This new program is geared at preparing leaders at the intersection of health care and business. Image courtesy of Rice

Two Houston institutions have teamed up to create a health care leadership program to prepare the next generation of life science executives.

Rice Business and The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center have launched the Executive Leadership in Healthcare program at Rice University’s Jones Graduate School of Business. The new program will provide an opportunity for both current and emerging health care leaders across the country to learn from faculty and leaders in medicine in the Texas Medical Center.

“In executive education, we have been supporting the development of healthcare leaders for over 20 years — it has been a fascinating journey,” says Brent Smith, senior associate dean of executive education at Rice Business, in a news release. “We have learned so much about the challenges of leading institutions in such a dynamic and challenging industry and developed deep healthcare expertise. Our collaboration with MD Anderson allows our two institutions to blend our disciplinary expertise in healthcare strategy, leadership, operations and finance.”

The program is planned for two installments next year — over 10 days ion Feb. 6-10 and April 24-28. Participants will discover themselves as leaders and learn the business tools they need to become more impactful and effective within their organizations.

“We are excited to work with our colleagues at Rice Business to provide a thriving and unique learning platform for healthcare executives to navigate the complex environments they are facing,” says Courtney Holladay, associate vice president of the Leadership Institute at MD Anderson, in the release. “We believe MD Anderson’s senior leadership and Rice Business’ faculty provide complementary expertise and perspectives on both the practice and theory of leading healthcare institutions that will benefit participants.”

Those interested can learn more about the course online. Tuition is listed as $18,500.

“Staying connected to the business community and meeting the professional development needs of organizations both large and small are important to us,” says Michael Koenig, associate dean for innovation initiatives and executive director of executive education at Rice Business, in the release. “We’re excited about this initiative with MD Anderson and look forward to the impact our joint program will have on healthcare leaders and their institutions.”

TMC gave an update on TMC3 — now called TMC Helix Park — and introduced a new bioport project. Courtesy of Elkus Manfredi Architects

TMC unveils details of new bioport, Helix Park at annual Greater Houston Partnership event

coming soon

Within the next five to 10 years, the Texas Medical Center you know today will be double the size. That's what Bill McKeon, president and CEO of the TMC, said at yesterday's State of the Texas Medical Center event hosted by the Greater Houston Partnership.

The biggest project contributing to the TMC's growth is TMC3, a campus expansion that will bring 37 acres and 5 million square feet of space to the TMC, is now known as Helix Park. The name is a nod to the shape of the park and walkway design at the center of the campus. The TMC3 Collaborative Building — the first multi-institutional research facility in TMC’s history — will be the first of the project to deliver and is currently under construction and slated for completion in 2023.

However, the big news of the event was the TMC BioPort, the organization's upcoming biomanufacturing and medical supplies distribution engine. 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.

"During COVID, we saw the weakness of our supply chain," McKeon says at the event. "There is a huge effort by this country as a part of national security to make sure drug and vaccine production is moved back into the United States."

The new campus will also have an on-site upskill training center and create over 100,000 new job opportunities.

“Houston is advancing its position as the leading destination for life science discovery,” McKeon says in the release. “Through our holistic, expansive vision, we are building every vital component necessary to advance the largest life science ecosystem in the world.”

As explained at the event, the growing TMC is anchored by four districts: the TMC Medical Campus and the TMC Innovation Factory, which are already fully open and operating for years now, and the upcoming TMC Helix Park and TMC BioPort, which are both underway.


Bill McKeon gave the address at the State of the Texas Medical Center.

ScalaMed, which went through the TMC Accelerator in 2018, has been acquired. Photo via TMC

TMC-accelerated Houston startup exits to health services giant

M&A

Healthcare services giant Cardinal Health has acquired Houston-based startup ScalaMed, whose platform transfers prescriptions directly to patients via a secure mobile app. The purchase price wasn’t disclosed.

ScalaMed now falls under the umbrella of a Cardinal-owned company called Outcomes. ScalaMed’s technology will be available throughout Cardinal’s nationwide pharmacy network.

“As healthcare continues to evolve toward patient preferences, the acquisition of ScalaMed allows us to center our connected ecosystem around the patient from the outset of their treatment journey — from the doctor’s office to the pharmacy to home,” Brent Stutz, senior vice president and general manager of Dublin, Ohio-based Outcomes, says in a news release. “Using ScalaMed’s technology, we can better support patients at every step along their treatment journey through unified communication and more informed insights that will help remove access and adherence barriers.”

Dr. Tal Rapke, founder and CEO of ScalaMed, says the process of digitizing prescriptions removes the patient from the equation, helping them bypass challenges such as forgetting medication while on vacation or lacking a convenient pharmacy nearby.

