MD Anderson broke ground on a 600,000 square-foot building that is specifically designed to enable great minds to meet with the goal of conquering cancer. Photo courtesy of MD Anderson

Houston is where medical researchers and clinicians come together. And it’s getting easier for that to happen thanks to an innovative new facility from The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center.

On September 20, the world-class institution broke ground on a 600,000 square-foot building that is specifically designed to enable great minds to meet with the goal of conquering cancer.

Construction on the seven-story structure, known as South Campus Research Building 5 (SCRB5), is supported by a $668 million institutional grant. The facility is expected to be completed in 2026. Designed by Elkus Manfredi Architects, it will include both high-tech research rooms and public spaces that include a restaurant, conference center and spaces for lectures. A landscaped park is designed by Mikyoung Kim Design.

“The construction of our visionary new research building marks the beginning of our next chapter in Making Cancer History,” Peter WT Pisters, M.D., president of MD Anderson, says in a press release. “With input from hundreds of MD Anderson teammates, we have carefully designed this building and our research campus to foster collaboration, to stimulate creativity and to fuel breakthroughs that will improve the lives of patients here and around the globe.”

SCRB5 is located at 1920 Spanish Trail and is considered an extension of upcoming Helix Park, Texas Medical Center’s 5 million square-foot research campus. Both are specifically designed to create seamless collaborations between scientists and clinicians, where water cooler chat can lead to world-changing discoveries. MD Anderson has already announced that the building will be home to a number of strategic research programs, including the James P. Allison Institute.

The new construction isn’t just notable for the discoveries that will be made there. In itself, SCRB5 will be an exceptionally sustainable and efficient building, with surrounding green spots and connecting pathways that will serve as inspiration for all who work there. This only makes sense for MD Anderson, which invested $1.1 billion in funding in the last fiscal year. In the same year, the institution had more projects funded by the National Cancer Institute than any other.

Rendering courtesy of MD Anderson

Six Houston inventors have been recognized with the highest professional distinction for inventors within academia. Photo via Pexels

6 Houston-area inventors named fellows in prestigious program

best in class

The National Academy of Inventors has announced its annual set of NAI Fellows — and six Houstonians make the list of the 164 honorees from 116 research institutions worldwide.

The NAI Fellows Program honors academic inventors "who have demonstrated a spirit of innovation in creating or facilitating outstanding inventions that have made a tangible impact on the quality of life, economic development, and the welfare of society," according to a news release. The appointment is the highest professional distinction for inventors within academia.

The six Houstonians on the list join a group that hold more than 48,000 U.S. patents, which have generated over 13,000 licensed technologies and companies, and created more than one million jobs, per the release. Additionally, $3 trillion in revenue has been generated based on NAI Fellow discoveries.

These are the scientists from Houston organizations:

    • Zhiqiang An, University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston: An is the director of the Texas Therapeutics Institute, a drug discovery program operated by the John P. and Kathrine G. McGovern Medical School at Houston. He's also a professor of molecular medicine and holder of the Robert A. Welch Distinguished University Chair in Chemistry at UTHealth.
    • Alex Ignatiev, University of Houston: Ignatiev served as director of two NASA-supported research and technology development centers at the University of Houston and as Lillie Cranz and Hugh Roy Cullen Professor of Physics, Chemistry, and Electrical and Computer Engineering.
    • David Jaffray, University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center: Jaffray was appointed MD Anderson's first-ever chief technology and digital officer in 2019. He oversees MD Anderson’s Information Services division and Information Security department and is a professor of Radiation Physics with a joint appointment in Imaging Physics.
    • Pei-Yong Shi,The University of Texas Medical Branch: Pei-Yong Shi is a professor and John Sealy Distinguished Chair in Innovations in Molecular Biology Department of Biochemistry & Molecular Biology;. He's also the Vice Chair for Innovation and Commercialization.
    • Ganesh Thakur, University of Houston: Thakur is a pioneer in carbon capture, utilization and storage and has a patent on forecasting performance of water injection and enhanced oil recovery. His team is continuing to push the research envelope for CCUS employing world-class lab research, simulation, machine learning and artificial intelligence.
    • Darren Woodside, Texas Heart Institute: Woodside is the Vice President for Research and Director of the Flow Cytometry and Imaging Core at the Texas Heart Institute. His research centers around the role that cell adhesion plays in cardiovascular and autoimmune diseases, and the development of novel means to identify and treat these diseases.
    Ten other Texas-based innovators made the list, including:
    • Sanjay Banerjee, The University of Texas at Austin
    • Thomas Boland, The University of Texas at El Paso
    • Joan Brennecke, The University of Texas at Austin
    • Gerard Cote, Texas A&M University
    • Ananth Dodabalapur, The University of Texas at Austin
    • Holloway (Holly) H. Frost Jr., The University of Texas at Arlington
    • James E. Hubbard, Texas A&M University
    • Yi Lu, University of Texas at Austin
    • Samuel Prien, Texas Tech University
    • Earl E. Swartzlander Jr., The University of Texas at Austin
    This year's class will be inducted at the Fellows Induction Ceremony at the 11th Annual Meeting of the National Academy of Inventors in June in Phoenix, Arizona.

