Know before you go: 2024 H-Town Roundup

Plan your week

Here's what you need to know about HTR this year. Photo courtesy

Next week, Houston Exponential's annual week of innovation and networking is taking place. Here are five things you need to know before you go.

1. New year, new name.

Houston Tech Rodeo, which originated in 2020, has been rebranded to H-Town Roundup, but the week of innovation and entrepreneurship still has the same goal of providing programming and events that connect and educate Houstonians.

On a recent episode of the Houston Innovators Podcast, Natara Branch, CEO of Houston Exponential, says the change is meant to make for a more inclusive experience for entrepreneurs of small businesses, something she's seen a need for since she took on her role last year.

"This year, we've had the better part of a year to think about what can be different and how can we serve the founder," she says.

Branch explains that some members of the Houston community confused the event for being associated with the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo or for being only for true tech people. Branch says the wanted to open the door a little wider to entrepreneurs who are innovative without necessarily working in technology.

"That's not what we wanted — to exclude anyone," she says. "H-Town Roundup is going to allow us to be more inclusive."

2. It's completely free to attend.

Dozens of events are taking place around town, and all are free to Houston entrepreneurs, investors, and more. Simply register for anything you're able to attend.

For reference, a full, detailed agenda is available online too.

3. There are two featured events.

Need to make some priorities? This year, there are two featured events for HTR.

  • Tech and Tequila Talk powered by Blue People at 5 to 7:30 pm, on Tuesday, February 27, at the UH Tech Bridge Innovation Center.
  • CodeLaunch Houston at 4 to 9 pm, on Wednesday, February 28, at Bayou Music Center.

4. Introducing: The Founder Lounge.

For attendees with the founder pass, The Founder's Lounge at Esperson Building in downtown is open Monday through Thursday from 10 am to 3 pm next week.

The full agenda of talks planned at the lounge is online.

5. Find the activity zones.

HTR again is rotating venues. Here's where and when you can expect to find HTR activities.

  • Sunday (1 to 5 pm) - Esperson Building
  • Monday (8 am to 12:30 pm) - TMC Innovation
  • Monday (1:30 to 5 pm) - The Cannon Downtown
  • Tuesday (1 to 7:30 pm) - UH Tech Bridge
  • Wednesday (10 am to 1 pm) - Esperson Building
  • Wednesday (4 to 9 pm) - Bayou Music Center
  • Thursday ( 8 am to noon) - HCC Central Campus
  • Thursday (1 to 7 pm) - Greentown Labs
  • Friday (9 am to 3:30 pm) - the Ion
  • Saturday (10 am to 2 pm) - Esperson Building

Houston-based energy tech investor Neal Dikeman writes his observations on Houston's venture capital and startup community's growth — in stark comparison of Silicon Valley's recent evolution. Photo courtesy of the Ion

VC investor: Houston's energy tech ecosystem grows as Bay Area activity seemingly slows

guest column

There's stretch of sleek low rise office buildings in Palo Alto — referred to as Sandhill Road — that has long been the center of Silicon Valley (and the world’s) venture capital sector. An investor friend of mine told me recently that Sandhill Road is a ghost town these days, with the key partners at many of the Silicon Valley venture funds largely working from home or at their second homes.

That’s disappointing if true, but not surprising. Commuting sucks, and this business is a lot more far flung and global than it used to be. The venture capital business is always a wild and fun ride, focused on founders and the next big thing, with constant movement and alliances and partnerships.

I’ve been in these waves since I began investing during the dotcom boom in 2000, making the jump from private equity to venture capital in San Francisco at a fund behind Yellowpages.com and a few others, before co-leading a prior firm I founded in San Francisco doing seed investing and advising funds and investment arms of Macquarie Bank, ConocoPhillips, and Shell. We got in on the ground floor of cleantech and did well. This is my third major VC downcycle – there is always opportunity on both sides, and the more things change, the more they stay the same in venture capital. Hubs matter, because the business is heavily a critical mass of talent and capital business, with a power curve of outcomes. Cutthroat as venture capital and startups are, it is not private equity. You do need partners.

Houston has long lacked a center of gravity at all, let alone in tech. You might try rereading the 2001 Economist headline article “The Blob that Ate East Texas” for some humorous color on that score. But in tech, that’s changing.

Rice University’s Ion Houston innovation district project came out of some of the Greater Houston Partnership work a few years ago on how to get a serious tech hub going (I briefly served on the GHP affiliated Houston Technology Center board for Royal Dutch Shell during that revamp). After a slow start, Ion has begun to fill up with tech startups and bona fide check writing investors to go with the constant barrage of startup programming on its Ion Activation Floor and adjacent Greentown Labs incubation building.

