gone global

Texas Medical Center announces 2 international innovation-focused collaborations

The TMC has announced its latest Biobridge with Ireland and a new biodesign program with Australia. Photo courtesy of TMC

The Texas Medical Center announced two new partnerships with international entities recently — both will bring innovative opportunities to the Houston area.

Enterprise Ireland, the country's trade and innovation agency, has entered into a strategic agreement with TMC to create the TMC's fourth biobridge. The new partnership will create gateway for Irish innovators to collaborate with the TMC to solve global health challenges.

“The breakthrough technology and entrepreneurship that is coming out of Ireland is truly impressive, and the TMC team is thrilled to be in Ireland today to solidify our partnership,” says William McKeon, president and CEO of the Texas Medical Center, in a news release. “The past two years has shown the importance of collaboration at a global scale, and we are eager to start our work with Enterprise Ireland’s team to further global innovation and research.”

Joining similar partnerships the TMC has with Denmark, the United Kingdom, and Australia, the new Irish Biobridge will focus on advancing health and life science through commercialization, innovation, and research — including identifying opportunities for clinical research and clinical trial activities, according to the release.

“The size, scale and reputation of Texas Medical Center brings new opportunities for Irish companies to innovate and scale and enter the US market,” says Leo Clancy, CEO of Enterprise Ireland, in a statement. “I am delighted to officially launch this partnership with TMC. Enterprise Ireland places a strong focus on driving innovation in the medtech industry and facilitating successful partnerships between Irish companies and influential global healthcare systems.”

Galway, Ireland-based LifeLet Medical, which is developing a novel biomimetic leaflet material for heart valve replacements, is part of TMC’s Accelerator program and is supported by Enterprise Ireland. Two other cohort companies — InVera Medical and Aurigen Medical — have been awarded funding under Irish government’s Disruptive Technologies Innovation Fund administered by Enterprise Ireland.

Also made official today is a new partnership between TMC Biodesign and Biodesign Australia, an organization led by The University of Western Australia that allows Biodesign collaboration across Perth, Melbourne, Sydney, Adelaide, and Brisbane. Australia has collaborated closely with the TMC since the country established its Biobridge in 2018. The two programs' founders and entrepreneurs will be provided with access to talent, clinical trial activity, expanded funding opportunities and market access, according to a news release.

“The launch of the Australian BioBridge in 2018 created a unique opportunity for the exchange of ideas, research and investment to advance medical breakthroughs both at Texas Medical Center and in Australia,” McKeon says in the release. “This expanded relationship with Biodesign Australia offers global opportunities for a new group of healthcare leaders, and we are excited to work collaboratively to provide a platform for innovation and commercialization.”

TMC Biodesign, which launched in 2015, helps connect health tech innovators and founders with mentors, business leaders, and technical expertise to take life-saving technologies to scale. The two programs have trained hundreds of health tech innovators.

“Biodesign Australia is thrilled to partner with Texas Medical Center in our shared goal of furthering healthcare innovation and entrepreneurship,” says Professor Kevin Pfleger, director Biomedical Innovation at The University of Western Australia, in the release. “By uniting the programming, talent and expertise found at Biodesign Australia and TMC, we are creating a dynamic ecosystem that will help to shape the future of healthcare.”

The TMC | Australia Biobridge has co-designed the Healthcare Activator — a program that allows Australian Digital Health and Medical Device companies to tap into Texas Medical Center Innovation programs and partners. Applications are now open for the inaugural cohort launched.

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Building Houston

 
 

BioBQ is working on technology to bring its lab-created, cell-cultured brisket to the market in 2023. Courtesy of BioBQ

Brisket, a barbecue staple in Texas, is as synonymous with the Lone Star State as the Alamo and oil wells. A Texas company recently recognized as the state’s most innovative startup wants to elevate this barbecue staple to a new high-tech level.

BioBQ is working on technology to bring its lab-created, cell-cultured brisket to the market in 2023. The Austin-based company made the Bloomberg news service’s new list of the 50 startups to watch in the U.S. — one startup for each state.

The co-founders of BioBQ are Austin native Katie Kam, a vegan with five college degrees (four from the University of Texas and one from Texas A&M University), and Janet Zoldan, a “hardcore carnivore” who’s a professor of biomedical engineering at UT. Kam is the CEO, and Zoldan is the chief science officer.

This kind of meat is genuine animal meat that’s produced by cultivating animal cells in a lab, according to the Good Food Institute.

“This production method eliminates the need to raise and farm animals for food. Cultivated meat is made of the same cell types arranged in the same or similar structure as animal tissues, thus replicating the sensory and nutritional profiles of conventional meat,” the institute says.

It turns that before becoming a vegan, Kam worked at the now-closed BB’s Smokehouse in Northwest Austin as a high school student. She’d chow down on sauce-slathered brisket and banana pudding during on-the-job breaks.

“But then over time, as I learned more about factory farming and could no longer make the distinction between my dogs and cats I loved and the animals that were on my plate, I decided to become vegan,” Kam writes on the BioBQ website.

Hearing about the 2013 rollout of the first cell-cultured hamburger set Kam off on her path toward starting BioBQ in 2018. Zoldan joined the startup as co-founder the following year.

Now, BioBQ aims to be the first company in the world to sell brisket and other barbecue meats, such as jerky, made from cultured cells rather than slaughtered animals.

According to BioBQ’s profile on the Crunchbase website, the startup relies on proprietary technology to efficiently produce meat products in weeks rather than the year or more it takes to raise and slaughter cattle. This process “allows control of meat content and taste, reduces environmental impacts of meat production, and takes BBQ to the next tasty, sustainable level consumers want,” the profile says.

In 2020, Texas Monthly writer Daniel Vaughn questioned BioBQ’s premise.

He wrote that “there is something about the idea of lab-grown brisket that keeps bothering me, and it has nothing to do with science fiction. If you could design any cut of beef from scratch, why choose one that’s so difficult to make delicious? Why not a whole steer’s worth of ribeyes?”

Kam offered a very entrepreneur-like response.

“I’m from Austin, and I know that brisket’s kind of a big deal here,” Kam told Vaughn. “It seemed like a great, challenging meat to demonstrate this technology working.”

Meanwhile, Zoldan came up with a more marketing-slanted reaction to Vaughn’s bewilderment.

“I don’t think cell-based meats will take over the market, but I think there’s a place for it on the market,” Zoldan she told Vaughn.

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This article originally ran on CultureMapCultureMap.

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