Here's how these Houston health care institutions ranked compared to the rest of the country. Photo by Dwight C. Andrews/Greater Houston Convention and Visitors Bureau

It’s a three-peat for Houston Methodist Hospital.

For the third in a row, Healthgrades has named Houston Methodist the best hospital in Texas and one of the 50 best hospitals in the country. It’s the only Texas hospital in the top 50. Houston Methodist, a 907-bed facility at the Texas Medical Center, earned the same recognition in 2020 and 2021.

Four other hospitals in the Houston area made Healthgrades’ list of the top 250 hospitals in the U.S.:

  • Baylor St. Luke’s Medical Center
  • Houston Methodist Baytown Hospital
  • Houston Methodist Willowbrook Hospital
  • Memorial Hermann – Texas Medical Center

Four Houston hospitals also excelled in several of Healthgrades’ specialty categories:

  • Memorial Hermann Memorial City Medical Center, No. 3 in the state for heart surgery.
  • Memorial Hermann – Texas Medical Center, No. 1 in the state for stroke care and No. 2 for coronary intervention.
  • Houston Methodist Hospital, No. 2 in the state for critical care and No. 2 for pulmonary care.
  • Texas Orthopedic Hospital, No. 1 in the state for joint replacement.

Healthgrades, an online platform for finding physicians, hospitals, and other health care providers, rates hospitals based on clinical outcomes such as rates for patient deaths and treatment complications. For this year’s list, Healthgrades evaluated clinical performance at nearly 4,500 hospitals.

“For almost 25 years, our mission has been to provide consumers with clear and accessible information to make more informed health care decisions,” Dr. Brad Bowman, chief medical officer and head of data science at Healthgrades, says in a news release.

The Healthgrades rankings “provide consumers with increased transparency regarding the care in their areas, and empowers them to make more confident care decisions for themselves and their families,” Bowman adds.

For Houston Methodist, kudos like those from Healthgrades are common. For instance, the hospital last year landed at No. 16 on U.S. News & World Report’s national honor roll for the best hospitals, up from No. 20 the previous year. It was the top-rated Texas hospital on the list.

“These national accolades are something to be proud of, but most important, our patients are benefiting from all of our hard work. Ultimately, they are the reason we need to be one of the best hospital systems in the country,” Dr. Marc Boom, president and CEO of Houston Methodist, said last year in a news release about the U.S. News award.

The Healthgrades honor is one of several pieces of good news for Houston Methodist this year.

The hospital recently unveiled plans for the 26-story Centennial Tower. Scheduled to open in 2027, the $1.4 billion tower will include a larger emergency department and hundreds of patient beds, among other features. The new tower will replace the Houston Main building and West Pavilion.

Shortly after that announcement, the Houston Methodist system said it had received an anonymous $50 million gift. It’s the second largest donation in the system’s 102-year history.

Joining Houston Methodist Hospital in Healthgrades’ national top 250 this year are:

  • Baylor Scott & White Medical Center – McKinney
  • Baylor Scott & White Medical Center – Temple
  • Doctors Hospital at Renaissance in Edinburg
  • Hendrick Medical Center in Abilene
  • Medical City Arlington
  • Medical City McKinney
  • Methodist Hospital in San Antonio
  • St. David’s Medical Center in Austin
  • St. David’s South Austin Medical Center
  • William P. Clements Jr. University Hospital in Dallas
The TMC has announced its latest Biobridge with Ireland and a new biodesign program with Australia. Photo courtesy of TMC

Texas Medical Center announces 2 international innovation-focused collaborations

gone global

The Texas Medical Center announced two new partnerships with international entities recently — both will bring innovative opportunities to the Houston area.

Enterprise Ireland, the country's trade and innovation agency, has entered into a strategic agreement with TMC to create the TMC's fourth biobridge. The new partnership will create gateway for Irish innovators to collaborate with the TMC to solve global health challenges.

“The breakthrough technology and entrepreneurship that is coming out of Ireland is truly impressive, and the TMC team is thrilled to be in Ireland today to solidify our partnership,” says William McKeon, president and CEO of the Texas Medical Center, in a news release. “The past two years has shown the importance of collaboration at a global scale, and we are eager to start our work with Enterprise Ireland’s team to further global innovation and research.”