ScalaMed, founded in 2016 in Australia, raised $1.1 million in funding, according to Crunchbase. It was a member of the TMC Accelerator’s medtech program in 2018.

“With the scale and innovation Cardinal Health offers, we can revolutionize how prescriptions are filled and help solve the massive, costly challenge of medication nonadherence,” says Rapke, who’s a physician.

According to an article published in 2016 by the Journal of Managed Care & Specialty Pharmacy, medication nonadherence happens when a new medication is prescribed for a patient, but the patient does not obtain the medication or an appropriate alternative within an “acceptable” period after it was prescribed.

An article published in 2018 by The Permanente Journal reported that medication nonadherence happens with as many as 40 percent to 50 percent of patients who are prescribed drugs for chronic conditions like diabetes and high blood pressure. Each year, medication nonadherence costs the U.S. healthcare system $528 billion and contributes to about 275,000 avoidable patient deaths, according to a study published in 2018 in the Annals of Pharmacotherapy.

“Medication adherence … constitutes one of the ‘big hairy problems’ or ‘big hairy audacious goals’ of healthcare,” says an editorial published in 2020 by BMJ Journals.

These three health tech startups are moving on in TMCi's accelerator program. Photo courtesy of TMC

TMC names 3 startups to Houston health tech accelerator

onboarding tech

Thee Texas Medical Center named three companies to its accelerator program. The health tech startups will join the program and make key connections to grow their technology and business.

Texas Medical Center Innovation announced this year's cohort for the TMC Innovation Accelerator for HealthTech. The companies attended TMCi's boot camp earlier this year before being named to the cohort.

“It is always exciting to introduce a new group of talented entrepreneurs into our community,” says Tom Luby, director of TMC Innovation, in a news release. “Each with their own goals, and at their individual stage, we’ll work closely together to help them learn, grow and navigate this rich clinical landscape. We are honored to be the bridge between these innovators and the world’s largest medical city.”

The selected startups include Oxford, United Kingdom-based CardMedic, which joins the program by way of TMC's UK BioBridge, an international partnership established to bring cutting-edge health tech startups to the United States by way of Houston. The company's technology is a digital "One Stop Communication Shop" — an extensive library of pre-written scripts that help staff and patients communicate across any barrier, including language, deafness, cognitive impairment, or disability.

“The opportunity to connect with Texas Medical Center member institutions, understand their problem domain, and in what ways that may differ from the United Kingdom is invaluable. We are really excited about learning from the expert team of strategic advisors at the TMCi Accelerator about areas we needed to focus on to grow our company in the United States,” says Rachael Grimaldi, co-founder and CEO of CardMedic.

Chicago-based CareAdvisors, which helps hospitals and clinical social workers connect patients to the best resources and benefits to address social care needs, also joins the TMCi accelerator. The company's technology, the Social Care Automation tool, enables hospitals to generate revenue from preventive health programs and helps health plans reduce overutilization by putting the focus on preventive care.

Roboligent, based in Austin, designs and manufactures robotic and automated physical therapy exercises for patients with upper and lowers limb musculoskeletal issues. This robotic-assisted rehab help promotes recovery while increasing rehab centers’ operational efficiency.

“Introducing a new and innovative product, especially in the medical device field, is a thorough and collaborative effort,” says Bongsu Kim, founder and CEO of Roboligent, in a news release. “TMC’s HealthTech Accelerator is the perfect place to make connections with experts and stakeholders to help guide us in reaching our next milestone.”

The program trains health care providers various youth health specialties to help them treat adolescents holistically and comprehensively. Photo via BCM.edu

Houston program pockets $2.3M grant for training youth health care professionals

for the kids

A Houston-based training program focused on training leaders in adolescent and young adult health has just received fresh funding to support its cause.

The Baylor College of Medicine-Texas Medical Center Leadership Education in Adolescent Health, or BCM-TMC LEAH, training program has been awarded a five-year grant totaling $2.3 million. The program is one of only seven such training programs funded by the Health Resources and Services Administration and the Maternal and Child Health Bureau.

“Adolescents make up about 20 percent of the U.S. population yet account for disproportionate rates of mortality from accidents, homicides, suicide, and other conditions related to mental illness,” says Dr. Albert C. Hergenroeder, professor and chief of the division of adolescent medicine and sports medicine and project director for BCM-TMC LEAH, in a news release. “The goal is to train and prepare healthcare professionals to assume leadership roles in the development and improvement of the system of care for adolescents and young adults locally, in Texas, in HRSA Region 6 (Oklahoma, New Mexico, Arkansas and Louisiana), and nationally.”

