Earlier this month, TRISH announced the initial selection for its Space Health Ingress Program (SHIP) solicitation. Photo via BCM.edu

What would we eat if we were forced to decamp to another planet? The most immediate challenges faced by the food industry and astronauts exploring outside Earth are being addressed by The Translational Research Institute for Space Health (TRISH) at Baylor College of Medicine’s Center for Space Medicine’s newest project.

Earlier this month, TRISH announced the initial selection for its Space Health Ingress Program (SHIP) solicitation. Working with California Institute of Technology and Massachusetts Institute of Technology, the Baylor-based program chose “Future Foods for Space: Mobilizing the Future Foods Community to Accelerate Advances in Space Health,” led by Dr. Denneal Jamison-McClung at the University of California, Davis.

“TRISH is bringing in new ideas and investigators to propel space health research,” says Catherine Domingo, TRISH operations lead and research administration associate at Baylor College of Medicine, in the release. “We have long believed that new researchers with fresh perspectives drive innovation and advance human space exploration and SHIP builds on TRISH’s existing efforts to recruit and support new investigators in the space health research field, potentially yielding and high-impact ideas to protect space explorers.”

The goal of the project is to develop sustainable food products and ingredients that could fuel future space travelers on long-term voyages, or even habitation beyond our home planet.

Jamison-McClung and her team’s goal is to enact food-related space health research and inspire the community thereof by mobilizing academic and food-industry researchers who have not previously engaged with the realm of space exploration. Besides growing and developing food products, the project will also address production, storage, and delivery of the nutrition created by the team.

To that end, Jamison-McClung and her recruits will receive $1 million over the course of two years. The goal of the SHIP solicitation is to work with first-time NASA investigators, bringing new minds to the forefront of the space health research world.

“As we look to enable safer space exploration and habitation for humans, it is clear that food and nutrition are foundational,” says Dr. Asha S. Collins, chair of the SHIP advisory board, in a press release. “We’re excited to see how accelerating innovation in food science for space health could also result in food-related innovations for people on Earth in remote areas and food deserts.”

TRISH is sending six research projects onboard Axiom Space's next mission, which is expected to launch in January. Photo via bcm.com

Space health nonprofit to send 6 more experiments to space on Houston company's next mission

medicine in orbit

A Houston organization announced that it plans to launch six more experiments into space next year that look to learn more about everything from motion sickness to genome alterations during space travel.

The Translational Research Institute for Space Health, or TRISH, which is part of BCM’s Center for Space Medicine, will team up once more with Houston-based Axiom Space on its third private astronaut mission to the International Space Station, Ax-3, which is expected to launch in January. TRISH also sent experiments on Axiom's Ax-2 mission that launched in May.

The experiments are part of TRISH's Enhancing eXploration Platforms and Analog Definition (EXPAND) program, which aims "to help humans thrive on future space missions," according to a release.

“Our commercial spaceflight partners such as Axiom Space are instrumental to cutting-edge research, including these projects designed to reveal how the human body and mind function in the extreme environment of space,” Dr. Emmanuel Urquieta, TRISH chief medical officer, EXPAND program lead and assistant professor in the Center for Space Medicine at Baylor. “This work represents an important step in our journey to understand the body's response to challenging conditions, which is critical for improving human health both here on Earth and on future long-duration missions, including to the Moon and Mars.”

The six project onboard Ax-3 include:

  • Cognitive and Physiologic Responses in Commercial Space Crew on Short-Duration Missions, Mathias Basner, M.D., Ph.D., M.S., University of Pennsylvania Perelman School of Medicine: Basner’s team will track spaceflight participants’ memory, abstraction, spatial orientation, emotion recognition, risk decision-making and sustained attention before and after space travel
  • Otolith and Posture Evaluation II, Mark Shelhamer, Sc.D., Johns Hopkins University: Shelhamer's team will study how inner ears and eyes sense and respond to motion before and immediately after spaceflight to predict who is likely to develop space motion sickness.
  • Space Omics + BioBank, Richard Gibbs, Ph.D., Baylor College of Medicine: Gibbs’ team will gather biological specimens from astronauts before and after their mission to assess the effects of spaceflight on the human body at the genomic level.
  • SANS Surveillance, TRISH: The institute will study Spaceflight Associated Neuro-Ocular Syndrome by collecting vision function data during the ground phases of the mission.
  • Standardized research questionnaires, TRISH: The institute will gather contextual and qualitative data points for its EXPAND research database related to sleep, personality, health history, team dynamics and immune-related symptoms.
  • Sensorimotor adaptation, TRISH: The institute will collect data on how spaceflight participants' ability to stand, balance and have full body control.

