For the second year, the Texas Medical Center Innovation and BioInnovation Institute have teamed up to accelerate a handful of Danish companies. Photo courtesy of TMC

A new cohort of scientists from the Texas-Denmark BioBridge has been selected to join a Texas Medical Center Accelerator, joining forces with some of Houston’s best advisers and mentors.

This is the second year that four Danish companies have been chosen to join a special TMC Innovation Accelerator program with plans to bring their technologies to the American market. In a joint press release, the Texas Medical Center (TMC) and the BioInnovation Institute (BII), announced that the participants are scheduled to arrive in Houston on May 13 for their first session, in which they’ll work on US customer validation. After that, they’ll take part in the full program, which will allow the founders to make their plans for strategic development over the course of six months.

Just as the TMC Innovation Factory offers help for founders who have set their sights on success in the US market, the Danish BioInnovation Institute provides life science startups with the connections, infrastructure and financial support necessary to bring their ideas to the public.

The companies selected include:

  • Alba Health is pioneering a gut microbiome test for young children that’s informed by AI.
  • AMPA Medical has created InterPoc, a more discrete alternative to types of stoma bags currently available for ileostomy patients.
  • Droplet IV is a medical device that automatically flushes IV lines, reducing waste and making nurses’ jobs easier.
  • Metsystem is a cancer metastasis platform aimed at predicting what the most effective cancer drug is for each patient.

“We are excited to welcome these startups to TMC as Danish companies are making significant strides in drug discovery and health tech developments” says Devin Dunn, head of the accelerator for Health Tech, in the release. “As they look to expand into the US market, the collaborative environment fostered by our dedicated team, programs, and clinical community will help them advance their innovations, foster research collaborations, and further develop their technologies here in Houston.”

The program for the accelerator is based on the successes of the TMC Innovation (TMCi) Health Tech Accelerator program. The TMC Denmark BioBridge was established in 2019 as a collaboration between TMC and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Denmark.

Researchers at the new SynthX Center will aim to turn fundamental research into clinical applications and make precision adjustments to drug properties and molecules. Photo via Rice University

Houston organizations launch collaborative center to boost cancer outcomes

new to HOU

Rice University's new Synthesis X Center officially launched last month to bring together experts in cancer care and chemistry.

The center was born out of what started about seven years ago as informal meetings between Rice chemist Han Xiao's research group and others from the Baylor College of Medicine’s Dan L Duncan Comprehensive Cancer Center at the Baylor College of Medicine. The level of collaboration between the two teams has grown significantly over the years, and monthly meetings now draw about 100 participants from across disciplines, fields and Houston-based organizations, according to a statement from Rice.

Researchers at the new SynthX Center will aim to turn fundamental research into clinical applications and make precision adjustments to drug properties and molecules. It will focus on improving cancer outcomes by looking at an array of factors, including prevention and detection, immunotherapies, the use of artificial intelligence to speed drug discovery and development, and several other topics.

"At Rice, we are strong on the fundamental side of research in organic chemistry, chemical biology, bioengineering and nanomaterials,” Xiao says in the statement. “Starting at the laboratory bench, we can synthesize therapeutic molecules and proteins with atom-level precision, offering immense potential for real-world applications at the bedside ... But the clinicians and fundamental researchers don’t have a lot of time to talk and to exchange ideas, so SynthX wants to serve as the bridge and help make these connections.”

SynthX plans to issue its first merit-based seed grants to teams with representatives from Baylor and Rice this month.

With this recognition from Rice, the teams from Xiao's lab and the TMC will also be able to expand and formalize their programs. They will build upon annual retreats, in which investigators can share unpublished findings, and also plan to host a national conference, the first slated for this fall titled "Synthetic Innovations Towards a Cure for Cancer.”

“I am confident that the SynthX Center will be a great resource for both students and faculty who seek to translate discoveries from fundamental chemical research into medical applications that improve people’s lives,” Thomas Killian, dean of the Wiess School of Natural Sciences, says in the release.

Rice announced that it had invested in four other research centers along with SynthX last month. The other centers include the Center for Coastal Futures and Adaptive Resilience, the Center for Environmental Studies, the Center for Latin American and Latinx Studies and the Rice Center for Nanoscale Imaging Sciences.

Earlier this year, Rice also announced its first-ever recipients of its One Small Step Grant program, funded by its Office of Innovation. The program will provide funding to faculty working on "promising projects with commercial potential," according to the website.

