad, Managing Partner, Adya Partners
  • 11:30 am: Dream Team - Corporates and Startups in Climatetech — speakers include:
    • Andrea Course, Venture Principal, Shell Ventures
    • Dale Winger, Managing Director, Halliburton Labs
    • Michael Wheeler, Senior Investment Manager, Equinor Ventures
    • Dawn James, Director, Global Industry Strategy- Energy & Sustainability, Microsoft Corp
  • 1 pm: Tech Powering the Global Energy Transition — speakers include:
    • Trevor Best, CEO, Syzygy Plasmonics
    • Moji Karimi, CEO, Cemvita Factory Inc.
    • Federico Marques, Founder & CEO, Moonflower Technologies
    • Jane Stricker, SVP, Energy Transition, Executive Director Houston Energy Transition Initiative (HETI), Greater Houston Partnership
  • 2:30 pm: Roadmap to an Equitable Energy Transition
    • John Hall, President and CEO, Houston Advanced Research Center (HARC)
    • Dana Harmon, Executive Advisor, Texas Energy Poverty Research Institute(TEPRI)
    • Jane Stricker, SVP, Energy Transition, Executive Director Houston Energy Transition Initiative (HETI), Greater Houston Partnership
  • 4 pm: Transition on Tap, hosted by Lara Cottingham, Chief of Staff, Greentown Labs
  • 5:30 pm: Networking reception

Shell House at SXSW 2022

Shell House at SXSW activation in Antone’s in downtown Austin will share how business, government and society can collaborate to achieve net zero. Guests can sit in on talks, ask experts energy questions, relax in the Recharge & Refuel Lounge and participate in an interactive experience that highlights how decisions about home and travel can impact the US reaching net zero by 2050.

Some notable Houstonians involved in this activation include:

  • Katie Mehnert, founder and CEO of ALLY Energy is moderating the "Wake Up Call: Women in Tech & Innovation" panel at 9:30 am on Monday.
  • Sidd Gupta, CEO of Nesh, and Tim Marx, president of Topl and Venture Partner at Baird Capital, will join the panel "What I Wish I Had Known: The Start-Up’s Tale of Working with Big Companies" at 4 pm on Monday.

Baker Botts: How Innovation is Confronting Global Challenges

Join Baker Botts and several thought leaders for an afternoon discussing today’s emerging & disruptive technologies and the current investment landscape at our third annual SXSW event. The fireside chat begins at 3 pm, with a panel discussion at 4 pm. The event wraps up with a networking reception at 5 pm. A badge is not required to attend.

The event will be at Hotel Van Zandt (605 Davis St.) For more information, click here.

Tuesday, March 15

Shell House at SXSW 2022

Shell House continues at Antone's Tuesday. Some must-see Houston innovators include:

  • Lara Cottingham, chief of staff at Greentown Labs, and Siddhartha Sachdeva, founder & CEO of Innowatts will be on the "Net-Zero Heroes: How Entrepreneurs Will Lead the Way in Decarbonization" panel.

Meet Houston's Top Tech Founders

Want to know how Houston is setting itself up to be the next hub for tech innovation? This networking event will shine a spotlight on the amazing innovation coming out of Houston by bringing in a number of founders from Houston's fastest-growing startups together with several great VCs around the nation to participate in a joint conversation about founding tech startups.

The event will take place at 11:30 am to 12:30 pm at Hilton Austin Downtown, Room 408. The meetup is hosted by Sandy Guitar, managing director of HX Venture Fund, and Trevor Best, CEO of Syzygy Plasmonics. Click here for more information.

Here's your one-stop shop for innovation events in Houston this month. Photo via Getty Images

10+ can't-miss Houston business and innovation events for March

Where to be

Saddle up, y'all. March might be the city of Houston's busiest month. The Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo has kicked off, as has Houston Tech Rodeo. Plus, Houston innovators have CERAWeek to look forward to, as well as Houston-focused activations in Austin at SXSW. Here's a rundown of what all to throw on your calendar this month.

This article will be updated as more business and tech events are announced.


February 27-March 5 — Houston Tech Rodeo

Houston Exponential returns with its 3rd annual Houston Tech Rodeo, a week of events showcasing and connecting Houston's innovation and tech ecosystem. The majority of the programming is taking place downtown, and all events are free to attend. Click here to browse this year's events upon registration.