Ax-3 is Axiom's third commercial astronaut mission to the ISS, which the company announced in March. The crew, which includes Commander Michael López-Alegría, Pilot Walter Villadei, and Mission Specialists Alper Gezeravcı and Marcus Wandt, will spend 14 days on the ISS. The mission will launch from NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida aboard a SpaceX Dragon spacecraft.

Axiom also has plans for its fourth private mission, Ax-4, which it announced in August.

In addition to the partnership with Axiom, TRISH also announced late last month that it has made a new agreement with the Australian Antarctic Division's Polar Medicine Unit. The collaboration will nominate pilot projects that focus on challenges associated with extreme isolation, which have applications in long-duration space travel to the Moon and Mars.

“Our international collaboration with the AAD will extract insights to benefit all future astronauts, as well as other explorers of extreme environments,” said Dr. Dorit Donoviel, associate professor in the Center for Space Medicine at Baylor and TRISH executive director. “This agreement marks the beginning of yet another exciting venture into space health research for TRISH, and we look forward to collaborating with the AAD to advance our shared goal of promoting safe human exploration.”

In March, TRISH also announced an international agreement with the Korea National Institute of Health. The two organizations plan to collaborate on research related to mental health issues due to space travel, the challenges of food supply in deep space, the negative effects of space radiation and en-suite medical care for long-duration space travel.

TRISH is also slated to launch nine experiments on board SpaceX's Polaris Dawn mission, which is now expected to launch no earlier than 2024. The research aboard Polaris Dawn is intended to complement research supported by TRISH on the Inspiration4 all-civilian mission to orbit.
TRISH, or the Translational Institute of Space Health, has named three fellows to its new program. Photo via bcm.edu

Houston space health research organization names 3 fellows for bioastronautics program

hello fellows

Three Texas scientists have been selected for a Houston organization's prestigious program focused on space health.

TRISH, or the Translational Research Institute for Space Health, which is based out of Houston-based Baylor College of Medicine, has announced its selections for the TRISH 2023 fellowship. The program, announced last fall, is in partnership with California Institute of Technology and Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

“Supporting the next generation of space health researchers ensures that we will have the best possible data to make evidence-based decisions about managing human systems risk for exploration class missions,” says Dr. Jennifer Fogarty, TRISH’s chief scientific officer, in a news release. “By investing in TRISH postdoctoral fellows, we’re investing in future experts who will strive to solve the complex problems and risks associated with human space exploration. We are thrilled to welcome these accomplished early-career scientists to the TRISH community.”

The three selected postdoctoral fellows are focused on researching within space health — specifically reducing the health risks associated with spaceflight. They will receive a two-year salary stipend and participate in TRISH’s Academy of Bioastronautics, a mentorship community for space health professionals.

“Pursuing my postdoctoral training at TRISH has accelerated my career and expanded my research portfolio, enabling me to make new connections and become a more well-rounded scientist,” says Dr. Evan Buettmann, a TRISH third-year postdoctoral fellow at Virginia Commonwealth University, in the release. “Having completed my Ph.D. in bone regeneration, I didn’t initially anticipate that my studies would lead me to an academic career in space health. TRISH stood out to me as an excellent place to complete my postdoctoral training, as it’s at the cutting edge of both space science and medicine and offers extensive mentorship and leadership opportunities.”

This 2023 cohort of fellows include:

  • Stephanie Dudzinski, M.D., Ph.D. Her research focuses on extending healthy life in space by characterizing radiation-induced pro-inflammatory response and enhancing wound repair and recovery with radiation- mitigating thrombin peptide. Her mentor is Steven Frank, M.D., of the University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center.
  • Adrien Robin, Ph.D., who is looking at the effect of deconditioning on-gravitational dose-response curves for cardiovascular and ocular variables in men and women and is being mentored by Ana Diaz Artiles, Ph.D., Texas A&M Engineering Experiment Station.
  • Katherine Wozniak, Ph.D., who is defining gut microbial changes to space-like radiation to develop a radiation-resistant microbiome. Her mentor is Robert Britton, Ph.D., of Baylor College of Medicine.
In addition to supporting scientists through its fellowship program, TRISH is actively conducting research aboard commercial space flights — most recently with Axiom Space's Ax-2 mission..
This week's roundup of Houston innovators includes Emmanuel Urquieta of TRISH, Ariel Jones of Qualtrics XM, and Lawson Gow of Pokatok. Photos courtesy

3 Houston innovators to know this week

WHO'S WHO

Editor's note: In this week's roundup of Houston innovators to know, I'm introducing you to three local innovators across industries — from space health research to sports tech — recently making headlines in Houston innovation.