Texas Children's Hospital has expanded. Photo courtesy of TCH

Houston hospital opens next phase in $245M expansion

now open

Texas Children's Hospital has announced the opening of its newest medical tower in the Texas Medical Center.

Pavilion for Women Tower II is now open to patients, the Texas Children's Hospital revealed this week. It's the second phase of a $245 million expansion within the TMC. The new tower houses women’s services outpatient clinics and connects to the Pavilion for Women via a new sky bridge,

“I’ve always said that outgrowing a space is a good problem to have because it means that we’re doing something right and our patients and their families trust us to provide the safe and high-quality care they deserve,” says Mark A. Wallace, president and CEO of Texas Children’s, in a news release. “I am so proud of everything we’ve done together and I’m beyond grateful and excited for the continuous growth of Texas Children’s Pavilion for Women.”

The Pavilion for Women continues to grow its medical services, according to the release, including "pelvic medicine and reconstructive surgery, menopause treatment, maternal fetal medicine care, the Texas Children’s Fetal Center, reproductive psychiatry, reproductive endocrinology and infertility, and minimally invasive gynecology surgery."

“This latest milestone is one more indication of the dedication of Texas Children's Hospital to women's health,” Dr. Michael Belfort, OB/GYN-in-chief at Texas Children’s Pavilion for Women and professor and chair of the Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology at Baylor College of Medicine, says in the release. “That's very, very important to me. For the first time in this country, a children's hospital has embraced women throughout the spectrum of their health care from birth to menopause.”

The Baylor Obstetrics and Gynecology will relocate to the new tower by the end of the year. In 2024, TCH will add more adult inpatient and neonatal intensive care beds.

“This investment in our Pavilion for Women will allow us to increase delivery volumes significantly, but additionally the added space will also allow us to continue to grow those specialized clinics that cater to women at every stage of their life,” says Michele Birsinger, assistant vice president of Women's Services at Texas Children’s Pavilion for Women.

The Texas Medical Center is also undergoing a major renovation to create Helix Park, a complex with a few new multidisciplinary buildings for research, innovation, and health care. The first of the buildings, the TMC3 Collaborative Building, is expected to deliver this year.

Sepsis has been the No. 1 killer hospitals, but this Houston startup has a tech to help mitigate the risk. Photo via Getty Images

Houston startup taps into AI to help prevent leading cause in hospital death

coming for sepsis

Anyone can die of sepsis. The number one killer in hospitals has a reputation for felling the infirm and elderly, but while the immunocompromised are at highest risk, sepsis isn’t that selective.

Take 12-year-old Rory Staunton. In 2012, the healthy boy scratched his arm diving for a ball in gym class at his school in Jackson Heights, NY. Bacteria entered his arm through the cut and he died days later of septic shock.

His story is not unique. Physician Sarma Velamuri saw this firsthand in his internal medicine practice at St. Luke’s Health Center and his residency at Baylor, both in Houston. But it really struck home when he watched helplessly as a friend’s 22-year-old daughter lost her life to sepsis. He had to tell his friend that she would not be coming home.

“There are 300,000-plus people a year who die of sepsis,” says Velamuri. “It’s important that people understand it’s not just those who are most susceptible to infections.”

This fact is not only unfortunate, but preventable. And that’s why Velamuri, who describes himself as “a recovering hospitalist,” co-founded Luminare in 2014. A full-time CEO since 2017, Velamuri, who runs the company with co-founder and CTO Marcus Rydberg, is based in the TMC Innovation Factory.

“Because of the complex workflows in hospitals, sometimes it takes 10 people to get the patient the care they need,” Velamuri explains.

And because of the pervasiveness of sepsis, it’s important to screen every patient who enters an institution before it gets to that point.

Luminare’s technology allows nurses, who are notoriously spread thin, to automatically screen patients in 10 seconds using 50 different parameters.

“We’re looking at a vast amount of data simultaneously,” says Velamuri. “We’re not generating any new data, we’re taking data that exists and shining a light on it.”

In 2020, the technology found a new application when Velamuri and his team created a version of Luminare that helped with the hospital workflow surrounding COVID PCR testing and vaccine management. Since then, it has also been used to help identify and treat monkeypox.

Though Velamuri says he doesn’t want to distract Luminare from its goal of making sepsis the number-two killer in hospitals, he is also aware that his technology can be instrumental in identifying and treating patients at risk for countless other maladies, including heart failure and stroke, and even helping with oncology workflows.