Chevron Technology Ventures opened a guest office on day one on the third floor and Houston private equity and sometime crossover VC investor Ara Partners took early space with its headquarters in the building across the hall from them. Local fund of funds HX Venture Fund, which was created out of that GHP/HTC revamp and also puts on the Venture Houston Conference, moved in on the second floor.

Our fund, Energy Transition Ventures, was the first venture capital fund to move into the Ion when we launched in 2021, is located two doors down from HXVF. My partners and I made the call to make Houston our headquarters over Austin where my partner, Craig Lawrence, is located. He’s a former energy tech and solar executive who learned venture investing leading the successful cleantech effort at Accel Partners in Palo Alto. We are both Texas educated, Bay Area venture capital alums who are doing venture capital in Texas because it’s our home. Our third partner, Q Song, moved from Korea to the US, picking Houston over Austin and our Bay Area office to join us.

Houston was not the obvious choice – it still isn’t – I got nostalgia when driving through Austin and San Francisco in the last week seeing the sheer mass of tech and venture capital names to do business with, but doing things our own way is kind of our brand. We chose the Ion, because well, venture capital and startup life is a participation not a spectator sport, and if Houston was ever going to have a shot at being an investment hub, it needed an actual hub, and founders needed a place to go meet venture capitalists, and that won’t work if venture capitalists all work out of their homes or alone in some energy corridor or downtown high rise.

In our hallway of the Ion, you pass HX Venture Fund, Decarbonization Partners, Energy Transition Ventures, and WaterLens, a water testing startup which spun out of UT many years ago, all next door to each other at one end. And at the other end BP Ventures — with a newly added ExxonMobil venture capital team guest suite adjacent — next to water and energy pipeline corrosion detection software and hardware startup INGU, a Chevron Technology Ventures-backed startup, which is adjacent to one of Houston’s largest venture-backed SaaS companies, Liongard. That’s a half a dozen tech startup founders and a dozen investors across all stages in 125 feet.

I can count approximately 20 other startups in the building now, still heavily skewed to energy. Across the floor, Artemis Energy Partners and Veriten, run respectively by Houston energy fixtures Bobby Tudor and Maynard Holt two of the three Tudor Pickering Holt founders, have their offices, with Schlumberger and hydrogen software startup Velostics which just announced its seed round sandwiched in between. The co-founder of Tierra Climate, a Rice spinout that also just announced its seed round works out of the coworking, and Eigen Controls is building GHG detection equipment around the corner a few feet from an Edtech and medtech startup, and renewable energy services startup Clean Energy Services is headquartered a few feet from the entrance.

Since we moved in, GOOSE Capital, a Houston investment group launched out of Rice at the Rice Alliance Business Competition two decades ago, put its offices in the Ion Activation Floor, and you can quietly find their Managing Director Andrew Nicholson trooping up and down the stairs. BP Ventures then pulled the trigger in 2022 – and moved its US venture capital investing team HQ to the Ion — right down the hallway from us. Chad Bown who manages the US team is sitting in a phone booth 100 feet from me and Chris Spears is listening on pitches as I type this. And this month Decarbonization Partners, the climate growth fund of BlackRock and Temasek, opened its office next door to mine in between us and HX, with three investment professionals, led by David Hayes, formerly with BP Ventures. Aramco Ventures, now led by the former Energy Ventures US head Jim Sledzik, began weekly Friday morning office hours. Jim can often be grabbed for a casual chat on his way between meetings on a regular basis, as can Luis Alcoser or Kemal Anbarci who pop in and out of the Chevron Technology Ventures visiting offices on third floor, with Veriten, which just announced an investment fund, and now Artemis joining recently.

The Houston pool of high quality founders and startups has definitely improved as well – though we still don’t have the quantity or quality of teams needed for a healthy startup market. Blair Garrou from Mercury Fund was part of a recent panel for the Texas Venture Crawl at the Ion along with BP Ventures’ Ion based Grace Chan talking about why Houston, and he remarked that in their earlier funds, Mercury was 5 to 10 percent Houston startups, having to go far afield to fill up even one fund - but his recent fund is closer to 25 percent Houston based, as local team quality has improved.

Houston venture capital is two orders of magnitude smaller than the Bay Area – it’s about like writing an article asking whether Silicon Valley is the emerging Energy Corridor. But it’s nice to have coffee and beers with next door neighbors who are actually investing in, and founders who are actually running, venture backed businesses. Founders are learning that Houston’s venture investment and tech scene has an actual home these days, and is open for business.

------

Neal Dikeman is a venture capitalist and seven-time startup co-founder investing out of Energy Transition Ventures.