Joining similar partnerships the TMC has with Denmark, the United Kingdom, and Australia, the new Irish Biobridge will focus on advancing health and life science through commercialization, innovation, and research — including identifying opportunities for clinical research and clinical trial activities, according to the release.

“The size, scale and reputation of Texas Medical Center brings new opportunities for Irish companies to innovate and scale and enter the US market,” says Leo Clancy, CEO of Enterprise Ireland, in a statement. “I am delighted to officially launch this partnership with TMC. Enterprise Ireland places a strong focus on driving innovation in the medtech industry and facilitating successful partnerships between Irish companies and influential global healthcare systems.”

Galway, Ireland-based LifeLet Medical, which is developing a novel biomimetic leaflet material for heart valve replacements, is part of TMC’s Accelerator program and is supported by Enterprise Ireland. Two other cohort companies — InVera Medical and Aurigen Medical — have been awarded funding under Irish government’s Disruptive Technologies Innovation Fund administered by Enterprise Ireland.

Also made official today is a new partnership between TMC Biodesign and Biodesign Australia, an organization led by The University of Western Australia that allows Biodesign collaboration across Perth, Melbourne, Sydney, Adelaide, and Brisbane. Australia has collaborated closely with the TMC since the country established its Biobridge in 2018. The two programs' founders and entrepreneurs will be provided with access to talent, clinical trial activity, expanded funding opportunities and market access, according to a news release.

“The launch of the Australian BioBridge in 2018 created a unique opportunity for the exchange of ideas, research and investment to advance medical breakthroughs both at Texas Medical Center and in Australia,” McKeon says in the release. “This expanded relationship with Biodesign Australia offers global opportunities for a new group of healthcare leaders, and we are excited to work collaboratively to provide a platform for innovation and commercialization.”

TMC Biodesign, which launched in 2015, helps connect health tech innovators and founders with mentors, business leaders, and technical expertise to take life-saving technologies to scale. The two programs have trained hundreds of health tech innovators.

“Biodesign Australia is thrilled to partner with Texas Medical Center in our shared goal of furthering healthcare innovation and entrepreneurship,” says Professor Kevin Pfleger, director Biomedical Innovation at The University of Western Australia, in the release. “By uniting the programming, talent and expertise found at Biodesign Australia and TMC, we are creating a dynamic ecosystem that will help to shape the future of healthcare.”

The TMC | Australia Biobridge has co-designed the Healthcare Activator — a program that allows Australian Digital Health and Medical Device companies to tap into Texas Medical Center Innovation programs and partners. Applications are now open for the inaugural cohort launched.

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

Houston medical device startup closes $6M series A

money moves

A Houston-based medical device company born out of the Texas Medical Center has closed its series A round of funding.

Ictero Medical's oversubscribed $6 million round was led by MedTex Ventures, S3 Ventures, and an undisclosed strategic investor, according to a news release. 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.

Recently, Ictero Medical entered into a partnership with Houston medical device development firm Biotex. The collaboration provides the company with engineering resources and in-house manufacturing tools. Ictero also received capital support from MedTex Ventures through its Biotex Medical Device Fund.

“We are excited about working with the Ictero team to advance its technology, which we believe can significantly improve patient experiences and outcomes by providing a non-surgical alternative to treating gallbladder disease,” says Biotex CEO Ashok Gowda in the release.

The fresh funds will be put toward further product development and initial clinical testing.

“MedTex Ventures is enthusiastic about Ictero’s novel cryoablation technology and its potential to solve the unmet need of inoperable patients with gallbladder disease,” says John Fichthorn, CIO of MedTex Ventures, in the news release. “Equally important is the team. We believe the combination of Ictero and Biotex’s technical capabilities, alongside the support from key investors with commercial experience, such as S3 Ventures, position the company for long term success.”

Ictero was founded as a part of the Texas Medical Center’s Biodesign Fellowship program in 2018. Since launch, the company has received a Phase I NSF grant and closed a $1 million seed round co-led by the Texas Medical Center Venture Fund and Texas HALO Fund.

