Here are the eight companies currently being accelerated by Texas Medical Center Innovation. Photo courtesy of TMC

The Texas Medical Center Innovation has named its new cohort of health tech companies it's currently accelerating.

This first batch of companies for 2024 was selected from last fall's TMC Bootcamp. Eight of the 10 startups from the bootcamp have moved on to the Accelerator for HealthTech.

"Hailing from diverse corners of the globe—from the tech corridors of Texas and California to Ireland and Australia—these companies converge with a shared mission—to move healthcare forward," Devin Dunn, head of the Accelerator for Health Tech, writes in a TMC blog post. "Through personalized mentorship and guidance, these eight companies are able to navigate complex challenges and refine their strategies, while leveraging the expertise of Texas Medical Center ecosystem to validate their innovations and drive real-world impact."

The selected companies include:

  • AcorAI, from Stockholm, Sweden, which is developing a first-of-its-kind, hand-held, scalable medical device for non-invasive intracardiac pressure monitoring to improve heart failure management for more than 64 million patients worldwide.
  • AirSeal, based in St. Louis, Missouri, which has developed a novel serum-based biomarker technology – circulating fatty acid synthase (cFAS) – that can diagnose cardiovascular and peripheral artery disease with high accuracy in both women and men.
  • Foxo, headquartered in Brisbane, Australia, serves as an interoperable tool designed to enhance clinical collaboration across the healthcare ecosystem. It enables secure, two-way communication with features such as video, voice, screen share, file sharing, and real-time messaging.
  • San Francisco-based Knowtex, an artificial intelligence-powered software writes medical documentation for you and assigns correct codes to ensure proper reimbursement.
  • NeuroBell, from Cork, Ireland, which is working on a novel medical device providing portable EEG monitoring with real-time and automated neonatal seizure alerts at the bedside.
  • Perth, Australia-based OncoRes Medical that's developing an intraoperative imaging technology to provide surgeons with real-time assessment of tissue microstructure.
  • From right here in Houston, Steradian Technologies, which has created RUMI, the first noninvasive, fully portable infectious disease diagnostic that costs the price of a latte. It uses novel photon-based detection to collect and diagnose infectious diseases in breath within 30 seconds.
  • TYBR, also based in Houston, created a flowable extracellular matrix hydrogel, crafted to safeguard healing tendons and ligaments from scarring and adhesions. The company originated from the TMCi’s Biodesign fellowship and now has entered into the Accelerator for HealthTech to sharpen its regulatory strategy, particularly in anticipation of FDA conversations.

Applications for the next Accelerator for HealthTech will open in May of this year.

BioWell, a Houston accelerator focused on synthetic biology, named its first executive director. Photo via Getty Images

Houston nonprofit synthetic biology accelerator names inaugural executive director

new hire

A Houston accelerator that supports early-stage synthetic biology startups has named its first executive director.

BioWell, which was founded by First Bight Ventures, a Houston-based venture capital group, has announced the appointment of Paul Palmer as executive director. It's the nonprofit organization's first move in assembling its management team. According to his LinkedIn, he's served in the role since November.

“Paul was a clear choice for BioWell because of his combined experience at EY and engagement with Houston’s entrepreneurial community,” First Bight Ventures & BioWell Founder Veronica Wu says in a statement. “Working with large corporations and startups at all levels, he has successfully delivered value-based results for his clients.

"Equally important, Paul has an established relationship with the Houston business community and will be able to leverage his existing network to promote BioWell and our participant entrepreneurs in a public-facing role," she continues.

Palmer was formerly a partner at EY, where he worked on international cross-border tax planning, business development, assurance, and business consulting, as well as working with startups in collaboration with organizations like the Rice Alliance for Technology and Entrepreneurship and Texas Medical Center Innovation.

He joins the BioWell to execute on the organization's mission of "creating an ecosystem that provides hands-on business education, industry mentorship, research, and pilot infrastructure" for the bioeconomy, per the release. He will oversee fundraising, partnerships, sponsorships, and grant opportunities.

He will also lead recruiting for the BioWell's inaugural cohort and securing lab space, which is expected in the coming months.

“Utilizing the resources and expertise of First Bight Ventures, along with our recent EDA grant, BioWell is set to assist with innovation and industrial biology advancements for the United States,” Palmer says in the release.