Get to know the Houston innovation community's top ecosystem builders. Photos courtesy

Houston's innovation leaders weigh in on community's growth, progress

Houston innovation awards

This year's finalists in the Ecosystem Builder category for the Houston Innovation Awards have a lot to say about the city's innovation community — and they are the right ones to say it.

Selected as finalists for the newly created category, each of the five finalists are leaders for the Houston innovation ecosystem. They were each asked some questions about the development of the Houston tech and startup community. Here's what they had to say.

InnovationMap: What is your favorite part of Houston's innovation ecosystem? How have you helped contribute to that aspect of the community?

Jan E. Odegard, executive director of the Ion: Can do attitude and willingness to make big bets that can solve hard problems with global societal impact. Creating and supporting a place where this can happen is critical to the success, a place where we create the necessary density for collisions and that will sprue the next ideas.

Jason Ethier, co-founder of Lambda Catalyzer and host of the Energy Tech Startups podcast: Perhaps small, but the Ion District in the small part we have to play in it. Being able to be in a place where you can cross paths with active investors, innovators and partners. This is the hub we hoped to build over the last few years. That connective tissue may be small and focused compared to other ecosystems, but it is very strong here.

Joey Sanchez, founder of Cup of Joey and senior director of ecosystems at the Ion: My favorite part of the Houston Innovation Ecosystem is the progress and potential. We have gone from talking about how to build a Houston ecosystem to now exploring our collective potential. The conversations are now tactical actions to scale our efforts.

Kendrick Alridge, senior manager of community at Greentown Labs: My favorite part of the ecosystem is the Cup of Joey gathering. It's a great opportunity to run into or catch up with people looking to get involved in the ecosystem or looking for support. It's a great networking opportunity.

Wade Pinder, founder of Product Houston: I love seeing how the community has really connected this past year specifically. We've gathered momentum and have a "gravity well" of community leaders feeding value to one another.

IM: What are the strengths of the Houston innovation ecosystem?

Odegard: Access to (engineering) talent, capabilities, and global connectivity that are not afraid of getting her hands dirty to build and scale.

Ethier: The diversity of the founders and the intrinsic diversity of the Houston ecosystem. There are few native Houstonians, and most of the fantastic founders we meet are from somewhere else. The energy industry brings the best of the best from around the world and they inject Houston with unique excellence.

Sanchez: We are a resource right environment. We have a plethora of talent and capital. With the economy the size of Belgium, we have access to industries and talent unlike any other city. Also the convergence of energy, medical and aerospace is one of a kind. Each industry is transforming and providing a ripe opportunity for innovation.

Alridge: The growing number of startup development organizations (SDOs), incubators and accelerators, makerspaces, co-working spaces, non-profits, and academic institutions that is available is a strength, because their are plenty of places to get support and your ideas off the ground.

Pinder: We do hard things here because the ARE hard! 1) Life and death situations en masse, 2) infrastructure at scale 3) Boldly going where no one has gone before! That's what we've done here. That's what we stand to innovate on! If it's a hard problem, Houston gets it done!

IM: What are the weaknesses of the Houston innovation ecosystem? Are you helping to make improvements to these weaker aspects of the community and, if so, how?

Odegard: Access to more risk capital.

Ethier: We need a skill set on scaling businesses. This is something the valley does exceptionally well. When there is product market fit, the startup ecosystem knows how to scale teams from 20-200 and do so repeatedly. Houston knows how to do big energy projects; from sput to TD, there is a skill set here around complexity...but how that applies to scaling businesses its unclear we have what it takes. This is why its imperative we bring in mature startups from around the country and try to transfer knowledge from the energy industry into the startup space. Building an acceleration program like Lambda is a step in solving this problem.

Sanchez: Density is our biggest challenge. The geographic sprawl of our region is vast. Serendipitous meetings are a challenging. The Ion has created a central place where our ecosystem can come together. Every Friday we meet for Cup of Joey and now we host a Cup of Joey in The Woodlands, Space Center Houston, Sugar Land and The Cannon West. Creating eight Cup of Joey meetups each month. The most exciting element of Cup of Joey is coming in an online platform for connection.

Alridge: We need a robust cadre of startup specialists, serial entrepreneurs who have successfully started companies. Especially in business and STEM fields, is needed in the innovation system. Higher education in providing talent is important, I'm doing my part by organizing opportunities for students to work with our startups which can directly and indirectly contribute to the workforce and the grown startup community.

Pinder: We're changing this... but we still have a ways to go with the "I'm good... what do I need to show up for?" thinking. It's not for lack of wanting to show up... traffic makes it tougher to show up most of the time.