BCM-TMC LEAH provides didactic, experiential, and research-based interdisciplinary education and training, per the news release, across core health disciplines of medicine, nursing, nutrition, psychology, social work, and public health. It's the fourth time since 1997 the program has received funding.

Along with Hergenroeder, Dr. Connie Wiemann, director of research in the division of adolescent medicine and sports medicine, based at Texas Children’s Hospital, is co-director of the program. The two medical professionals also collaborate with:

  • Dr. Diane Santa-Maria, dean and associate professor in the Department of Research at the University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston Cizik School of Nursing
  • Dr. Christine Markham, chair of health promotion and behavioral sciences and deputy director for the Texas Prevention Research Center at University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston School of Public Health
  • Dr. Sarah Norendorf, associate professor and associate dean for research and faculty development
  • Shelley Gonzales, clinical assistant professor and assistant director of field education at the University of Houston Graduate College of Social Work.

“There has been an increased urgency during the last few years of the need to address adolescent health problems, such as suicide, eating disorders and violence in adolescents,” Hergenroeder says. “These problems require solutions for populations as well as individuals.

"For example," Hergenroeder continues, "an individual patient with an eating disorder will require treatment with an interdisciplinary team of physicians, psychologists, nurses, dietitians and social workers yet for a population, the expertise of researchers and public health experts should look at what broader interventions might be used in the prevention of eating disorders. LEAH is designed to give comprehensive training in all aspects of the threats to adolescent and young adult health in the U.S.”

The program trains pre- and postdoctoral students, medicine fellows, and residents by connecting them with faculty across a multitude of related specialized fields. The trainees then go into communities prepared to holistically treat and focus on problems adolescents and young adults are facing, going beyond just physical and mental health.

“The comprehensive training experience also includes a focus on skills to conduct and disseminate research to promote practices and policies that impact adolescents and young adults in a variety of settings,” said Wiemann. "All trainees will learn tools to engage stakeholders and identify opportunities to improve systems of care. In this way, all disciplines play an important role in improving the health and well-being of this population. And healthcare administrative training is incorporated into the LEAH program so that LEAH trainees will be able to successfully execute great research, clinical, teaching and advocacy programs to improve adolescent and young adult health."

Another HCA Houston hospital hit a major milestone in robotics-assisted surgery. Photo courtesy of HCA

Houston hospital system celebrates revolutionary robotic-assisted heart surgery

automated health care

HCA Houston Healthcare Medical Center has successfully completed a robotic-assisted coronary angioplasty — the first of its kind, the hospital reports.

Dr. Pranav Loyalka, cardiologist with Houston Heart, completed the procedure using the first and only FDA-cleared robotic-assisted technology. The process includes placing stents and balloons in patients with coronary artery disease.

"The first case was very successful. Sitting away from the patient in a radiation-protected cockpit, I was able to use a joystick to advance the catheter, millimeter by millimeter through the artery," says Dr. Loyalka in a news release. "Additionally, the enhanced visualization of the technology provided me with better measurement of the blockage and placement of the stent. In my opinion, the enhanced control, visualization and measurement of this technology will transform how we perform angioplasty procedures and ultimately improve patient care."

CAD, a common but deadly disease, is the leading cause of death in America. The treatment — angioplasty procedures — remains one of the most frequently performed in the country with nearly one million cases annually, but the procedure has remained unchanged for decades.

"An aging baby boomer population is driving demand for new innovative technologies to treat CAD," continues Dr. Loyalka. "Vascular robotics offers physicians and patients a minimally-invasive technology that may improve the precision of stent and balloon placements and reduce radiation of the procedure for physicians."

The robotics technology allows interventional cardiologists to perform the procedure away from the patient's bedside and seated in a radiation-protected cockpit. The physician uses a joystick to robotically move the procedure's tools — including catheters, angioplasty balloons, and stents — to clear the blockage and restore blood flow. Additionally, the technology allows interventional cardiologists to accurately measure blockages and precisely position stents, which may lead to fewer stent implants.

"We are proud to be one of the first medical centers in the area to perform this advanced procedure," says Chris Osentowski, chief executive officer at HCA Houston Healthcare Medical Center. "It emphasizes our continuous commitment to delivering state-of-the-art technology to our patients and clinical community."

In March, HCA Houston Healthcare Clear Lake performed its first peripheral lung biopsy using robotic-assisted technology, making it the first hospital in the area to perform that procedure.

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CultureMap Emails are Awesome

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 photonics to robotics — recently making headlines in Houston innovation.