    "The caliber of this year's class of NAI Fellows is outstanding. Each of these individuals are highly-regarded in their respective fields," says Paul R. Sanberg, president of NAI's board of directors, in the release. "The breadth and scope of their discovery is truly staggering. I'm excited not only see their work continue, but also to see their knowledge influence a new era of science, technology, and innovation worldwide."

    Five Houston research centers have received funds from the Cancer Prevention and Research Institute of Texas in its most recent round of grants. Photo by Dwight C. Andrews/Greater Houston Convention and Visitors Bureau

    Houston cancer-fighting researchers granted over $30 million from statewide organization

    just granted

    The Cancer Prevention and Research Institute of Texas has again granted millions to Texas institutions. Across the state, cancer-fighting scientists have received 55 new grants totaling over $78 million.

    Five Houston-area institutions — Baylor College of Medicine, the University of Houston, The University of Texas Medical Branch at Galveston, The University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston, and the The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center — have received around $30 million of that grand total.

    "These awards reflect CPRIT's established priorities to invest in childhood cancer research, address population and geographic disparities, and recruit top cancer research talent to our academic institutions," says Wayne Roberts, CPRIT CEO, in a news release. "I'm excited about all the awardees, particularly those in San Antonio, a region that continues expand their cancer research and prevention prowess. San Antonio is poised to have an even greater impact across the Texas cancer-fighting ecosystem."

    Four grants went to new companies that are bringing new technologies to the market. Two companies with a presence in Houston — Asylia Therapeutics and Barricade Therapeutics Corp. — received grants in this category.

    Last fall, CPRIT gave out nearly $136 million to Texas researchers, and, to date, the organization has granted $2.49 billion to Texas research institutions and organizations.

    Here's what recent grants were made to Houston institutions.

    Baylor College of Medicine

    • $900,000 granted for Feng Yang's research in targeting AKT signaling in MAPK4-high Triple Negative Breast Cancer (Individual Investigator Award)
    • $897,527 Hyun-Sung Lee's research for Spatial Profiling of Tumor-Immune Microenvironment by Multiplexed Single Cell Imaging Mass Cytometry (Individual Investigator Award)
    • $899,847 for Joshua Wythe's research in targeting Endothelial Transcriptional Networks in GBM (Individual Investigator Award)

    University of Houston

    • $890,502 for Matthew Gallagher's research in Transdiagnostic Cognitive Behavioral Therapy for Smokers With Anxiety and Depression (Individual Investigator Research Award for Prevention and Early Detection)
    • $299,953 for Lorraine Reitzel's research in Taking Texas Tobacco Free Through a Sustainable Education/Training Program Designed for Personnel Addressing Tobacco Control in Behavioral Health Settings (Dissemination of CPRIT-Funded Cancer Control Interventions Award)

    The University of Texas Medical Branch at Galveston

    • $1,993,096 for Abbey Berenson's research in maximizing opportunities for HPV vaccination in medically underserved counties of Southeast Texas (Expansion of Cancer Prevention Services to Rural and Medically Underserved Populations)

    The University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston

    • $900,000 for Melissa Aldrich's research on "Can Microsurgeries Cure Lymphedema? An Objective Assessment" (Individual Investigator Award)
    • $900,000 for John Hancock's research in KRAS Spatiotemporal Dynamics: Novel Therapeutic Targets (Individual Investigator Award)
    • $900,000 for Nami McCarty's research in targeting Multiple Myeloma Stem Cell Niche (Individual Investigator Award)
    • $1.96 million for Paula Cuccaro's research in Expanding "All for Them": A comprehensive school-based approach to increase HPV vaccination through public schools (Expansion of Cancer Prevention Services to Rural and Medically Underserved Populations)