“Ictero is at the forefront of pioneering cryotherapy for gallstone disease, and S3 Ventures is excited about the potential for Ictero’s novel solution to rapidly bring an impactful outcome to patients,” says Kim Rodriguez, venture partner at S3, in the release. “Our research suggests a substantial opportunity to help patients suffering from gallstone disease who are dependent on drainage catheters or too sick for surgery. We are joining a solid investment syndicate in supporting a very capable team.”

TMC3's Collaborative Building has topped out. Image courtesy of Texas Medical Center

First TMC3 Collaborative Building tops out, plans to open next year

medical milestone

Construction of Houston’s 250,000-square-foot TMC3 Collaborative Building has reached a milestone.

Founders of the research facility recently celebrated completion of the uppermost part of the building, known as “topping out.” Construction started in January 2021.

The building is part of the first phase of the TMC3 campus, a 37-acre life science property designed to capitalize on the intersection of medicine and commercialization. Founders of the campus are Texas Medical Center, the University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center, Texas A&M University Health Science Center, and the University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston.

The TMC3 Collaborative Building, set to open in 2023, will promote innovation and collaboration among the founding institutions, as well as with academic, healthcare, and industry partners. A key feature is a 43,000-square-foot research lab that’ll be shared by MD Anderson, Texas A&M Health, and UT Health Houston.

“The topping out of the TMC3 Collaborative Building marks an integral milestone in the future of life science research and innovation and reflects an unprecedented commitment to collaboration among the four founding institutions,” William McKeon, president and CEO of Texas Medical Center, says in a news release. “The lifesaving research and technologies that will come out of this building will truly revolutionize healthcare.”

In addition to the research lab, the building will include:

  • 85,000 square feet of lab and office space for industry partners.
  • 14,200 square feet for Texas Medical Center’s strategic initiatives, the Braidwell investment firm, the TMC Venture Fund, and national venture and equity fund partners.
  • A 7,000-square-foot atrium for lectures, programs, and informal events.

“Houston already has a place on the world stage as a leader in clinical care and life sciences. With the launch of the TMC3 Collaborative Building and larger TMC3 campus, we showcase why our city leads in the areas of innovation and technology,” Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner says. “In the process, we will create opportunities to bring new partners and industry to our city and generate new jobs for the residents of the Greater Houston community.”

New facility will accelerate investigational treatments in cancer, heart disease, neurological disorders and more. Photo courtesy of Houston Methodist

Houston Methodist opens new cellular therapeutics center

new to hou

Houston Methodist recently opened a new 5,000-square-foot lab that will focus on developing and producing lifesaving treatments through cell therapy, the hospital announced last week.

Named the Ann Kimball & John W. Johnson Center for Cellular Therapeutics after long-time supporters of the hospital, the lab is located in the Houston Methodist Outpatient Center in the Texas Medical Center. The space includes 1710 square feet of cleanroom space, a dedicated quality control laboratory, six production rooms, support spaces and more to help develop new cell therapies and investigational therapeutics.

The combination of the control laboratory and production rooms onsite are anticipated to help the hospital treat patients safely and more efficiently, according to the statement.

Work at the JCCT is slated to benefit medical research throughout Houston Methodist in the fields of cancer, cardiovascular, neurology, organ transplantation, orthopedics and gastroenterology treatment.

The new center is named for Ann Kimball and John W. Johnson, who contributed a gift that will go toward establishing the facility. Photo courtesy of Houston Methodist

According to a statement from the hospital, cell therapy is "one of the most promising treatment options available," with applications in treatment for cancer, heart disease, and neurological diseases like ALS, Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s. The therapy requires that a patient is implanted with live cells provided by a donor or the patient themselves. These cells can help repair or rejuvenate damaged tissue or cells.

“Many diseases have limited or ineffective therapies, so there is a tremendous need and opportunity to bring transformative and restorative new treatments to patients through cell therapy,” distinguished neurologist Dr Stanley Appel, who will lead the center, said the statement. “Having a cellular therapy laboratory on-site at Houston Methodist has always been a part of our vision. The Johnson family’s generosity and support of this vision will give hope to countless patients battling neurodegenerative diseases and more.”

The Johnsons' gift also created a matching fund that supports cell therapy projects in all specialties at Houston Methodist. At press time, the fund had helped attract 51 donors, including 69-year-old Jack McClanahan, who suffers from ALS and was the first to donate to the center.