Velamuri says that his team is Luminare’s biggest strength, far more than the AI that they have designed.

“I have this saying that AI is a great servant but a terrible master. It doesn’t solve the problem,” says Velamuri.

Though the company is distributed as far afield as Stockholm, about half of its people live and work in Houston. Of the company’s placement in TMC’s Innovation Factory, Velamuri says, “They’ve been tremendous partners to us. The company would not be as successful today without their supportive partnership.” Not least of that is working with in the same space as other founders who can share their expertise as easily as a trip to the coffee machine.

And the company is growing quickly. Last year, Luminare participated in Cedars-Sinai’s accelerator program. Thanks to that partnership, the hospital is now using Luminare’s technology for sepsis screening. The team is working to partner with even more large hospital systems on solutions for one of the health industry’s biggest problems. And data that shows that Luminare can be the path to preventing death from hospitals’ most prolific killer.

Sarma Velamuri went from MD to CEO when he founded Luminare. Photo via luminare.io

Here's your one-stop shop for innovation events in Houston for July. Photo via Getty Images

10+ can't-miss Houston business and innovation events for July

where to be

From networking meetups to educational symposiums, July is chock-full of happenings for Houston innovators.

Here's a roundup of events you won't want want to miss out on so mark your calendars and register accordingly.

Note: This post might be updated to add more events.


July 6 — City of Houston Panel Discussion: Sales

Join the City of Houston’s Office of Business Opportunity and SCORE Houston for a panel discussion designed for City of Houston vendors. This is the perfect opportunity to learn more about doing business with the City of Houston and how SCORE Houston can support you while running your business. During each monthly meeting get your business questions answered by industry and Office of Business Opportunity experts and SCORE Mentors. Gain the information and support you need to provide your products and services as a City of Houston vendor.

This event is Thursday, July 6, from 1 to 2 pm at Houston Community College. Click here to register.

July 7 — UH-DGH Center for Hydrocarbon Exploration Symposium

This informative open house event showcasing the new UH Seismic Data Center will focus heavily on presentations centered around hydrocarbon basin analysis as well as relevant policy shifts within India and the opportunities that have emerged as a result. The UH Seismic Data Center arose from a collaboration between the University of Houston and the DGH, the technical arm of the Indian Ministry of Petroleum and Natural Gas.

The event is Friday, July 7, from 9 am to 12 pm at the University of Houston Technology Bridge (Building 9, Room 135). Click here to register.

July 10 — Ion Open Accelerator: Monopolizing Your Industry Channel

In this workshop, Jared Nielsen who has participated in several startups that now dominate their respective industries, will provide insight into how small startups have grown to become global monopolies in a very short period of time. Seeing a global domination market strategy executed from the inside may give your own startup insights and techniques that you can use within your own supply chain for a truly dominant market position.

The event is Monday, July 10, from 10 am to 12 pm at the Ion. Click here to register.


July 11 — Leaders Who Lunch

Connect with influential community organizers, leaders, change makers, and likeminded C-suite executives during a 3-course family style lunch. Admission and cost of the meal is $75.

The event is Tuesday, July 11, from 11 am to 12 pm at Weights and Measures. Click here to register.

July 13 — Texas Medical Center Veterans Committee Hiring Event

TMC is hosting a career workshop for veterans interested in breaking into the healthcare field. Attendees will have the chance to network with recruiters, learn about job openings, and potentially even secure an interview on the spot so be sure to bring copies of your resume and dress to impress.

The agenda:

10:00 - 11:00 am - Registration/ Networking

11:00 - 11:30 am - Career Readiness: Resume & Interview Preparation

11:30 am - 12:00 pm - Career Branding: Social Media & Networking

12:00 pm - 12:20 pm - Lunch (provided)

12:20 pm - 1:00 pm - ERG Panel Discussion: Connecting with our Veteran Communities

1:00 pm - 2:00 pm - Networking/ Closing Hour

This event is Thursday, July 13, from 10 am to 2 pm at TMC Innovation Factory (2450 Holcombe Blvd Suite X). Click here to register.

July 13 — GROW Community Meeting

Discuss green economy resources & opportunities for disadvantaged groups to engage in the energy transition and climate action.