In December, BioWell, secured $741,925 of the $53 million doled out as a part of the "Build to Scale" Grant program that the U.S. Economic Development Administration, a division of the U.S. Department of Commerce, has established. First Bight was one of 60 organizations to receive funding.

“With the formation of our leadership team, we’re making significant progress on building out the BioWell platform. We are excited about nurturing solutions in industrial biology and helping to establish Houston’s leadership in the global bioeconomy,” he continues.

Mercury Data Science has officially rebranded as OmniScience. Photo via Getty Images

Houston data science firm rebrands to focus on the intersection of AI and life science

introducing OmniScience

A Houston organization established to provide critical data science support to its clients has rebranded and entered into its latest era.

Mercury Data Science has officially rebranded as OmniScience. Founded in 2017 as a spin off of Mercury, a local venture capital group, the data science-focused software company is led by CEO Angela Holmes, who was named to the position in 2022.

"OmniScience signifies our commitment to being a force of innovation in data science and life sciences," Holmes says in the release. "The new brand mirrors our vision for the future, where data science is a driving force for positive change in life sciences."

Angela Holmes is the CEO of OmniScience. Photo via mercuryds.com

Per the news release, the rebranding aligns the company with its mission of supporting innovation at the intersection of biology and data science. The new name reflects the combination of "omniscient" and "science," according to the company.

OmniScience's technology helps its customers across the life science spectrum with navigating key data insights for clinical trials, purpose-built AI development, and other data science services, according to its website.

"This rebrand represents more than just a name change; it signals a bold step into the future, where OmniScience will play a pivotal role in shaping the data science landscape in life sciences," reads the release.

The firm is based out of Texas Medical Center Innovation and has over 20 employees listed on the website.

TMCi named its 2024 Accelerator for Cancer Therapeutics cohort.

TMC names 2024 cohort of cancer treatment innovators

ready to grow

For the fourth year, Texas Medical Center Innovation has named its annual cohort of Texas health tech innovators working on promising cancer therapeutics.

TMCi named its 2024 Accelerator for Cancer Therapeutics cohort last week, and the 23 Texas researchers and companies selected will undergo a nine-month program that will provide them with mentorship and programming, as well as open doors to potential investors and strategic partners.

“The ACT program provides a bridge to commercialization in Texas by surrounding innovators with strategic mentorship, milestone development, and a network of resources to move their projects forward,” Emily Reiser, associate director of TMC Innovation, says in a news release. "We are excited to welcome this year's cohort and to continue enabling participants to advance their solutions to treat cancer."

The program has accelerated 76 researchers and companies to date, many of which — like March Biosciences and Mongoose Bio — have gone on to secure $130 million in funding from venture capitalists and grant funding.

“Our program has cultivated a dynamic ecosystem where partners, researchers, and inventors, who have been part of the journey since its inception and received various forms of funding, continue to propel their life-saving products and technologies forward," Ahmed AlRawi, program manager of ACT, says in the release. "Our 2024 cohort represents our most diverse cohort to date, including eight companies led by women entrepreneurs. Additionally, we are particularly proud that the cohort includes a blend of new and recurring organizations that have leveraged this opportunity in the past to extend their work and continue the momentum to build off the successes of our previous years.”

The 2024 participants are:

  • Alexandre Reuben of UT-MD Anderson Cancer Center
  • Betty Kim & Jiang Wen of UT-MD Anderson Cancer Center
  • Bin He of Houston Methodist
  • Daniel Kiss & John Cooke of PeakRNA at Houston Methodist
  • Hongjun Liang of Texas Tech-Lubbock
  • Jacob Goell & Isaac Hilton of Mercator Biosciences at Rice University
  • Jay Hartenbach & Matthew Halpert of Diakonos Oncology Corp.
  • Kathryn O’Donnell of UT-Southwestern
  • Maralice Conacci Sorrell of UT-Southwestern
  • Neeraj Saini of UT-MD Anderson Cancer Center
  • Neil Thapar of Barricade Therapeutics Corp.
  • Nina Keshavarzi of Celine Biotechnologies
  • Raphael G. Ognar & Henri Bayle of NKILT Therapeutics Inc.
  • Richard Austin & Michael Abrahamson of Reglagene Inc.
  • Tim Peterson & Joppe Nieuwenhuis of Bioio Inc.
  • Todd Aguilera & Eslam Elghonaimy of UT-Southwestern
  • Venkata Lokesh Battula of Siddhi Therapeutics Inc. at UT-MD Anderson Cancer Center
  • Weei-Chin Lin & Fang-Tsyr Lin of Baylor College of Medicine
  • Yong Li & Dongxiao Feng of Sotla Therapeutics at Baylor College of Medicine
  • Anil Sood & Zhiqiang An of UT-MD Anderson Cancer Center
  • Narendra Kumar & Jayshree Mishra of Texas A&M-College Station
  • Tao Wang of NightStar Biotechnologies Inc. at UT-Southwestern
  • Jian Hu of UT-MD Anderson Cancer Center
This year, seven of the 10 most-promising life science companies are based in Houston. Photo courtesy of Rice Alliance