"I volunteered for this because I want a younger man or woman with children to have a chance – this is a devastating disease,” McClanahan said in the statement. “If there’s any hope to help others, I just want to be part of it.”

Houston Methodist also announced last month that it will break ground on a $650 million Cypress "smart" hospital this spring. The hospital is slated to incorporate artificial intelligence, big data, and Alexa- and Siri-like voice technology into its treatment plans and design.

This Texas Medical Center startup is digitizing employee expense management within health care. Photo courtesy of TMC

TMC-backed fintech platform announces collaboration to digitize health care expenses

hi, tech

The Texas Medical Center announced a partnership with San Francisco-based Bond Financial Technologies Inc this month on a platform that will bring an embedded financial solution into the realm of health care expenses.

According to a statement from the companies, inefficiencies make up about 35 percent of the $5 trillion annual health care expenditure in the U.S.

To find a solution, TMC Innovation launched its own fintech company, Tanaflow, which aims to digitize health care expense management through applying machine-based learning. Bond Financial launched Bond Treasury in tandem to facilitate the innovation.

Together the products will first aim to tackle the often paper-based and cumbersome task of employee expense reimbursements, which accounts for an estimated $300 million a year at TMC, according to the statement.

“TMC’s Tanaflow will use Bond Treasury to embed financial services into our software applications to save time and money so we can refocus on serving the more than 10 million patients we see annually,” Odero Otieno, founder in residence at TMC and CEO of Tanaflow, says in a statement. “Over time, we expect to expand into other non-clinical tasks and transactions, such as payment acquiring, treasury management, and credit. Bond has the technology platform, talent, and vision to be our long-term partner and we are incredibly excited to partner on this new journey.”

The Tanaflow technology will be integrated across TMC's 61 institutions and 21 hospitals.

This will be Bond Financial's first foray into the health care industry. The company, founded in 2019, aims to create, launch and scale embedded financial experiences across industries at an enterprise level through its API platform. Investors include the likes of Goldman Sachs and Mastercard.

"We’re seeing tremendous interest from enterprise businesses that want to embed purpose-built financial products into their software applications, and are excited to partner with impactful organizations such as TMC to bring more efficiencies into the healthcare vertical,” Roy Ng, co-founder and CEO of Bond, adds in a statement.

The TMC is also currently underway on its 250,000-square-foot, $186 million TMC3 Collaborative Building, which will house research initiatives and foster collaboration among academic health care institutions and industry partners. Slated to open in the fall of 2023, it's also designed to support strategic initiatives and investment from life science-focused firms and national venture and equity and partners.

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Houston college system plans to open $30M resiliency-focused center

to the rescue

Houston’s initiative to protect the city from catastrophes is getting a big boost from Houston Community College.

The college is developing the Resilience Center of Excellence to aid the city’s resilience campaign. At the heart of this project is the 65,000-square-foot, $30 million Resiliency Operations Center, which will be built on a five-acre site HCC’s Northeast campus. The complex is scheduled to open in 2024.

HCC estimates the operations center will train about 3,000 to 4,000 local first responders, including police officers and firefighters, during the first three years of operation. They’ll be instructed to prepare for, manage, and respond to weather, health and manmade hazards such as hurricanes, floods, fires, chemical spills, and winter freezes.

According to The Texas Tribune, the operations center will include flood-simulation features like a 39-foot-wide swift water rescue channel, a 15-foot-deep dive area, and a 100-foot-long “rocky gorge” of boulders.

The college says the first-in-the-nation Resilience Center of Excellence will enable residents, employers, civic organizations, neighborhoods, and small businesses to obtain education and certification aimed at improving resilience efforts.

“Our objective is to protect the well-being of our citizens and our communities and increase economic stability,” Cesar Maldonado, chancellor of HCC, said when the project was announced.

Among the programs under the Resiliency Center of Excellence umbrella will be non-credit courses focusing on public safety and rescue, disaster management, medical triage, and debris removal.

Meanwhile, the basic Resilience 101 program will be available to businesses and community organizations, and the emergency response program is geared toward individuals, families, and neighborhoods.

HCC’s initiative meshes with the City of Houston’s Resilient Houston, a strategy launched in 2020 that’s designed to protect Houston against disasters. As part of this strategy, the city has hired a chief resilience and sustainability officer, Priya Zachariah.

