LabReady ensures samples make it from the patient to the lab without compromising the quality of the sample. Photo via vaximmune.com

Houston-based Vax-Immune Diagnostics has commenced on a new multicenter clinical trial to roll out a specific lab test as a part of its LabReady product.

The 12-week study will analyze results from Group B Streptococcus lab tests in expecting mothers. Currently, 16 to 20 percent of pregnant women are affected by GBS, according to a news release, which will then infect their newborn through the childbirth process.

Vax-Immune's product, LabReady, enhances the transportation process of lab samples and aims to improve the quality of results in patients. The company is expected to report data from the trial this summer.

"Currently samples are not regulated through transport from the patient to the lab often causing inaccurate test results. And inaccurate test results can cause significant problems since medical decisions are based on these results," Dr. Leonard E. Weisman, president and chief technology officer at Vax-Immune Diagnostics, says in the release.

"Our device, LabReady collects, protects, processes, and prepares the sample from the patient through transport, so when it arrives at the laboratory, infection can easily and accurately be diagnosed."

This study is planned to randomize approximately 300 patients from 35 to 37 weeks of pregnancy, according to the release. GBS is the most common cause of infections such as sepsis, meningitis, and pneumonia among newborns. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, among other organizations, have launched efforts for screenings and tests to reduce cases of neonatal GBS disease.

Vax-Immune was a member of the Texas Medical Center's 2018 TMCx Medical Device cohort and pitched at the 7th TMCx Demo Day. The company is a JLABS @ TMC resident.

Over 700 people watched TMCx's Demo Day either in person or online. Photo by Cody Duty/TMC

5 Texas companies present the future of health care at TMCx's Demo Day

Homegrown heroes

After four months of product design, networking with medical professionals, pitching to investors, and more, 23 startup leaders had just a few minutes to show the medical community what they've achieved and where they're going next.

Over 700 attendees made it to TMCx's 7th Demo Day or tuned in online to see the results of Houston's award-winning medical devices accelerator program.

"It's really the draw of the experts within our 23 hospitals and clinics that really makes us quite special in our ecosystem compared to the East and West coasts," Texas Medical Center CEO Bill McKeon says. "We're proud to call ourselves the Third Coast of the life sciences."

The cohort, which is the most international to date with nine international companies, has already raised $73 million and confirmed 108 signed agreements for medical professional partnerships.

"The thing that cracks me up from time to time," says Erik Halvorsen, director of the TMC Innovation Institute, "is when you see these talks that say, 'what can the Houston ecosystem learn from Silicon Valley.' Well you know what, I think we're ready to flip that, and say, 'here's what can Silicon Valley learn from us here in Houston — what we've built and where we're headed.'"

From a wearable device that reduces back pain to a new technology that reduces suicidal thoughts, the cohort's presentations didn't disappoint. While all the cohorts made business connections to Houston in the months they were at TMCx, five of the 23 companies are based in Texas. Here are the companies with Lone Star State roots.

Articulate Labs

Articulate Labs' KneeStim allows for everyday activities to be muscle-building exercises.

Photo via articulatelabs.com

Herbie Kirn, co-founder and chief scientific officer of Articulate Labs, lost his leg from the knee down in a motorcycle accident and quickly wore through his other knee's cartilage. If he didn't do sufficient rehabilitation and physical therapy, he would lose function of that leg too.

Over 14 million people in the United States individuals suffer from chronic knee problems; however, whether it be due to time or cost, over 70 percent of those affected cannot attend the prescribed physical therapy.

Dallas-based Articulate Labs has a solution. The KneeStim device allows the patient to turn daily activities into rehabilitation exercises.

The company has raised a little over $500,000 already, but looks to raise $1 million with its next round of funding. Articulate Labs is also looking for more scientific and strategic partners.

Intelligent Implants

intelligent implants

Intelligent Implant's co-founder, Juan Pardo, told the crowd at Demo Day that his company's device allows for 50 percent faster bone growth in patients.

Photo by Cody Duty/TMC

Chronic lower back pain can result in a need for spinal fusion surgery — and 40 percent of those surgeries fail, says Juan Pardo, co-founder of Intelligent Implants, which has an office in Houston. Pardo and his team have come up with an implant that tracks post-op healing and introduces electronic stimulation wirelessly.

The device is the same size and shape as the spacer that surgeons currently use, but contains a technology that can deliver electronic stimulation therapy and monitor progress without needing batteries. The doctor is able to adjust treatment remotely, and the device can heal the patient 50 percent faster than the standard care.