Houston startups dominate ‘most-promising’ companies announcement at annual event

on the list

Rice University played host this week to the 12th annual Texas Life Science Forum, where life science leaders and startup founders could network, learn and present pitches on their solutions to a wide array of health-related issues.

Hosted by Rice Alliance for Technology and Entrepreneurship and BioHouston on November 7, the event brought together more than 600 attendees for a series of keynote speakers and panels. This year, 45 early-stage therapeutic, diagnostic, medical device and digital health companies—many of which are based in Houston—also pitched their concepts.

Fort Worth-based AyuVis Research walked away from the event with the two top recognitions: The Michael E. DeBakey Memorial Life Science Award and the People's Choice Award. The company, which has developed a small molecule immunotherapy targeting bronchopulmonary dysplasia (BPD) in preterm neonates and other respiratory disorders. The company is raising a $20 million Series A round to support its clinical development and is slated to pitch at IGNITE Health’s Fire Pitch 2023 today, November 9, at the Ion.

Each year the Rice Alliance and BioHouston also name its 10 most promising life science companies, selected by investors—seven out of 10 of which are based in Houston. This year's selection included the following companies, in alphabetical order:

  • 7 Hills Pharma: This Houston-based clinical stage immunotherapy company has developed the concept of allosteric activation of integrins to facilitate cell adhesion and promote immune responses. The concept has uses in preventing infection and cancer, and increasing the effectiveness of oncology drugs and infectious disease vaccines.
  • Bairitone Health: This Houston-based company is building a scalable diagnostic system for sleep apnea anatomy utilizing home-use wearable, passive Sonar technology and AI techniques.
  • Diakonos Oncology: Also based in Houston, Diakonos' Dendritic Cell Vaccine was awarded the FDA’s Fast Track designation. The clinical-stage biotech company's immunotherapies have shown early successes for hard-to-reach, aggressive cancers like Glioblastoma Multiforme.
  • Mongoose Bio: With more than 20 years of research, Mongoose specializes in T cell-based therapies for diverse solid tumors TCR-based therapies in cancer patients. The Houston-based company has developed an immunopeptidome discovery platform for TCR-based therapies in cancer patients.
  • Nandi Life Sciences: Nandi is developing antibodies for Avastin-resistant ovarian cancer, with
  • further application in breast, colorectal and lung cancer. The company is based out of Texas Medical Center Innovation.
  • NKILT Therapeutics: This Houston-based company's seed-stage cell therapy has applications in solid tumors, such as colorectal cancer, ovarian cancer, clear cell renal carcinoma, endometrial
  • cancer and more. It is developing a novel and proprietary Chimeric ILT-Receptor.
  • NuVision Biotherapies: Based in the United Kingdom, NuVision has developed and proven a treatment for dry eye disease. It's known for its Omnigen and OmniLenz products and is raising a series A to scale, take the business to profitability and exit.
  • Panakeia Technologies: Also based in the UK, Panakeia has developed an AI-based software that can provide multi-omic biomarkers in minutes. Currently this process takes days or weeks. It's RuO platform can identify 4,500 known multi-omics cancer markers.
  • Taurus Vascular: A recent spin-out of the Texas Medical Center Innovation Biodesign program, Taurus is developing a novel, catheter-based solution for treating endoleaks, which can be related to aortic aneurysms.
  • YAP Therapeutics: The only California-based company to make the cut, this preclinical-stage biotech develops genetic medicines that leverage the company’s tissue renewal and regeneration platform to reverse and cure severe diseases, including heart failure, pulmonary diseases, retinal degeneration and hearing loss.

Last year, Bairitone Health took home the DeBakey and People's Choice awards.

