The gift sets up a scholarship, an endowed chair, and a lecture series. Photo via UH.edu

A recent gift to the University of Houston will provide support to a couple colleges on campus, including an endowed chair, a scholarship, and a lecture series.

Thomas Michael Panos Family Estate donated $4.5 million — and was matched with an additional $2 million by the University's new "$100 Million Challenge" Aspire Fund. It's the first matched gift of the new fund. The gift includes $2 million to create the Panos Family Endowed Chair in Mechanical Engineering, $2 million to establish a scholarship endowment beginning in 2022 to support need- and merit-based scholarships for full-time undergraduate or graduate students across UH, and $500,000 to support "The Panos Family Endowed Lecture in Equity and Social Justice" in the College of Liberal Arts and Social Sciences.

"We are incredibly grateful for the generosity of the Thomas Michael Panos Family Estate. This significant gift will not only help fuel academic success through innovation and discovery, but will support our ability to recruit renowned faculty and expand thought leadership," says Paula Myrick Short, UH senior vice president for academic affairs and provost, in the release. "The additional support for an equity and social justice lecture series is an especially timely and important part of our efforts to increase visibility around these issues."

Thomas Michael Panos emigrated to Houston from Greece and only had a sixth-grade education. His sons — Mike and Gus Panos — both earned college degrees in engineering.

"They were the kind of people who would help anybody," says Scott Harbers, who lived next door to the Panos family decades ago in what is now Midtown Houston, in the release. "As a family of immigrants, I know they would appreciate the diversity of the student body at the University of Houston. They had a tremendous interest in education and equal rights. I'm hopeful that this gift will help advance the lives of students who need help to complete their studies."

The $100 Million Challenge initiative was established in fall of 2019 thanks to an anonymous $50 million donation to the school, and the campaign is set on inspiring another $50 million in support of four areas that will address issues with major societal impact: sustainable energy and energy security, resilient infrastructure and smart cities, population health, and global engagement. Donors who commit $2 million to go toward an endowed chair will have their gifts matched through the program.

"The '$100 Million Challenge' is a transformational initiative to propel our academic enterprise to unprecedented levels of distinction, and this first matching gift launches us," says Eloise Brice, vice president for university advancement, in the release. "The work and research being done at UH, and accelerated through the Challenge, will have a tremendous impact on the quality of life for all Houstonians."

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Houston biopharma company launches equity crowdfunding campaign

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A clinical-stage company headquartered in Houston has opened an online funding campaign.

FibroBiologics, which is developing fibroblast cell-based therapeutics for chronic diseases, launched a campaign with equity crowdfunding platform StartEngine. The platform lets anyone — regardless of their net worth or income level — to invest in securities issued by startups.

The funding, according to a press release, will be used to support ongoing operations of Fibrobiologics and advance its clinical programs in multiple sclerosis, degenerative disc disease, wound care, extension of life, and cancer.

"We're excited to partner with StartEngine on this campaign. StartEngine has over 600,000 investors as part of their community and has raised over half a billion dollars for its clients," says FibroBiologics' Founder and CEO Pete O'Heeron, in the release.

"This is an exciting time at FibroBiologics as we continue progressing our clinical pipeline and developing innovative therapies to treat chronic diseases," he continues. "This new funding will fuel our growth in the lab and bring us one step closer to commercialization."

The campaign, launched this week, already has over 100 investors, at the time of publication, and has raised nearly $2 million, according to the page. The minimum investment is set at around $500, and the company's indicated valuation is $252.57 million.

In 2021, FibroBiologics announced its intention of going public. Last year, O'Heeron told InnovationMap on the Houston Innovators Podcast of the company's growth plans as well as the specifics of the technology.

Only two types of cells — stem cells and fibroblasts — can be used in cell therapy for a regenerative treatment, which is when specialists take healthy cells from a patient and inject them into a part of the body that needs it the most. As O'Heeron explains in the podcast, fibroblasts can do it more effectively and cheaper than stem cells.

"(Fibroblasts) can essentially do everything a stem cell can do, only they can do it better," says O'Heeron. "We've done tests in the lab and we've seen them outperform stem cells by a low of 50 percent to a high of about 220 percent on different disease paths."


Texas ranks as a top state for female entrepreneurs

women in business

Texas dropped three spots in Merchant Maverick’s annual ranking of the top 10 states for women-led startups.

The Lone Star State landed at No. 5 thanks in part to its robust venture capital environment for women entrepreneurs. Last year, Texas ranked second, up from its No. 6 showing in 2021.

Merchant Maverick, a product comparison site for small businesses, says Texas “boasts the strongest venture capital scene” for women entrepreneurs outside California and the Northeast. The state ranked fourth in that category, with $6.5 billion invested in the past five years.

Other factors favoring Texas include:

  • Women solely lead 22 percent of all employees working for a business in Texas (No. 4).
  • Texas lacks a state income tax (tied for No. 1).

However, Texas didn’t fare well in terms of the unemployment rate (No. 36) and the rate of business ownership by women (No. 29). Other Texas data includes:

  • Average income for women business owners, $52,059 (No. 19).
  • Early startup survival rate, 81.9 percent (No. 18).

Appearing ahead of Texas in the 2023 ranking are No. 1 Colorado, No. 2 Washington, No. 3 California, and No. 4 Arizona.

Another recent ranking, this one from NorthOne, an online bank catering to small businesses, puts Texas at No. 7 among the 10 best states for women entrepreneurs.

NorthOne says Texas provides “a ton of opportunities” for woman entrepreneurs. For instance, it notches one of the highest numbers of women-owned businesses in the country at 1.4 million, 2.1 percent of which have at least 500 employees.

In this study, Texas is preceded by Colorado at No. 1, Nevada at No. 2, Virginia at No. 3, Maryland at No. 4, Florida at No. 5, and New Mexico at No. 6. The rankings are based on eight metrics, including the percentage of woman-owned businesses and the percentage of women-owned businesses with at least 500 employees.