IM: What do you wish more people knew about the Houston startup community?

Odegard: That Houston IS a tech hub addressing some of the biggest societal challenges we are face today, such as: power (security), healthcare (affordable and accessible), sustainability (clean and green), and equitable access to economic opportunities.

Ethier: How climate focused everyone is, from the founders, to the SMEs, industry and SMEs. Houston (and energy companies) know how to manage what's measured and now that we have targets around decarbonization, we are going to get it done.

Sanchez: I wish the world knew more about Houston and our Houston startup community. I believe that our foundation is strong and we are ready for scale. 2026 to 2036 will be a decade of massive growth for Houston and our ecosystem.

Alridge: We are more than oil and gas and health care.

Pinder: We've got the solutions to some huge problems sitting right here in Houston.

Click here to secure your tickets to the November 8 event where we announce the winner of this exciting new category.

DivInc's newest accelerator based in Houston will support Web3 companies with a social impact. Photos courtesy of DivInc

Texas organization announces inaugural cohort of social enterprise startups with Web3 tech

Dedicated to DWeb

A Texas-based accelerator focused on helping BIPOC and female founders on their entrepreneurial journeys announced the inaugural class for its newest accelerator.

DivInc's DWeb for Social Impact Accelerator, a 12-week intensive hybrid program sponsored by Filecoin Foundation for the Decentralized Web, will mentor nine companies, all of whom integrate Web3 technologies into their impact entrepreneurship. Participating startups will have access to the Ion’s resources and receive a non-dilutive $10,000 grant to use during the course of the program.

Cherise Luter, marketing director at DivInc, says the Austin-based development program instead chose Houston to host this inaugural cohort because they have a secure partnership with the Ion and other premiere partners in the area, including Mercury, JP Morgan, and Bank of America.

“The team that we already have in place in Houston is so strong, we thought, this would be a great place to launch this concept and then from there determine if we want to launch it in Austin,” Luter says.

Amanda Moya, director of programs for DivInc, says this accelerator will truly be hybrid, enabling entrepreneurs from around the country to benefit from quality virtual mentorship and four weeks of in-person training.

“We want to really engulf them in the Houston innovation ecosystem, to let them know that this is also a landing pad if they are ever to move or travel around and come back to Houston,” Moya mentions.

One Houston-based startup, CultureLancer, will be participating in the program. A career-focused platform that matches students from HBCU with companies looking to hire in the fields of business development, data analysis, marketing, and operations, CultureLancer provides students with project-based learning opportunities.

Brianna Brazle, CultureLancer founder and therapist, says after discussing with friends and family members their struggles to get hired post-graduation she uncovered an underserved market of people in need of career guidance.

“That’s a problem that has been existing and then after doing more research I learned historically about 56%, year over year, of college graduates find themselves unemployed or underemployed,” Brazle explains. “My first solution to this problem was a hybrid marketplace.”

The rest of the inaugural cohort includes one to two entrepreneurs from the following companies:

  • Craftmerce, based in Dallas, is a B2B technology platform that brings African artisans and mainstream retail partners together through distributed production, enterprise management, and financing tools.
  • Instarails is working to simplify cross border payments through their API which provides the option to make instant global payments regardless of currency.
  • Looks for Lease, a Los Angeles based wardrobe rental company is combating the carbon emissions brought on by the fashion industry through their circular consumerism business model which operates on an AR platform.
  • Motherocity is an app that allows postpartum moms to track their mental and physical health through personal insights, experiential data, data science, and artificial intelligence, all the way through the first year after giving birth.
  • Salubata combines sustainable fashion and tech through their shoes made from old plastic bottles and integrating an NFT component that allows access to new shoe designs for customers.
  • Seed At The Table is a crowdfunding platform connecting marginalized founders with non-accredited investors, founded by a former Goldman Sachs investment manager.
  • Tribe is a mental health mobile app aiming to make mental healthcare affordable and accessible to black people through their directory of black therapists whose patients can directly book appointments within the app.
  • Subler, which was founded by a Los Angeles high school board member, is a digital marketplace that allows schools to rent out their unused spaces to local community groups.

The program will run from Sept. 18 until their demonstration day which is scheduled for Dec. 7 at the Ion.

DivInc, which runs several accelerators across Texas, originally partnered with the Ion in 2020. The organization introduced its new DWeb program earlier this year.

Last month, DivInc also introduced its inaugural cohort to another new diversity-focused accelerator. The 2023 Clean Energy Tech accelerator program sponsored by Chevron and Microsoft is currently ongoing.