Meet the latest global health tech startups to get an invite to Houston from TMC Innovation. Photo via tmc.edu

TMC names latest cohort of health tech startups for upcoming bootcamp

headed to Houston

The Texas Medical Center's innovation arm has again invited a set of health tech startups to mix and mingle with potential partners, investors, and customers in hopes to score a place in the HealthTech Accelerator.

For the 17th time, the TMC Innovation Factory is hosting its HealthTech Accelerator — starting first with announcing its bootcamp cohort, a process that includes bringing all 10 companies to Houston for valuable networking. A selection of the bootcamp will be invited into the full accelerator that will run into next spring.

The 10 selected companies with solutions from heart failure to chronic respiratory disease and more, according to TMC, include:

  • Acorai, from Stockholm, Sweden, which is developing a first-of-its-kind, hand-held, scalable medical device for non-invasive intracardiac pressure monitoring to improve heart failure management for more than 64 million patients worldwide.
  • Singapore-based Aevice Health, a connected care platform powered by the world’s smallest smart wearable stethoscope to support chronic respiratory disease patients through their continuum of care.
  • AirSeal, based in St. Louis, Missouri, which has developed a novel serum-based biomarker technology – circulating fatty acid synthase (cFAS) – that can diagnose cardiovascular and peripheral artery disease with high accuracy in both women and men.
  • Candlelit Care, a Charlotte, North Carolina-based point-of-care digital platform focused on the prevention of perinatal mental and anxiety disorders (PMADs) among Black women and birthing parents.
  • San Francisco-based Knowtex, an artificial intelligence-powered software writes medical documentation for you and assigns correct codes to ensure proper reimbursement.
  • NeuroBell, from Cork, Ireland, which is working on a novel medical device providing portable EEG monitoring with real-time and automated neonatal seizure alerts at the bedside.
  • Perth, Australia-based OncoRes Medical that's developing an intraoperative imaging technology to provide surgeons with real-time assessment of tissue microstructure.
  • From right here in Houston, Steradian Technologies, which has created RUMI, the first noninvasive, fully portable infectious disease diagnostic that costs the price of a latte. It uses novel photon-based detection to collect and diagnose infectious diseases in breath within 30 seconds.
  • Foxo, headquartered in Brisbane, Australia, serves as an interoperable tool designed to enhance clinical collaboration across the healthcare ecosystem. It enables secure, two-way communication with features such as video, voice, screen share, file sharing, and real-time messaging.
  • Thrive Health’s, from Vancouver, Canada, is a platform is a low-code framework for designing and delivering patient engagement solutions. Create tools that enable partners to close healthcare gaps quickly, strengthen care relationships, and improve patient experience and outcomes.

TMC Innovation's last bootcamp cohort was announced in May. The organization also recently named 16 digital health and medical device startups from the United Kingdom to a new accelerator formed in partnership with Innovate UK.

Earlier this fall, TMC formed a strategic partnership, or BioBridge, with the Netherlands.

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Houston researchers create AI model to tap into how brain activity relates to illness

brainiac

Houston researchers are part of a team that has created an AI model intended to understand how brain activity relates to behavior and illness.

Scientists from Baylor College of Medicine worked with peers from Yale University, University of Southern California and Idaho State University to make Brain Language Model, or BrainLM. Their research was published as a conference paper at ICLR 2024, a meeting of some of deep learning’s greatest minds.

“For a long time we’ve known that brain activity is related to a person’s behavior and to a lot of illnesses like seizures or Parkinson’s,” Dr. Chadi Abdallah, associate professor in the Menninger Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences at Baylor and co-corresponding author of the paper, says in a press release. “Functional brain imaging or functional MRIs allow us to look at brain activity throughout the brain, but we previously couldn’t fully capture the dynamic of these activities in time and space using traditional data analytical tools.

"More recently, people started using machine learning to capture the brain complexity and how it relates it to specific illnesses, but that turned out to require enrolling and fully examining thousands of patients with a particular behavior or illness, a very expensive process,” Abdallah continues.

Using 80,000 brain scans, the team was able to train their model to figure out how brain activities related to one another. Over time, this created the BrainLM brain activity foundational model. BrainLM is now well-trained enough to use to fine-tune a specific task and to ask questions in other studies.