Dr. Emmanuel Urquieta, chief medical officer of TRISH

Emmanuel Urquieta, chief medical officer of TRISH, joins the Houston Innovators Podcast. Photo via LinkedIn

Since 2021, the Translational Research Institute for Space Health has conducted its research on four missions — which has meant an unparalleled access to space health data for TRISH.

“We really saw the value of implementing research in civilians because they are different from your traditional government astronaut,” Dr. Emmanuel Urquieta, chief medical officer for TRISH, says on the Houston Innovators Podcast. “In civilians, you see a more diverse population.”

Urquieta says TRISH's experiments on these missions all fall within a few pillars of space health, including space's effects on sensory motor skills, like balance and motion sickness, as well as mental health, environmental data from the vehicles, vital monitoring, and more. Read more.

Ariel Jones, head of health care provider solution strategy for Qualtrics XM

As the health care industry continues to evolve, experience management technology will play an increasingly important role in addressing health equity gaps and improving the health and well-being of patients across the globe. Photo courtesy

In a guest column for InnovationMap, Ariel Jones, head of health care provider solution strategy for Qualtrics XM, addresses inequalities in health care — and how technology, specifical experience management tech, can help bridge the gap.

"As the health care industry continues to evolve, experience management technology will play an increasingly important role in addressing health equity gaps and improving the health and well-being of patients across the globe," she writes. Read more.

Lawson Gow, co-founder of Pokatok

A new sports festival is headed to Houston next year. Photo courtesy of Pokatok

Pokatok, the recently announced, four-day sports festival is slated to take place April 4-7, 2024.

“Pokatok will not only be the largest gathering of the entire sports tech ecosystem, it will also be a true fan festival for sports enthusiasts,” says Gow in the news release. “Everyone speaks the language of sport, it’s an incredibly powerful unifier of our society, and this festival will bring together people from around the world to experience hundreds of events revolving around the new and the next in sport.”

The festival, which has secured support from Houston First, the Greater Houston Partnership, and the Harris County Houston Sports Authority to put on the event, will feature two tracks — one focused on sports innovation and the other surrounding a fan experience. Pokatok X will include an expo and showcase focused on sports innovation, bringing together startups, investors, accelerators, athletes, and industry experts to dive into sports tech. Read more.

Emmanuel Urquieta, chief medical officer of TRISH, joins the Houston Innovators Podcast. Photo via LinkedIn

Houston innovator on the importance of commercial missions for the future of space health research

HOUSTON INNOVATORS PODCAST EPISODE 189

With the rise of commercial space flight, researchers have increased access to space health data that's key to the future of the industry as a whole. The organization that's conducting this valuable research is based right in Houston's Texas Medical Center.

TRISH, or the Translational Research Institute for Space Health, is an organization based out of Baylor College of Medicine and partnered with NASA's Human Spaceflight group. As commercial space companies have emerged, TRISH has strategically aligned with these businesses to bring back health data from the civilian trips.

“Most of the research that’s done at NASA and other government agencies usually takes decades to get something that could be implemented in space or terrestrially," Dr. Emmanuel Urquieta, chief medical officer for TRISH, says on the Houston Innovators Podcast. "What we do at TRISH is something different.

"On the one hand, we look at really new technologies that are just an idea, but could be really game changing," he continues. "Then on the other hand, we look at technologies already in the market that could be tweaked to work in spaceflight.”

Since 2021, TRISH has conducted its research on four missions — Inspiration4, the first all-civilian mission to space; Axiom Mission 1, the first all civilian mission to the International Space Station; MS20, which flew two Japanese civilians to ISS; and, most recently, Axiom Mission 2, which included the first all-private crew commanded by a woman and two members of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia's national astronaut program.

“We really saw the value of implementing research in civilians because they are different from your traditional government astronaut,” Urquieta says. “In civilians, you see a more diverse population.”

Urquieta says TRISH's experiments on these missions all fall within a few pillars of space health, including space's effects on sensory motor skills, like balance and motion sickness, as well as mental health, environmental data from the vehicles, vital monitoring, and more.