Intelligent Implants was announced as the first in-residence company at the Center for Device Innovation by Johnson and Johnson and also launched its large animal studies. The company has a goal to raise $1.6 million, and has already secured $900,000 — $250,000 of which came from the new TMC Venture Fund.

Noleus Technologies

Swarna Balasubramaniam, an experienced surgeon, created a device that heal gastrointestinal surgery patients faster.

Photo by Cody Duty/TMC

Swarna Balasubramaniam watched helplessly as her mom slowly healed from gastrointestinal surgery. She couldn't eat and had trouble sleeping — both of which hindered her ability to heal quickly.

Balasubramaniam, founder of Houston-based Noleus Technologies, created a solution that reduces swelling in the bowels after operation. The disposable device is inserted into the abdomen at the time of surgery, and folds up like a fan to be removed without another surgery.

The invention is attractive to all parties involved. Patients are able to heal quicker, and surgeons are able to provide better care for their patients. Additionally, hospitals, which have bundled reimbursement for surgeries like this, are able to shorten the recovery time for patients thus reducing the costs spent on caring for the patient. Balasubramaniam says she estimates the device saving hospitals $4,000 per patient.

Vax-Immune Diagnostics

LabReady ensures samples make it from the patient to the lab without compromising the quality of the sample.

Photo via vaximmune.com

Over 70 percent of care decisions come from lab results, but more than 20 percent of microbiology lab tests are inaccurate due to problems in transport from the patient to the lab. Leonard Weisman, founder and chief technology officer of Houston-based Vax-Immune Diagnostics, invented Lab Ready — a tool for protecting the quality of the sample for testing.

The device is easy for patients to use at home and send to the lab directly, and the device is likewise easy to use by lab technicians.

Lab Ready is prepared to launch in 2019, immediately following FDA approval. Vax-Immune is on track to meet its funding goal of $5 million in the first quarter of 2019.

VenoStent

VenoStent wants every external stent procedure is successful on its first try.

Photo via venostent.com

Patients with kidney disease or diabetes have four chances to get an external stent successfully inserted into their arms for dialysis treatment, and the current standard of care results in a failure in half of these access sites, says Tim Biore, founder of Houston-based VenoStent.

It was Biore's vision to create a device that allows a successful stent implementation on the first try. VenoStent's SelfWrap is made from a shape-memory polymer that uses body heat to mold the stent into the vein-artery junction.

One in eight people suffer from kidney disease, and Biore says SelfWrap would save Medicare upwards of $200 million annually, while improving the success rate by 20 to 30 percent.

VenoStent has seven signed agreements from partners as a result of the accelerator program. The company is seeking $2.4 million to continue manufacturing as they await FDA clearance — expected in early 2022.

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Houston college to launch new smart building degree-program in the fall

coming soon

Houston Community College will launch a new 60-hour Smart Building Technology program this fall, the college announced last week.

The program will train students on the installation of low-voltage controls, such as audio/visual systems, energy management, lighting controls, security cameras, burglar and fire alarm systems, retail and grocery store automation, medical automation and more, according to HCC. Students will receive an Associate of Applied Science degree after completing the program.

“This program is both cutting edge and down to earth,” Matt Adams, instructor and program coordinator for HCC’s Electrical Technology program, said in a statement.

"A lot of new technology is coming into this industry, but a lot of the technology is the same as it has been for the last five to 10 years," he went on to add. "What is new is the integration of it all, making it all work together, to make people’s lives better.”

The Smart Building Technology program will be part of HCC Central’s Electrical Technology program in the Architectural Design and Construction Center of Excellence (COE). According to the college, it's one of the first programs of its kind.

Adams says that the earning potential in this line of work starts at around $50,000 a year, with the potential to earn double that with additional learning and training.

In late 2022, HCC and partners also received a $1.8 million grant from JP Morgan Chase to launch a new certificate program to help residents who come from some of Houston’s most underserved and under-resourced neighborhoods find career opportunities in the clean energy, disaster response, utilities, trades and manufacturing fields. Partnering employers included The City of Houston, Harris County and TRIO Electric.

Meanwhile, Houston Methodist and Texas A&M University graduated the inaugural class from its School of Engineering Medicine earlier this month.

Graphic courtesy of HCC

Houston expert: How technology can be used to bridge the health equity gap

guest column

Progressively over the last decade, the health care industry has become increasingly aware of the role that social determinants of health play in the health outcomes of patients.

Social determinants of health, or SDOH, are the conditions in which people are born, grow, live, work, and age, and they have a significant impact on a person's health and well-being. Examples of SDOH include income, education level, housing, and access to healthy food.