    The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center

    • $900,000 for Laurence Court's research in Artificial Intelligence for the Peer Review of Radiation Therapy Treatments
    • $900,000 for John deGroot's research in targeting MEK in EGFR-Amplified Glioblastoma (Individual Investigator Award)
    • $900,000 for Don Gibbons's research in Investigating the Role ofCD38 as a Mechanism of Acquired Resistance to Immune Checkpoint Inhibitors in Lung Cancer (Individual Investigator Award)
    • $900,000 for John Heymach's research in Molecular Features Impacting Drug Resistance in Atypical EGFR Exon 18 and Exon 20 Mutant NSCLC and the Development of Novel Mutant- Selective Inhibitors (Individual Investigator Award)
    • $900,000 for Zhen Fan's research in Development of a Novel Strategy for Tumor Delivery of MHC-I-Compatible Peptides for Cancer Immunotherapy (Individual Investigator Award)
    • $900,000 for Jin Seon Im's research in off the shelf, Cord-Derived iNK T cells Engineered to Prevent GVHD and Relapse After Hematopoietic Stem Cell Transplantation (Individual Investigator Award)
    • $900,000 for Jae-il Park's research in CRAD Tumor Suppressor and Mucinous Adenocarcinoma (Individual Investigator Award)
    • $900,000 for Helen Piwnica-Worms's research in Single-Cell Evaluation to Identify Tumor-stroma Niches Driving the Transition from In Situ to Invasive Breast Cancer (Individual Investigator Award)
    • $898,872 for Kunal Rai's research in Heterogeneity of Enhancer Patterns in Colorectal Cancers- Mechanisms and Therapy (Individual Investigator Award)
    • $900,000 for Ferdinandos Skoulidis's research in Elucidating Aberrant Splicing-Induced Immune Pathway Activation in RBMl0-Deficient KRAS-Mutant NSCLC and Harnessing Its Potential for Precision Immunotherapy (Individual Investigator Award)
    • $887,713 for Konstantin Sokolov's research in High-Sensitivity 19F MRI for Clinically Translatable Imaging of Adoptive NK Cell Brain Tumor Therapy (Individual Investigator Award)
    • $900,000 for Liuqing Yang's research in Adipocyte-Producing Noncoding RNA Promotes Liver Cancer Immunoresistance (Individual Investigator Award)
    • $1.44 million for Eugenie Kleinerman's research in Doxorubicin-Induced Cardiotoxicity: Defining Blood and Echocardiogram Biomarkers in a Mouse Model and AYA Sarcoma Patients for Evaluating Exercise Interventions (Individual Investigator Award for Cancer in Children and Adolescents)
    • $2.4 million for Arvind Dasari's research in Circulating Tumor DNA- Defined Minimal Residual Disease in Colorectal Cancer (Individual Investigator Research Award for Clinical Translation)
    • Targeting Alterations of the NOTCH! Pathway in Head and Neck Squamous Cell Carcinoma (HNSCC)(Faye Johnson) - $1.2 million (Individual Investigator Research Award for Clinical Translation)
    • $2.07 million for Florencia McAllister's research in Modulating the Gut- Tumor Microbial Axis to Reverse Pancreatic Cancer Immunosuooression (Individual Investigator Research Award for Clinical Translation)
    • $2 million to recruit Eric Smith, MD, PhD, to The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center from Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center (Recruitment of First-Time, Tenure-Track Faculty Members Award)
    • $2 million for Karen Basen-Engquist's research in Active Living After Cancer: Combining a Physical Activity Program with Survivor Navigation (Expansion of Cancer Prevention Services to Rural and Medically Underserved Populations)


    Seed Awards for Product Development Research

    • Houston and Boston-based Asylia Therapeutics's Jeno Gyuris was granted $3 million for its development of a Novel Approach to Cancer Immunotherapy by Targeting Extracellular Tumor- derived HSP70 to Dendritic Cells
    • Houston-based Barricade Therapeutics Corp.'s Neil Thapar was granted $3 million for its development of a First-In-Class Small Molecule, TASIN, for Targeting Truncated APC Mutations for the Treatment of Colorectal Cancer (CRC)
    Texas doctors and researchers received millions for their transformational work in cancer prevention and treatment. Getty Images

    A Texas organization has doled out millions to Houston cancer-fighting professionals

    granted

    Researchers at medical institutions across the state have something to celebrate. The Cancer Prevention and Research Institute of Texas has made 71 grants this week to cancer-fighting organizations that total a near $136 million.