The agenda:

11 - 11:15 am - Welcome and Introductions

11:15 - 11:30 am - GROW Overview

11: 30 - 11:45 am - GROW Updates

11:45 am - 12 pm - Funding & Contract Opportunities

12 - 12:30 pm - Lunch

12:30 - 12:45 pm - Next steps: Community Benefits Survey, Cooperative Agreement, Letters of Support

12:45 - 1 pm - Attendee Announcements

1 PM - Closing

The event is Thursday, July 13, from 11 am to 1 pm at Hiram Clarke Multi-Service Center. Click here to register.

July 17 — Mingle Mondays Med & Health Tech

Head to this monthly mixer and get to know fellow members of Houston’s Med & Health Tech community. All who are interested in Med & Health Tech, including Med & HealthTech entrepreneurs, thought leaders, investors, healthcare professionals, and community members wanting to share their Med & Health Tech knowledge are welcome.

This event is Monday, July 17, from 6 to 7 pm at the Ion. Click here to register.

July 17 — The State of Latino Entrepreneurship Reception/Networking

The Latino Business Action Network presents “The State of Latino Entrepreneurship Reception.” Network with Latino professionals, business owners, and supporters. This is a welcoming environment for connecting with your peers, LBAN, local chambers, and other organizations. At the same time, you will learn the latest on Latino entrepreneurship from LBAN, a nationally recognized expert in the field. LBAN is a Silicon Valley-based nonprofit that partners with Stanford to research and empower Latino entrepreneurship across the U.S.

This event is Monday, July 17, from 4 to 7 pm at the Ion. Click here to register.

July 18 — Heated Dialogues Unleashed: Navigating Difficult Conversations

In this discussion, leadership veterans Debbie Danon and Michele Price will unravel the secrets of mastering difficult conversations for start-ups. For new founders looking to gain practical insights to navigate these challenges this conference will provide you with communication tools to approach these obstacles.

This event is Tuesday, July 18, from 11:30 am to 12:15 pm, virtually . Click here to register.

July 19 — Industrial Security Roadshow: Learn, Empower, & Connect

At the Industrial Security Roadshow attendees will gain insights into emerging threats, learn innovative defense techniques, and discover cutting-edge technologies to bolster your security procedures. A curated lineup of speakers will share their expertise, providing practical guidance and actionable steps to fortify your systems against cyber threats.

This event is Wednesday, July 19, from 10:30 am to 1 pm at 24285 Katy Fwy suite 300. Click here to register.

July 20 — Female Founders and Funders Meetup

Sponsored by Softeq Venture Studio and Sesh Coworking, this monthly meetup occurs every third Thursday and is ideal for female founders and funders in the Houston area who are looking to network and empower each other.

This event is Thursday, July 20, from 9 to 10 am at Sesh Coworking. Click here to register.

July 24 — Ion Open Accelerator: Getting the Highest ROI from Conferences and Events

In this workshop speaker Staccey Wright-Turner, a Houston based ROI strategist, will discuss how to maximize your time at and investment in conferences and events for a well-rounded marketing campaign.

These are the topics you can expect to be covered:

  • Whether you should do events, and which ones you should do
  • How best to invest your marketing dollars
  • Setting your objectives for events and conferences - yes, there is more than just "getting leads" - don't miss out on important revenue
  • Preparing in advance to get the most out of your event
  • Knowing how to approach attendees and get meetings booked
  • Follow through and evaluate the ROI on the events
  • Training sales staff for event-and-conference best practices
This event is Monday, July 24, from 10 am to 12 pm at the Ion. Click here to register.

July 27 —  Summer Sizzle Happy Hour with Dell for Startups

Kick off the end of a warm summer in The Cannon West Houston Kitchen with a Happy Hour, sponsored by Dell for Startups and take advantage of an opportunity to learn more about the upcoming Houston Innovation Summit in October.

This event is Thursday, July 27, from 4:30 to 6:30 pm at The Cannon. Click here to register.

July 28 - July 30 — Melanin Minds Mental Health Conference

Melanin Minds is taking over Big Brothers Big Sisters for a three day weekend of workshops, panels, & family-friendly wellness. All workshops will be centering BIPOC communities & featuring therapists, counselors, and practitioners of color. Admission prices vary depending on the level of access you want to the conference and when you register, discounted tickets for students are available up to year six of grad school ($20).