“We’ve developed a capability to collect high-priority, high-value data from these space flight participants without having to train them for long periods of time — which is a challenge, because they don’t train for years like traditional astronauts,” he explains.

The plan, Urquieta says, is to be able to share TRISH's space health data in order to more safely send humans into space. He shares more about TRISH's program and the challenges the organization faces on the show. Listen to the interview below — or wherever you stream your podcasts — and subscribe for weekly episodes.

A new partnership on Earth will help navigate the future of space health. Photo via NASA

Houston space research nonprofit announces new international agreement

partnership launch

Houston's Translational Research Institute for Space Health, or TRISH, has entered into an agreement with the Korea National Institute of Health to collaborate on research and discovery relating to space health.

According to a release, the organizations aim to uncover health findings that can assist in NASA's upcoming Artemis missions, as well as have Earth-bound impacts. The agreement is a Memorandum of Understanding which states that both organizations will "develop fruitful areas of cooperation for space health."

TRISH — which is affiliated with Baylor College of Medicine — and KNIH plan to collaborate on research related to mental health issues due to space travel, the challenges of food supply in deep space, the negative effects of space radiation and en-suite medical care for long-duration space travel.

“As in space, there should be no borders or boundaries to scientific discovery that benefits humankind,” Dorit Donoviel, associate professor in the Center for Space Medicine at Baylor and executive director TRISH said in a statement. “With this agreement, we will work together with the KNIH to collaborate and foster meaningful discussion with the ambition of keeping humans healthy in space and on Earth.”

TRISH announced last month that it will launch six experiments into space aboard Axiom Space's Ax-2 mission in consortium with CalTeach and MIT, which was originally targeted to launch this month.

TRISH is also slated to launch nine experiments on board SpaceX's Polaris Dawn mission, which is now expected to launch in September.

Some of the information found from these missions will become part of TRISH’s Enhancing eXploration Platforms and ANalog Definition, or EXPAND, program, which aims to boost human health on commercial space flights through its database. The program launched in 2021.
Ad Placement 300x100
Ad Placement 300x600

CultureMap Emails are Awesome

Innovative coastline project on Bolivar Peninsula receives federal funding

flood mitigation

The Galveston’s Coastal Barrier Project recently received federal funding to the tune of $500,000 to support construction on its flood mitigation plans for the area previously devastated by Hurricane Ike in 2008.

Known as Ike Dike, the proposed project includes implementing the Galveston Bay Storm Surge Barrier System, including eight Gulf and Bay defense projects. The Bolivar Roads Gate System, a two-mile-long closure structure situated between Galveston Island and Bolivar Peninsula, is included in the plans and would protect against storm surge volumes entering the bay.

The funding support comes from U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) and will go toward the preconstruction engineering and design phase of Ecosystem Restoration feature G-28, the first segment of the Bolivar Peninsula and West Bay Gulf Intracoastal Waterway Shoreline and Island Protection.

Coastal Barrier Project - Galveston Projects

The project also includes protection of critical fish and wildlife habitat against coastal storms and erosion.

“The Coastal Texas Project is one of the largest projects in the history of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers,” says Col. Rhett A. Blackmon, USACE Galveston District commander, in a statement. “This project is important to the nation for many reasons. Not only will it reduce risk to the vulnerable populations along the Texas coast, but it will also protect vital ecosystems and economically critical infrastructure vital to the U.S. supply chain and the many global industries located here.”

Hurricane Ike resulted in over $30 billion in storm-related damages to the Texas coast, reports the Coastal Barrier Project, and created a debris line 15 feet tall and 40 miles long in Chambers County. The estimated economic disruption due to Hurricane Ike exceeded $150 billion, FEMA reported.

The project is estimated to take two years to complete after construction starts and will cost between $4 billion and $6 billion, reports Texas A&M University at Galveston.

Clean energy nonprofit CEO to step down, search for replacement to begin

moving on

Greentown Labs, which is co-located in the Boston and Houston areas, has announced its current CEO is stepping down after less than a year in the position.

The nonprofit's CEO and President Kevin Knobloch announced that he will be stepping down at the end of July 2024. Knobloch assumed his role last September, previously serving as chief of staff of the United States Department of Energy in President Barack Obama’s second term.