Click here for five can't-miss HTR events.

Click here to learn more about HTR.

March 2 — Building a Startup Ecosystem to Support Asian American Entrepreneurs

FilKor Capital's mission is to empower resilient Asian Americans to build enduring companies. We are focused on underserved communities to build deep and systemic impact, starting with Filipino American and Korean Americans. This event will launch a listening tour with a diverse mix of stakeholders (entrepreneurs, funders, government, chambers, corporates, universities, community, etc.) to understand needs, opportunities and ways to engage.

The event is Wednesday, March 2, from noon to 2 pm at Impact Hub Houston (1801 Main St.). Click here to register.

March 2 — Beyond the Pitch Deck

Pitching successfully is more than just creating a deck. Founders get a lot of advice on how to put slides together — but how do investors actually approach the process of determining what companies they want to invest in? In this moderated panel, founders can hear directly from investors to understand their perspectives.

The event is Wednesday, March 2, from 1 to 3 pm at Cannon West Houston (1334 Brittmoore Road). Click here to register.

March 3 — Ignite Healthcare Network’s 5th Annual Fire Pitch Competition 

The Fire Pitch Competition is the culmination of Ignite Healthcare Network's annual accelerator program created to encourage innovation in emerging women-led healthcare companies. The accelerator provides opportunities for women entrepreneurs to engage with advisors, potential customers, and investors to accelerate the growth of their companies.

The event is Thursday, March 3, from 5 to 8:30 pm at Texas Medical Center Innovation (2450 Holcombe Blvd.). Click here to register.

March 4 — 3rd Annual Houston Business Matchmaker

Hosted by the SBA, this annual Business Matchmaking event serves as a powerful means to help small businesses grow by meeting with multiple buyers from large businesses, colleges & universities, local, state, and federal agencies. The optimal outcome is a contract, but at minimum the small business will establish a relationship with an important buyer for future business.

The event is Friday, March 4, from 8:45 am to 3:30 pm, and virtual. Click here to register.

March 7-10 — Agora at CERAWeek

The 40th annual CERAWeek, a week-long event that aims to connect and convene the energy industry, returns to in-person programming this year in downtown Houston. The conference's innovation track, called Agora, has four days of panels, presentations, and networking. Note: InnovationMap has a guide to tapping into Houston innovation at CERAWeek ahead of this year's conference. Click here to read it.

The Agora sessions begin Monday, March 7, and conclude Thursday, March 10. All programming will take place at Hilton Americas-Houston (1600 Lamar St.). Click here to register.

March 8 — Transition on Tap

Transition On Tap is Greentown Labs’ monthly networking event devoted to fostering conversations and connections among the climate and energy transition ecosystem in Houston and beyond, and this one is focused on female founders. Entrepreneurs, investors, students, and friends of climatetech are invited to attend, meet colleagues, discuss solutions, and engage with our growing community.

The event is Tuesday, March 8, at 5 pm at Greentown Houston (4200 San Jacinto St.). Click here to register.

March 10 — Rise to the Top

The Greater Houston Partnership’s Women’s Business Alliance invites you to be part of an energizing conversation featuring outstanding female executives and thought leaders that leave the audience inspired and uplifted at the 11th annual Rise to the Top celebrating International Women's Day. To honor this year's International Women's day theme, #BreakTheBias, a panel of esteemed female leaders will discuss how we can work together to foster diversity, equity and inclusivity in our professional and personal lives. We will also talk mentors and mantras that helped these women rise to the top in their careers.

The event is Thursday, March 10, from 10:30 am to 1:30 pm at Marriott Marquis (1777 Walker St.). Click here to register.

March 10 — MarMo Pitch Competition

The Cannon's MarMo Pitch Competition is a life sciences/biotech-based pitch competition. Five teams will pitch an original tech-centered business idea to a panel of business experts and an audience of entrepreneurs, small business owners, potential investors, students, business and community leaders.

The event is Thursday, March 10, from 4 to 7 pm at The Cannon @ MarMo (2121 Market St.). Click here to register.

March 11-20 — SXSW (in Austin)

After two years of virtual conferences, SXSW is gearing up for in-person programming in Austin this year. The conference traverses film, music, education, and more, including tech and innovation. Plenty of Houston innovators will make the trek west to participate in the activations and networking opportunities. InnovationMap has a guide to tapping into Houston innovation at SXSW ahead of this year's conference. Click here to read it.