The agenda:

Friday 7/28 — Healthy Eating On The Go • Thriving Through Stigmas & Adversity • Perfectionism • Boundaries • Finances • Work-Life Harmony • 7 Types of Rest • Mindful Leadership

Saturday 7/29 — Building Mental Wealth • Finding Your Way to YOU • Nutrition As A Foundation for Healing • Yoga & Meditation • Community Talk Circle • Humor & Laughter • Reading the Cues • Relationships & Social Media • Wellness Practices & Routines

Sunday 7/30 — Advocating For Your Child • Goals Through Resilience & Stress • The Art of Self Expression • Financial Mental Health • Yoga For Youth • Big Brother Big Sister Matches Panel • Complimentary Self Care Services

This event starts Friday, July 28, from 7 a.m. to 6 p.m. at Big Brothers Big Sisters. Click here to register.

This month, TMCi is welcoming a slew of health tech and cancer innovators who will advance solutions in medicine over the next several months. Image via TMC.edu

TMC announces entrepreneurs, researchers joining its 2 health tech accelerators

coming soon

The Texas Medical Center has announced the latest cohorts of its two health tech accelerators.

The Texas Medical Center Innovation has named eight companies that are in the Spring 2023 Accelerator for HealthTech cohort. TMCi also announced 21 participants are set to join the 2023 Accelerator for Cancer Therapeutics cohort. Both programs connect the entrepreneurs and innovators to experts at TMC’s campuses to solve unmet clinical needs and reach the next business milestone.

“At TMC Innovation, we start with a promise of uniting cutting-edge innovators in science and medicine with the talent found at the Texas Medical Center," says Emily Reiser, associate director of TMC Innovation, in a news release. "Our 2023 cohort members are tackling some of the most critical issues we face today in healthcare.

"We are excited to welcome a new group of researchers and companies to the TMC Innovation Factory, and to work collaboratively with our new cohort members and our partners from across the Texas Medical Center," she continues.

Here's what 2023 can expect from these two program's cohorts.

TMCi HealthTech Accelerator

The six-month, twice annual HealthTech Accelerator — originally launched in 2014 with over 225 alumni companies — focuses on digital health and medical device startups. The spring cohort are addressing solutions across maternal medicine, mental health, diagnostics, patient experience, and artificial intelligence.

"Uniting talented professionals from across the globe provides a unique opportunity for innovation, creativity, and development in diverse areas of expertise," says Devin Dunn, head of the Accelerator for Healthtech at TMCi, in the release. "Our tailored program maximizes participants' experiences while determining the best match between these companies and Texas Medical Center’s network."

The cohort was selected following a November bootcamp that introduced potential startup members to the TMC and the Houston health care community.

The following companies will join the TMC this month:

  • Based in Roseville, Minneapolis, Bloom Standard is deploying the first self-driving pediatric ultrasound to earlier diagnose heart and lung conditions in primary care, remote and under-resourced settings.
  • San Francisco-based Ejenta automates remote monitoring and care using AI technology exclusively licensed from NASA. “Intelligent agents” learn from connected devices, claims and EMR data to monitor patients, predict health and to provide automated support for patients and automated workflow for clinicians.
  • Kintsugi, based in Berkley, California, is on a mission to see mental health more clearly by developing novel voice biomarker infrastructure to detect signs of depression and anxiety from short clips of free-form speech.
  • San Francisco-based Lana Health is modernizing patient experiences, across the care continuum with an end-to-end, scalable platform, enabling frictionless care transitions, high patient satisfaction, and better clinical outcomes.
  • Liberate Medical, from Crestwood, Kentucky, improves outcomes for mechanically ventilated patients using its breakthrough, non-invasive, respiratory muscle-protective, neurostimulation device, VentFree.
  • Limbix, headquartered in Palo Alto, has a mission to improve mental health with accessible technology.
  • Nua Surgical, from Galway, Ireland, Nua Surgical is an award-winning Irish start-up dedicated to innovating in women’s health.
  • Houston-based Prana Thoracic is developing solutions for the detection and intervention of early-stage lung cancer.

Accelerator for Cancer Therapeutics

The TMC has announced the 21 researchers and companies tapped to join the 2023 Accelerator for Cancer Therapeutics.

The nine-month program, funded by the Cancer Prevention and Research Institute of Texas in partnership with the Gulf Coast Consortia and the University of Texas Medical Branch, supports investigators and early-stage biotechnology companies with innovative solutions in cancer therapeutics. Participants will be mentored by a group of scientific, business, and innovation leaders to ultimately be positioned to apply for grants and pitch to investors and corporate partners to further the development of their innovative cancer solutions.