Abdallah said that using BrainLM will cut costs significantly for scientists developing treatments for brain disorders. In clinical trials, it can cost “hundreds of millions of dollars,” he said, to enroll numerous patients and treat them over a significant time period. By using BrainLM, researchers can enroll half the subjects because the AI can select the individuals most likely to benefit.

The team found that BrainLM performed successfully in many different samples. That included predicting depression, anxiety and PTSD severity better than other machine learning tools that do not use generative AI.

“We found that BrainLM is performing very well. It is predicting brain activity in a new sample that was hidden from it during the training as well as doing well with data from new scanners and new population,” Abdallah says. “These impressive results were achieved with scans from 40,000 subjects. We are now working on considerably increasing the training dataset. The stronger the model we can build, the more we can do to assist with patient care, such as developing new treatment for mental illnesses or guiding neurosurgery for seizures or DBS.”

For those suffering from neurological and mental health disorders, BrainLM could be a key to unlocking treatments that will make a life-changing difference.

Houston-based cleantech unicorn named among annual top disruptors

on the rise

Houston-based biotech startup Solugen is making waves among innovative companies.

Solugen appears at No. 36 on CNBC’s annual Disruptor 50 list, which highlights private companies that are “upending the classic definition of disruption.” Privately owned startups founded after January 1, 2009, were eligible for the Disruptor 50 list.

Founded in 2016, Solugen replaces petroleum-based products with plant-derived substitutes through its Bioforge manufacturing platform. For example, it uses engineered enzymes and metal catalysts to convert feedstocks like sugar into chemicals that have traditionally been made from fossil fuels, such as petroleum and natural gas.

Solugen has raised $643 million in funding and now boasts a valuation of $2.2 billion.

“Sparked by a chance medical school poker game conversation in 2016, Solugen evolved from prototype to physical asset in five years, and production hit commercial scale shortly thereafter,” says CNBC.

Solugen co-founders Gaurab Chakrabarti and Sean Hunt received the Entrepreneur of The Year 2023 National Award, presented by professional services giant EY.

“Solugen is a textbook startup launched by two partners with $10,000 in seed money that is revolutionizing the chemical refining industry. The innovation-driven company is tackling impactful, life-changing issues important to the planet,” Entrepreneur of The Year judges wrote.

In April 2024, Solugen broke ground on a Bioforge biomanufacturing plant in Marshall, Minnesota. The 500,000-square-foot, 34-acre facility arose through a Solugen partnership with ADM. Chicago-based ADM produces agricultural products, commodities, and ingredients. The plant is expected to open in the fall of 2025.

“Solugen’s … technology is a transformative force in sustainable chemical manufacturing,” says Hunt. “The new facility will significantly increase our existing capabilities, enabling us to expand the market share of low-carbon chemistries.”

Houston cleantech company tests ​all-electric CO2-to-fuel production technology

RESULTS ARE IN

Houston-based clean energy company Syzygy Plasmonics has successfully tested all-electric CO2-to-fuel production technology at RTI International’s facility at North Carolina’s Research Triangle Park.

Syzygy says the technology can significantly decarbonize transportation by converting two potent greenhouse gases, carbon dioxide and methane, into low-carbon jet fuel, diesel, and gasoline.

Equinor Ventures and Sumitomo Corp. of Americas sponsored the pilot project.

“This project showcases our ability to fight climate change by converting harmful greenhouse gases into fuel,” Trevor Best, CEO of Syzygy, says in a news release.

“At scale,” he adds, “we’re talking about significantly reducing and potentially eliminating the carbon intensity of shipping, trucking, and aviation. This is a major step toward quickly and cost effectively cutting emissions from the heavy-duty transport sector.”

At commercial scale, a typical Syzygy plant will consume nearly 200,000 tons of CO2 per year, the equivalent of taking 45,000 cars off the road.

“The results of this demonstration are encouraging and represent an important milestone in our collaboration with Syzygy,” says Sameer Parvathikar, director of renewable energy and energy storage at RTI.

In addition to the CO2-to-fuel demonstration, Syzygy's Ammonia e-Cracking™ technology has completed over 2,000 hours of performance and optimization testing at its plant in Houston. Syzygy is finalizing a site and partners for a commercial CO2-to-fuel plant.

Syzygy is working to decarbonize the chemical industry, responsible for almost 20 percent of industrial CO2 emissions, by using light instead of combustion to drive chemical reactions.

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This article originally ran on EnergyCapital.