    "CPRIT's priorities of pediatric cancer research and cancers of significance to Texans highlight this large slate of awards," says Wayne Roberts, CPRIT CEO, in a release. "Investments are made across the cancer research and prevention continuum in Texas unlike any other state in the country."

    New to the awards this time around is the Collaborative Action Program for Liver Cancer, which has been claimed by Baylor College of Medicine's Hashem B. El-Serag.

    "Texas has the highest incidence rates of hepatocellular cancer in the nation," El-Serag says in a release from BCM. "Our CPRIT funded Center will house infrastructure to support and enhance research collaborations among liver cancer researchers; to educate providers, researchers and the general public on best practices and opportunities to reduce the burden of liver cancer; and to engage private and public entities in policy initiatives."

    Houston organizations also received recruitment awards, which reward Texas organizations for bringing in great minds from across the world. According to the release, CPRIT has brought in a total of 181 scholars and 13 companies to the Lone Star State.

    Of the 71 grants, 58 represent academic research, 10 prevention, and three product development research. Here are the ones awarded to Houston organizations.

    The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center

    • $900,000 granted for Shao-Cung Sun's research in regulation of CD8 T cell responses in antitumor immunity (Individual Investigator Research Award)
    • $897,483 granted for Alemayehu A. Gorfe's research in characterization and optimization of novel allosteric KRAS inhibitors (Individual Investigator Research Award)
    • $3 million granted for Hashem B. El-Serag's research at The Texas Collaborative Center for Hepatocellular Cancer (Collaborative Action Program to Reduce Liver Cancer Mortality in Texas: Collaborative Action Center Award)
    • $2.46 million to Jessica Hwang for patient-centered liver cancer prevention in the Houston community (Collaborative Action Program to Reduce Liver Cancer Mortality in Texas: Investigator-Initiated Research Awards)
    • $3.51 million for Kevin McBride's Recombinant Antibody Production Core at Science Park
    • $199,804 granted for Andrea Viale's epithelial memory of resolved inflammation as a driver of pancreatic cancer progression (High Impact High Risk Award)
    • $6 million for the recruitment of Christopher Flowers, M.D. (Recruitment of Established Investigator Awards)
    • $2 million for the recruitment of Kevin Nead, MD, MPhil (Recruitment of First-Time, Tenure-Track Faculty Members Awards)
    • $2 million for the recruitment of Alison Taylor, PhD (Recruitment of First-Time, Tenure-Track Faculty Members Awards)
    • $2 million for the recruitment of Mackenzie Wehner, MD, MPhil (Recruitment of First-Time, Tenure-Track Faculty Members Awards)

    Baylor College of Medicine

    • $5.38 million granted for Steven J. Ludtke's new capabilities for cancer research in the TMC CryoEM Cores (Core Facility Support Awards)
    • $1.35 million granted for Bryan M. Burt's novel endoscope-cleaning port for minimally invasive cancer surgery (Early Translational Research Awards)
    • $199,500 granted for Yohannes T. Ghebre's Topical Esomeprazole for Radiation-induced Dermatitis (High Impact High Risk Award)
    • $199,920 granted for Robin Parihar's targeting of cancer associated fibroblasts with anti-IL-11-secreting CAR T cells (High Impact High Risk Award)
    • $2 million for the recruitment of Umesh Jadhav, PhD (Recruitment of First-Time, Tenure-Track Faculty Members Awards)
    • $2 million for the recruitment of Stanley Lee, PhD (Recruitment of First-Time, Tenure-Track Faculty Members Awards)
    • $2 million for the recruitment of Ang Li, MD (Recruitment of First-Time, Tenure-Track Faculty Members Awards)
    • $1.29 million for Jane R. Montealegre's expansion of "a Community Network for Cancer Prevention to Increase HPV Vaccine Uptake and Tobacco Prevention in a Medically Underserved Pediatric Population"

    Texas Medical Center

    • $5.44 million granted for William McKeon's Business-Driven Accelerator for Cancer Therapeutics (Core Facility Support Awards)

    The University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston

    • $5.95 million granted for Zhiqiang An's Advanced Cancer Antibody Drug Modalities Core Facility (Core Facility Support Awards)
    • $2 million granted for Qingyun Liu's discovery and development of novel peptibody-drug conjugate for treating cancers of the digestive system (Early Translational Research Awards)
    • $199,998 granted for Leng Han's expression landscape and biomedical significance of transfer RNAs in cancer (High Impact High Risk Award)
    • $2 million for Lara S. Savas' Salud en Mis Manos that delivers "Evidence-Based Breast & Cervical Cancer Prevention Services to Latinas in Underserved Texas South and Gulf Coast Communities"