“It has been an honor to lead this incredible team and organization, and a true privilege to get to know many of our brilliant startup founders," Knobloch says in the news release. “Greentown is a proven leader in supporting early-stage climatetech companies and I can’t wait to see all that it will accomplish in the coming years.”

The news of Knobloch's departure comes just over a month after the organization announced that it was eliminating 30 percent of its staff, which affected 12 roles in Boston and six in Houston.

According the Greentown, its board of directors is expected to launch a national search for its next CEO.

“On behalf of the entire Board of Directors, I want to thank Kevin for his efforts to strengthen the foundation of Greentown Labs and for charting the next chapter for the organization through a strategic refresh process,” says Dawn James, Greentown Labs Board Chair, in the release. “His thoughtful leadership will leave a lasting impact on the team and community for years to come.”

Knobloch reportedly shifted Greentown's sponsorship relationships with oil companies, sparking "friction within the organization," according to the Houston Chronicle, which also reported that Knobloch said he intends to return to his clean energy consulting firm.

------

This article originally ran on EnergyCapital.

Houston college lands $5M NASA grant to launch new aerospace research center

to infinity and beyond

The University of Houston was one of seven minority-serving institutions to receive a nearly $5 million grant this month to support aerospace research focused on extending human presence on the moon and Mars.

The $4,996,136 grant over five years is funded by the NASA Office of STEM Engagement Minority University Research and Education Project (MUREP) Institutional Research Opportunity (MIRO) program. It will go toward creating the NASA MIRO Inflatable Deployable Environments and Adaptive Space Systems (IDEAS2) Center at UH, according to a statement from the university.

“The vision of the IDEAS2 Center is to become a premier national innovation hub that propels NASA-centric, state-of-the-art research and promotes 21st-century aerospace education,” Karolos Grigoriadis, Moores Professor of Mechanical Engineering and director of aerospace engineering at UH, said in a statement.

Another goal of the grant is to develop the next generation of aerospace professionals.

Graduate, undergraduate and even middle and high school students will conduct research out of IDEAS2 and work closely with the Johnson Space Center, located in the Houston area.

The center will collaborate with Texas A&M University, Houston Community College, San Jacinto College and Stanford University.

Grigoriadis will lead the center. Dimitris Lagoudas, from Texas A&M University, and Olga Bannova, UH's research professor of Mechanical Engineering and director of the Space Architecture graduate program, will serve as associate directors.

"Our mission is to establish a sustainable nexus of excellence in aerospace engineering research and education supported by targeted multi-institutional collaborations, strategic partnerships and diverse educational initiatives,” Grigoriadis said.

Industrial partners include Boeing, Axiom Space, Bastion Technologies and Lockheed Martin, according to UH.

UH is part of 21 higher-education institutions to receive about $45 million through NASA MUREP grants.

According to NASA, the six other universities to received about $5 million MIRO grants over five years and their projects includes:

  • Alaska Pacific University in Anchorage: Alaska Pacific University Microplastics Research and Education Center
  • California State University in Fullerton: SpaceIgnite Center for Advanced Research-Education in Combustion
  • City University of New York, Hunter College in New York: NASA-Hunter College Center for Advanced Energy Storage for Space
  • Florida Agricultural and Mechanical University in Tallahassee: Integrative Space Additive Manufacturing: Opportunities for Workforce-Development in NASA Related Materials Research and Education
  • New Jersey Institute of Technology in Newark:AI Powered Solar Eruption Center of Excellence in Research and Education
  • University of Illinois in Chicago: Center for In-Space Manufacturing: Recycling and Regolith Processing

Fourteen other institutions will receive up to $750,000 each over the course of a three-year period. Those include:

  • University of Mississippi
  • University of Alabama in Huntsville
  • Louisiana State University in Baton Rouge
  • West Virginia University in Morgantown
  • University of Puerto Rico in San Juan
  • Desert Research Institute, Reno, Nevada
  • Oklahoma State University in Stillwater
  • Iowa State University in Ames
  • University of Alaska Fairbanks in Fairbanks
  • University of the Virgin Islands in Charlotte Amalie
  • University of Hawaii at Manoa in Honolulu
  • University of Idaho in Moscow
  • University of Arkansas in Little Rock
  • South Dakota School of Mines and Technology in Rapid City
  • Satellite Datastreams

NASA's MUREP hosted its annual "Space Tank" pitch event at Space Center Houston last month. Teams from across the country — including three Texas teams — pitched business plans based on NASA-originated technology. Click here to learn more about the seven finalists.