“Every action we take and investment we make should continue to improve our collective ability to withstand the unexpected shocks and disruptions when they arrive — from hurricanes to global pandemics, to extreme heat or extreme cold,” Mayor Sylvester Turner said last year. “The time is now to stop doing things the way we’ve always done them because the threats are too unpredictable.”

In an InnovationMap guest column published in February 2021, Richard Seline, co-founder of the Houston-based Resilience Innovation Hub, wrote that the focus of resilience initiatives should be pre-disaster risk mitigation.

“There is still work to be done from a legislative and governmental perspective, but more and more innovators — especially in Houston — are proving to be essential in creating a better future for the next historic disaster we will face,” Seline wrote.

Houston startup equips medical teams with data-driven hiring tool

staffing up

A surgeon spends over a decade in school and residency perfecting their medical skills, but that education doesn't usually include human resources training. Yet, when it comes to placing candidates into surgical programs, the hiring responsibilities fell on the shoulders of surgeons.

Aimee Gardner, who has her PhD in organized psychology, saw this inefficiency first hand.

"I worked in a large surgery department in Dallas right out of graduate school and quickly learned how folks are selected into residency and fellowship programs and all the time that goes into it — time spent by physicians reviewing piles and piles of like paper applications and spending lots and lots and of hours interviewing like hundreds of candidates," Gardner tells InnovationMap. "I was just really shocked by the inefficiencies from just a business and workforce perspective."

And things have only gotten worse. There are more applicants hitting the scene every year and they are applying to more hospitals and programs. Future surgeons used to apply for 20 or so programs — now it’s more like 65 on average. According to her research, Gardner says reviewing these applications cost lots of time and money, specifically $100,000 to fill five spots annually just up to the interviewing phase of the process.

Five years ago, Gardner came up with a solution to this “application fever,” as she describes, and all the inefficiencies, and founded SurgWise Consulting, where she serves as president and CEO.

"We help provide assessments to help screen competencies and attributes that people care about," Gardner says. "(Those) are really hard to assess, but really differentiate people who really thrive in training in their careers and people who don't."

Aimee Gardner is the CEO and president of Houston-based SurgWise. Photo via surgwise.com

These are the non-technical skills, like the professionalism, interpersonal skills, and communication. While SurgWise began as a service-oriented consulting company, the company is now ready to tap technology to expand upon its solution. The work started out of Houston Methodist, and SurgWise is still working with surgery teams there. She says they've accumulated tons of data that can be leveraged and streamlined.

"We're now pivoting from a very intimate client approach to a more scalable offering. Every year we assess essentially around 80 percent of all the people applying to be future surgeons — those in pediatric surgery, vascular surgery, and more,” Gardner says. “We’ve used kind of the last five years of data and experiences to create a more scalable, easy-to-integrate, and off-the-shelf solution.”

Gardner says her solution is critical for providing more equity in the hiring process.

“One of our goals was to create more equitable opportunities and platforms to assess folks because many of the traditional tools and processes that most people use in this space have lots of opportunity for bias and a high potential for disadvantaging individuals from underrepresented groups," she says. "For example, letters of recommendation are often a very insider status. If you went to some Ivy League or your parents were in health care and they know someone, you have that step up from a networking and socioeconomic status standpoint."

Personal statements and test scores are also inequitable, because they tend to be better submissions if people have money for coaching.

SurgWise hopes to lower the number of programs future surgeons apply to too to further streamline the process. She hopes to do this through an app and web tool that can matchmake people to the right program.

“Our ultimate goal is to create a platform for applicants to obtain a lot more information about the various places to which they apply to empower them to make more informed decisions, so that they don't have to apply to a hundred places," Gardner says. "We want to essentially create a match-style app that allows them to input some data and tell us 'here's what I'm looking for here are my career goals and any preferences I have.'”

While that tool is down the road, Gardner says SurgWise is full speed ahead toward launching the data-driven hiring platform. The bootstrapped company hopes to raise early venture funding this summer in order to hire and grow its team.

“As we continue to consider this app that I talked about and some of the other opportunities to scale to other specialties we're gonna start looking for a series A funding later this summer.”