Brad Burke, managing director of the Rice Alliance for Technology and Entrepreneurship

Brad Burke joins this week's Houston Innovators Podcast. Photo via alliance.rice.edu

Collaboration has made a world of a difference for growing Houston's innovation ecosystem, according to Brad Burke, managing director of the Rice Alliance for Technology and Entrepreneurship.

"I think Houston has this culture of collaboration that I suspect that some other major cities don't have in the same way," Burke says on the Houston Innovators Podcast. "And while we're a big city, the entrepreneurial ecosystem feels like a small network of a lot of people who work really well together."

Burke has played a major role in the collaboration of Houston for the past 20 years leading the Rice Alliance, which coordinates many event programs and accelerators — including the Rice Business Plan Competition, energy and life science forums, the Clean Energy Accelerator, Owl Spark, Blue Launch, and more. Click here to read more.

Trevor Best, CEO and co-founder of Syzygy Plasmonics

A new partnership for Houston-based Syzygy will generate 1.2 million tons of clean hydrogen each year in South Korea by 2030. Image via Syzygy

Houston-area energy tech startup Syzygy Plasmonics is part of a new partnership that will develop a fully electric chemical reactor for production of clean hydrogen in South Korea.

The reactor will be installed in the second half of 2023 at Lotte Fine Chemical’s facilities in Ulsan, South Korea. Lotte Fine Chemical, Lotte Chemical, and Sumitomo Corporation of Americas are Syzygy’s partners in this venture.

“Simply improving existing tech isn’t enough to reach the world’s decarbonization goals. Stopping climate change will require industries to reimagine what is possible,” Syzygy co-founder and CEO Trevor Best says in a news release. “Our technology expands the accepted paradigms of chemical engineering. We have demonstrated the ability to replace heat from combustion with renewable electricity in the manufacture of foundational chemicals like hydrogen.” Click here to read more.

Nicolaus Radford, CEO and founder of Nauticus Robotics

Houston-based Nauticus Robotics has hit the public market. Image via LinkedIn

Fresh off its September 13 debut as a publicly traded company, Webster-based Nauticus Robotics Inc. is aiming for $90 million in revenue next year as it dives deeper into the ocean economy.

The stock of Nauticus now trades on the NASDAQ market under the ticker symbol KITT. Nauticus went public following its SPAC (special purpose acquisition company) merger with New York City-based CleanTech Acquisition Corp., a “blank check” company that went public in July 2021 through a $150 million IPO. The SPAC deal was valued at $560 million when it was announced in December.

Nauticus continues to be led by CEO Nicolaus Radford and the current executive team.

“The closing of this business combination represents a pivotal milestone in our company’s history as we take public our pursuit of transforming the ocean robotics industry with autonomous systems,” says Radford, who founded what was known as Houston Mechatronics in 2014. “Not only is the ocean a tremendous economic engine, but it is also the epicenter for building a sustainable future.” Click here to read more.

Houston startup snags prestigious grant from global health leader

big win

A female-founded biotech startup has announced that it has received a grant from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.

Steradian Technologies has developed a breath-based collection device that can be used with diagnostic testing systems. Called RUMI, the device is non-invasive and fully portable and, according to a news release, costs the price of a latte.

“We are extremely honored to receive this award and be recognized by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, a leader in global health. This funding will propel our work in creating deep-tech diagnostics and products to close the equity gap in global public health," says Asma Mirza, CEO and co-founder of Steradian Technologies, in the release. “The RUMI will demonstrate that advanced technology can be delivered to all areas of the world, ensuring the Global South and economically exploited regions receive access to high-fidelity diagnostics instead of solutions that are ill-suited to the environment.”

RUMI uses novel photon-based detection to collect and diagnose infectious diseases in breath within 30-seconds, per the release, and will be the first human bio-aerosol specimen collector to convert breath into a fully sterile liquid sample and can be used for many applications in direct disease detection.

"As the healthcare industry continues to pursue less invasive diagnostics, we are very excited that the foundation has identified our approach to breath-based sample collection as a standout worthy of their support," says John Marino, chief of product development and co-founder. “We look forward to working with them to achieve our goals of better, faster, and safer diagnostics."

Founded in 2017, Steradian Technologies is funded and supported by XPRIZE, Johnson & Johnson’s Lung Cancer Initiative, JLABS TMCi, Capital Factory, Duke Institute of Global Health, and Johnson & Johnson’s Center for Device Innovation.

The amount granted by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation was not disclosed. The Seattle-based foundation is led by CEO Mark Suzman and co-chaired by Bill Gates and Melinda French Gatess.