SXSW begins Friday, March 11, and conclude Sunday, March 20. All programming will take place in downtown Austin. Click here to register.

March 24 — Future Focus - Sportstech

In partnership with InnovationMap, alliantgroup invites you to an exciting panel discussion on the sportstech industry, where technology is transforming the world of sports. Our conversation will focus on four areas, where multi-billion dollar businesses are emerging seemingly overnight:

  • E-sports
  • Gambling
  • Health/performance
  • Fan engagement

Across these categories, technology is enabling interconnectedness, social interaction, new communities, improved health, subscriber-based business models, software as a service, and new revenue streams.

The event is Thursday, March 24, from 6 to 8 pm at alliantgroup (3009 Post Oak Blvd. Suite 2000.). Click here to register.

The Greater Houston Partnership's Susan Davenport shares details on Houston House at SXSW. Photo via houston.org

GHP introduces in-person Houston House for SXSW 2022

Q&A

Texas is just about two weeks away from SXSW's return to in-person activations and events since pre-pandemic times. The two-week conference includes conversations and activities within music, film, education, tech, and more. And this year, the Greater Houston Partnership is shining a spotlight on the Bayou City at the festival.

"With the return of the conference in person for the first time since 2019, we are thrilled to build on that momentum and host Houston House — a two-day activation featuring programming and networking opportunities for guests attending the conference," says Susan Davenport, chief economic development officer for the GHP.

Houston House, which first originated last year in digital form, will be held in Austin on Sunday, March 13, and Monday, March 14. Davenport shares more details on the activation in a Q&A with InnovationMap.

InnovationMap: Why did the Greater Houston Partnership decide to have a presence at SXSW this year?

Susan Davenport: As one of the premier tech conferences in the U.S., SXSW provides an incredible platform to promote Houston’s position as the most prominent emerging innovation hub in the country.

Houston was a featured partner at last year’s SXSW Online Conference, where the Partnership rallied innovative leaders from across the region for a series of virtual programming. With the return of the conference in person for the first time since 2019, we are thrilled to build on that momentum and host Houston House – a two-day activation featuring programming and networking opportunities for guests attending the conference.

With an expected attendance of 45,000 bright minds from around the globe, it’s the perfect venue to showcase Houston’s tech leadership and cultivate relationships that support the growth of our ecosystem.

IM: What can attendees expect from Houston House?

SD: This year’s activation will be held at the Line Hotel, an established SXSW venue in the heart of the action. Consistent with what attendees have come to expect from South by, Houston House will offer thought leadership programming featuring industry leaders and startup founders in a series of panel discussions on today’s most prominent topics in tech.

In addition to main stage programming, Houston House will also offer a lounge space that will serve as a landing pad for stakeholders and attendees to cultivate relationships. Each day of programming will conclude with a networking reception.

IM: The programming is geared around a few topics — what are some of these themes and how do they pertain to Houston innovation?

SD: On Sunday, March 13, our programming will be focus on topics like commercial aerospace, medical device innovation, cell therapy, and investment for diverse entrepreneurs. These panel sessions will showcase Houston’s leadership through the incredible work taking place at the Ion, Houston Spaceport, Johnson Space Center, and the Texas Medical Center.

On Monday, March 14, our programming will kick off the start of the SXSW Climate Change track and focus primarily on how Houston is leveraging its energy leadership to accelerate solutions for a low-carbon future. Topics will include VC investment in climate tech, corporate and startup partnerships, emerging low-carbon energy technologies, and ensuring an equitable energy transition.

Our full lineup of Houston House programming and speakers can be found online, along with an overview of the 2022 SXSW Conference.

IM: Who should stop by Houston House at SXSW?

SD: Anyone who is interested in technology, commercial aerospace, life sciences, and how DEI traverses with these industries will find value in our rockstar lineup of industry leaders, investors, and startup founders. We hope to see young professionals, entrepreneurs, investors, and executives.

For fellow Houstonians attending the conference, Houston House will serve as a home base to kick off your SXSW experience. For those who are not currently involved in our tech ecosystem, this will be the perfect opportunity to dive in and learn more about the amazing things taking place in our great region.

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This conversation has been edited for brevity and clarity.

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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.