“For this third cohort, we focused on a strategic and extensive recruitment process, including the evaluation of 1,679 cancer research projects. From 56 applications, we selected 21 participants that will gain access to valuable resources, integrated training and mentorship to prepare for clinical trials,” says Ahmed AlRawi, program manager of Accelerator for Cancer Therapeutics, in the release. “Our 2023 cohort represents our most diverse cohort to date, including eight companies led by women entrepreneurs. We are excited to continue the momentum and build off the successes of our previous years.”

Forty-five participants have gone through the accelerator program since its launch in 2021, and collectively, the entrepreneurs have raised more than $90 million in funding and three projects are in the clinic.

The 2023 cohort participants are focused on a wide range of therapeutic assets, including small molecule, antibody, peptide/protein, cell therapy, and other. The 2023 cohort kicks off their nine-month program in January.

The participants include:

  1. Dr. Amit K. Tripathi – UNT-Health Science Center
  2. Dr. Darshan Gandhi (ImproveBio, LLC)
  3. Dr. Frank McKeon (Tract Pharmaceutical) – University of Houston
  4. Dr. Hemanta Baruah (Aakha Biologics)
  5. Dr. Joshua Gruber – UT-Southwestern
  6. Dr. Kyoji Tsuchikama – UT Health Science Center-Houston
  7. Dr. Maralice Conacci Sorrell – UT-Southwestern
  8. Dr. Michael Buszczak – UT-Southwestern
  9. Dr. Nadezhda (Nadia) German -Texas Tech-Lubbock
  10. Dr. Parsa Modareszadeh (HemePro Therapeutics) – UT-Dallas
  11. Dr. Robert Kruse (HydroGene Therapeutics)
  12. Dr. Xiang Zhang – Baylor College of Medicine
  13. Dr. Youngwook Won (Singular Immune, Inc.)
  14. Dr. Zhi-Ping Liu (Raphael Pharmaceutical LLC) – UT-Southwestern
  15. Dr. Jonathan Arambula (InnovoTEX Inc.)
  16. Dr. Isaac Chan – UT-Southwestern
  17. Dr. Olga Granaturova (Ruptakine Inc.) – UT Health Science Center-Houston
  18. Dr. Jim Song (Tranquility Biodesign) – Texas A&M-College Station
  19. Dr. Rosa Selenia Guerra-Resendez (Quetzal Bio, LLC) – Rice University
  20. Dr. Cassian Yee (Mongoose Bio, LLC) – UT-MD Anderson Cancer Center
  21. Dr. Manjeet Rao (Niragen, Inc.) – UT Health Science Center-San Antonio


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Houston family's $20M donation drives neurodegeneration research

big impact

Neurodegeneration is one of the cruelest ways to age, but one Houston family is sharing its wealth to invigorate research with the goal of eradicating diseases like Alzheimer’s.

This month, Laurence Belfer announced that his family, led by oil tycoon Robert Belfer, had donated an additional $20 million to the Belfer Neurodegeneration Consortium, a multi-institutional initiative that targets the study and treatment of Alzheimer’s disease.

This latest sum brings the family’s donations to BNDC to $53.5 million over a little more than a decade. The Belfer family’s recent donation will be matched by institutional philanthropic efforts, meaning BNDC will actually be $40 million richer.

BNDC was formed in 2012 to help scientists gain stronger awareness of neurodegenerative disease biology and its potential treatments. It incorporates not only The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center, but also Baylor College of Medicine, Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) and Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai.

It is the BNDC’s lofty objective to develop five new drugs for Alzheimer’s disease and related disorders over the next 10 years, with two treatments to demonstrate clinical efficacy.

“Our goal is ambitious, but having access to the vast clinical trial expertise at MD Anderson ensures our therapeutics can improve the lives of patients everywhere,” BNDC Executive Director Jim Ray says in a press release. “The key elements for success are in place: a powerful research model, a winning collaborative team and a robust translational pipeline, all in the right place at the right time.”

It may seem out of place that this research is happening at MD Anderson, but scientists are delving into the intersection between cancer and neurological disease through the hospital’s Cancer Neuroscience Program.

“Since the consortium was formed, we have made tremendous progress in our understanding of the molecular and genetic basis of neurodegenerative diseases and in translating those findings into effective targeted drugs and diagnostics for patients,” Ray continues. “Yet, we still have more work to do. Alzheimer's disease is already the most expensive disease in the United States. As our population continues to age, addressing quality-of-life issues and other challenges of treating and living with age-associated diseases must become a priority.”

And for the magnanimous Belfer family, it already is.

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.