One of the key challenges facing health care organizations and providers is how to address health equity gaps, which are the differences in health outcomes between different populations. Health equity gaps are often caused by social determinants of health, and they can be particularly pronounced among vulnerable populations such as low-income communities, racial and ethnic minorities, and those living in rural areas.

Experience management technology has emerged as a powerful tool for addressing these equity gaps. This technology uses feedback, behaviors, and other relevant SDOH data in order to understand the unique needs of different populations and develop targeted interventions to improve their health outcomes.

One of the key ways that experience management technology can help decrease health equity gaps is by segmenting populations by social determinants of health. By collecting data on patients' demographics, such as their age, race, income, and education level, health care organizations can gain a better understanding of the SDOH that are most relevant to each population. This information can be used to develop personalized actions that address the specific needs of each population, rather than relying on a one-size-fits-all approach.

For example, health care organizations could use experience management technology to gather feedback from patients on their access to healthy food. By segmenting the patient population by zip code, health care organizations could identify patients in rural areas who do not have easy access to quality care facilities and providers. These patients could then be targeted with interventions such as transportation assistance programs or care coordination programs, which could help address their specific needs.

In addition to segmenting populations by social determinants of health, experience management technology can also help health care organizations gather insights into patient behaviors. By integrating data on patients' health behaviors, such as adherence to treatment or missed appointments, health care organizations can develop targeted interventions that encourage healthy behaviors.

For example, health care providers could use experience management technology to collect data on patients' treatment habits. Patients who report low adherence to treatment could be targeted with interventions such as treatment education programs or care coaching, which could help them develop healthier habits over time.

Finally, experience management technology can help health care organizations gain insight into their patient’s end to end journey. By integrating data from multiple sources, such as electronic health records, patient feedback, and social determinants of health data, health care organizations can develop a more comprehensive understanding of patients' health needs and brand expectations. This unified illustration allows health care organizations to improve business outcomes such as lower readmission rates, and create loyal patients that will refer their friends and family in the most important and sensitive moments in their lives.

In conclusion, experience management technology has emerged as a powerful tool for addressing health equity gaps by segmenting populations by social determinants of health, understanding and acting on their unique needs through feedback, behaviors, and dynamic integrations. By leveraging this technology, health care organizations can develop unique solutions that improve the health outcomes of vulnerable populations, such as low-income communities, racial and ethnic minorities, and those living in rural areas.

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.

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Ariel Jones is the head of health care provider solution strategy for Qualtrics XM, an American Experience Management company providing software solutions for customer and employee experience.

New sports festival reveals plans to take over downtown Houston next spring

pokatok prep

A Houston team announced their plans to bring the “world’s fair for sports” to downtown Houston in April 2024.

Pokatok, the four-day festival, will feature a sports tech expo, a film festival, speakers and panels, live music, pitch competitions, and more. The venue will be George R. Brown Convention Center, Discovery Green, and various nearby hotels, according to the release.

Gow Companies, founded by Lawson Gow (who is the son of David Gow, InnovationMap's parent company's CEO), announced that the team has secured support from Houston First, the Greater Houston Partnership, and the Harris County Houston Sports Authority to put on the event, which is slated to take place April 4-7, 2024. The company also owns Houston Exponential and a sports accelerator called Pokatok Labs.

“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 will take place in April 2024 in downtown. Rendering courtesy of Pokatok

The festival 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.

The Pokatok Fan Festival's track will include product releases, demos for sports technology, sporting events, competitions, tournaments, and more.

Houston is no stranger to hosting major sport events, Harris County - Houston Sports Authority CEO Janis Burke points out in the news release, including the 2023 NCAA Men’s Final Four and the upcoming 2024 College Football National Championship, the 2024 Cricket World Cup, and the 2026 FIFA World Cup.

"Houston is known as one of the best sports destinations in the world," Burke continues. "As an organization, we are consistently looking for ways to innovate and grow in the sports sector. Events like Pokatok are great for advancing sports within the region and providing unique opportunities for our community!"

Tickets are expected to go on sale in the fall, and the organization is looking for potential speakers and partners. The festival's name derives from sport of pok-a-tok, which dates back thousands of years as the world’s first team sport played throughout Mesoamerica.

“The City of Houston is a sports town to its core and has been host to some of the greatest events and moments in sports,” says Mayor Sylvester Turner in the release. “Pokatok will help further Houston’s vision of being a destination city for global sporting events and innovations. The business community also supports this venture, and I thank them for their involvement and support. This project is an excellent example of local business leaders joining forces to expand the attractions the City has to offer to both residents and visitors.”

Pokatok will take place in and around the George R. Brown Convention Center. Rendering courtesy of Pokatok