Houston Methodist opened a new tech hub in the Ion this week. Photo by Shannon O’Hara/Ion

Photos: Houston hospital opens tech hub in the Ion

innovation outpost

A Houston hospital has opened an innovation outpost in the Ion this week in order to showcase health tech innovation and connect with Houston innovators.

The Houston Methodist Tech Hub at Ion hub has officially opened. The 1,200-square-foot space was created in addition to the Center for Innovation Technology Hub that's in Houston Methodist’s flagship location in the Texas Medical Center, which opened in February 2020.

The new space, located on the lower level of the Ion, exists to serve as a common ground for innovators across industries to promote collisions and innovation, as well as interaction with Houston Methodist team members

“Our new Tech Hub at Ion supports not only our commitment to the Houston innovation community but also to the rapidly shifting healthcare industry,” Michelle Stansbury, vice president of innovation and IT applications at Houston Methodist, says in a statement. “We know we can’t solve the healthcare challenges of the future if we confine ourselves within our hospital walls or even within our own industry.

"We look forward to the collaborative space our new Tech Hub will provide and the future programming opportunities we can create together to inspire, challenge, and foster a spirit of innovation in our city.”

The new hub, according to the news release, also will host educational events, reverse pitch sessions, and more. Visitors can schedule a time to view the space or connect with the Houston Methodist innovation team by filling out a form online.

The hub, which was originally announced last year, is the latest partner to open within the Ion's space. Earlier this year, the organization announced other new tenants.

“Houston Methodist’s space at the Ion opens up even more opportunities for our start-up and entrepreneur community to embed and gain exposure to the latest innovations in health care, health technology, and digital health,” Jan E. Odegard, executive director of Ion, says. “This partnership and opportunity provided by Houston Methodist, a leading healthcare organization in the country, is a testament to the ecosystem we’re building and the talent within our building. Furthermore, Houston Methodist’s approach and appetite for cross-industry innovation and collaboration meshes seamlessly with the Ion’s ongoing plans to support Houston’s growing innovation community in industries and fields that will change the world.”

Both of Houston Methodist's tech hubs will showcase its latest technologies its implementing in its hospital system, including the "hospital of the future" it's building out in Cypress.

Collaborative effort

Photo by Shannon O’Hara/Ion

The newest tenant at the Ion is a West Texas-based oilfield equipment provider. Photo courtesy of the Ion

Another energy co. opens new office in the Ion Houston

moving in

The Ion's latest tenant is a Texas oilfield equipment provider that's recently seen an uptick in business amid the energy transition.

SCS Technologies, based in Big Spring, Texas, has opened a new office in the Ion, a 266,000-square-foot innovation hub in Midtown, to focus on strategy and innovation. SCS provides CO2 capture measurement and methane vapor recovery equipment for the energy, industrial, and environmental sectors.

“Embracing Houston's pivotal role in the energy transition, the Ion has swiftly become the epicenter of innovative collaborations. For SCS Technologies, this marks an exciting opportunity to align our capabilities and technology with a diverse consortium of organizations working toward ambitious carbon-neutral goals,” says Cody Johnson, CEO of SCS Technologies, in a news release. “Looking ahead, we are invigorated by the boundless possibilities at the Ion, envisioning groundbreaking solutions and technologies that will unfold there.”

The Ion has seen a flurry of activity when it comes to energy tenants. In March, United Kingdom-based Carbon Clean, opened its US headquarters in the Ion as it expands nationally. In April, the Ion named several other new tenants, which included industrial software company Cognite, robotics tech provider Nauticus, and more. These companies join Chevron, which officially opened its new outpost in 2022 after being announced as a founding partner in 2020. ExxonMobil is also a founding partner.

SCS also announced a new executive on its team. On July 20, SCS announced René Vandersalm as COO. Johnson says in a July 20 statement that the appointment comes at a time when "energy and industrial sectors are undergoing a considerable transformation of their processes and infrastructure to align with carbon-neutral goals."

Vandersalm previously worked for over 20 years at Thermon Manufacturing leading the company's heating solutions. In his new role, he says he will work within SCS "to design and produce the innovative compression and measurement systems our customers need to achieve emissions goals."

“It’s an exciting time as energy and industrial companies strive towards sustainable operations, all while delivering the energy and products that customers worldwide rely on,” Vandersalm continues in the release. “I am both excited and honored to collaborate with the talented and motivated SCS Technologies team as we make a significant impact in this industry-wide transition.”

SCS is partnered with New Orleans-based Black Bay Energy Capital, an energy-focused private equity fund.

------

This article originally ran on EnergyCapital.

Ad Placement 300x100
Ad Placement 300x600

CultureMap Emails are Awesome

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.