    The University of Texas Medical Branch at Galveston

    • $3.55 million granted for William K. Russell's A Targeted Proteomics and Metabolomics Mass Spectrometry Core Facility at the University of Texas Medical Branch at Galveston (Core Facility Support Awards)
    • $199,996 granted for Brendan Prideaux's novel cellular-level imaging approach to assess payload drug distribution in tumors following administration of targeted drug delivery systems (High Impact High Risk Award)
    • $200,000 granted for Casey W. Wright's targeting ARNT and RBFOX2 alternative splicing as a novel treatment modality in lymphoid malignancies (High Impact High Risk Award)

    The Methodist Hospital Research Institute

    • $200,000 granted for Robert Rostomily's development of a mini-pig glioma model and validation of human clinical relevance (High Impact High Risk Award)

    Texas Southern University

    • $200,000 for Song Gao's alleviating SN-38-induced late-onset diarrhea by preserving local UGTs in the colon (High Impact High Risk Award)

    University of Houston

    • $200,000 granted for Sergey S. Shevkoplyas' Novel High-Throughput Microfluidic Device for Isolating T-cells Directly from Whole Blood to Simplify Manufacturing of Cellular Therapies (High Impact High Risk Award)

    Rice University

    • $2 million for the recruitment of Jiaozhi (George) Lu, PhD (Recruitment of First-Time, Tenure-Track Faculty Members Awards)
    • $1.67 million for the recruitment of Vicky Yao, PhD (Recruitment of First-Time, Tenure-Track Faculty Members Awards)

    The Rose

    • $2 million for Bernice Joseph's Empower Her To Care Expansion

    Legacy Community Health Services

    • $999,276 for Charlene Flash's "Increasing Breast and Colorectal Cancer Screening Rates for the Medically Underserved using Population Health Strategies at a Multi-County FQHC"
    Jim Allison's groundbreaking work with T cells helped him net the award. Photo courtesy of MD Anderson Cancer Center

    Houston scientist wins Nobel Prize for breakthrough cancer treatment

    Research Recognition

    A University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center scientist has been lauded for his cancer research. Jim Allison, Ph.D., was announced as the recipient of the 2018 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine on October 1.

    Allison, who is the chair of Immunology and executive director of the Immunotherapy Platform, is the first MD Anderson scientist to receive the world's most coveted award for discoveries in the fields of life sciences and medicine. Allison won for his work in launching an effective new way to attack cancer by treating the immune system rather than the tumor, according to a release.

    "I'm honored and humbled to receive this prestigious recognition," Allison says in a statement. "A driving motivation for scientists is simply to push the frontiers of knowledge. I didn't set out to study cancer, but to understand the biology of T cells, these incredible cells to travel our bodies and work to protect us."

    Allison shares the award with Tasuku Honjo, M.D., Ph.D., of Kyoto University in Japan. When announcing the honor, the Nobel Assembly of Karolinska Institute in Stockholm noted in a statement that "stimulating the ability of our immune system to attack tumor cells, this year's Nobel Prize laureates have established an entirely new principle for cancer therapy."

    The prize recognizes Allison's basic science discoveries on the biology of T cells, the adaptive immune system's soldiers, and his invention of immune checkpoint blockade to treat cancer. According to MD Anderson, Allison's crucial insight was to block a protein on T cells that acts as a brake on their activation, freeing the T cells to attack cancer. He developed an antibody to block the checkpoint protein CTLA-4 and demonstrated the success of the approach in experimental models.

    Allison's work led to the development of the first immune checkpoint inhibitor drug which would become the first to extend the survival of patients with late-stage melanoma. Follow-up studies show 20 percent of those treated live for at least three years, with many living for 10 years and beyond, unprecedented results, according to the cancer center.

    "Jim Allison's accomplishments on behalf of patients cannot be overstated," says MD Anderson president Peter WT Pisters, M.D., in a statement. "His research has led to life-saving treatments for people who otherwise would have little hope. The significance of immunotherapy as a form of cancer treatment will be felt for generations to come."

    "I never dreamed my research would take the direction it has," Allison adds. "It's a great, emotional privilege to meet cancer patients who've been successfully treated with immune checkpoint blockade. They are living proof of the power of basic science, of following our urge to learn and to understand how things work."

    ---

    This story originally appeared on CultureMap.

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    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.