Time for An Upgrade

These modern Houston office spaces pile on the perks in fab locations

Your own office space at 53 West comes with plenty of shared perks. Photo courtesy of Urban Office

Companies are doing a major rethink post-pandemic about their office spaces. It's no longer an option to offer employees a sub-par work space, and those signing the lease aren't willing to overpay for less-than-impressive amenities.

That's why Urban Office, from Braun Enterprises, has been debuting office options that are heavy on the perks, spot on with location, and versatile in layout, all at more affordable prices than their counterparts.

Take, for example, 53 West at 5373 W. Alabama St. Located just steps from The Galleria, the property is well positioned in a dense retail corridor with superior walkability and is neighbored by major national and local tenants, restaurants, bars, and hotels.

Or its newest, Spring Branch Village, which is officially opening in July. This office is surrounded by an ideal mix of affluent neighborhoods including Spring Branch East, Memorial/The Villages, and The Heights.

Both offer such shared amenities as free high-speed internet, snacks and coffee plus a full operating kitchen, shared conference spaces and private phone booths, and printing/scanning/copying equipment.

The onsite parking is free — a definite plus over congested (and pricy) downtown parking — and members have 24/7 access to the space.

The shared amenities and secure, private offices are a great solution for small businesses like lawyers, insurance agencies, marketing firms, Realtors, photographers, and other entrepreneurs, as there is a variety of office layouts that can accommodate a range of team sizes. Furnishings — including electric standing desks — are also available.

To further that feeling of flexibility, rental agreements typically run 12 months, with shorter agreements available. Existing Urban Office members can also upgrade to a larger space within their building or at another Urban Office location any time during their rental agreement.

Offices are going fast at 53 West, and similar excitement is expected at Spring Branch once it opens. To book a tour or learn more about Urban Office's Houston and San Antonio locations, visit the website.

It's just steps from The Galleria. Photo courtesy of Urban Office

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From a low-cost vaccine to an app that can help reduce exposure, here are the latest COVID-focused and Houston-based research projects. Photo via Getty Images

While it might seem like the COVID-19 pandemic has settled down for the time being, there's plenty of innovative research ongoing to create solutions for affordable vaccines and tech-enabled protection against the spread of the virus.

Some of that research is happening right here in Houston. Here are two innovative projects in the works at local institutions.

UH researcher designs app to monitor best times to shop

A UH professor is putting safe shopping at your fingertips. Photo via UH.edu

When is the best time to run an errand in the pandemic era we currently reside? There might be an app for that. Albert Cheng, professor of computer science and electrical and computer engineering at the University of Houston, is working on a real-time COVID-19 infection risk assessment and mitigation system. He presented his plans at the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers conference HPC for Urgent Decision Making and will publish the work in IEEE Xplore.

Cheng's work analyzes up-to-date data from multiple open sources to see when is the best time to avoid crowds and accomplish activities outside the home.

"Preliminary work has been performed to determine the usability of a number of COVID-19 data websites and other websites such as grocery stores and restaurants' popular times and traffic," Cheng says in a UH release. "Other data, such as vaccination rates and cultural factors (for example, the percentage of people willing to wear facial coverings or masks in an area), are also used to determine the best grocery store to shop in within a time frame."

To use the app, a user would input their intended destinations and the farthest distance willing to go, as well as the time frame of the trip. The risk assessment and mitigation system, or RT-CIRAM, then "provides as output the target location and the time interval to reach there that would reduce the chance of infections," said Cheng.

There's a lot to it, says Cheng, and the process is highly reliant on technology.

"We are leveraging urgent high-performance cloud computing, coupled with time-critical scheduling and routing techniques, along with our expertise in real-time embedded systems and cyber-physical systems, machine learning, medical devices, real-time knowledge/rule-based decision systems, formal verification, functional reactive systems, virtualization and intrusion detection," says Cheng.

2 Houston hospitals team up with immunotherapy company for new vaccine for Africa

The new vaccine will hopefully help mitigate spread of the disease in Sub-Saharan Africa. Photo via bcm.edu

Baylor College of Medicine and Texas Children's Hospital have teamed up with ImmunityBio Inc. — a clinical-stage immunotherapy company — under a licensing agreement to develop a safe, effective and affordable COVID-19 vaccine.

BCM has licensed out a recombinant protein COVID-19 vaccine candidate that was developed at the Texas Children's Hospital Center for Vaccine Development to ImmunityBio. According to the release, the company engaged in license negotiations with the BCM Ventures team, about the vaccine that could address the current pandemic needs in South Africa.

"We hope that our COVID-19 vaccine for global health might become an important step towards advancing vaccine development capacity in South Africa, and ultimately for all of Sub-Saharan Africa," says Dr. Peter Hotez, professor and dean of the National School of Tropical Medicine at Baylor and co-director of the Texas Children's Hospital Center for Vaccine Development.

ImmunityBio, which was founded in 2014 by Dr. Patrick Soon-Shiong, is working on innovative immunotherapies that address serious unmet needs in infectious diseases, according to a news release from BCM.

"There is a great need for second-generation vaccines, which are accessible, durable and offer broad protection against the emerging variants," says Soon-Shiong. "ImmunityBio has executed on a heterologous ("mix-and-match") strategy to develop a universal COVID-19 vaccine. To accomplish this, we have embarked upon large-scale good manufacturing practices and development of DNA (adenovirus), RNA (self-amplifying mRNA) and subunit protein (yeast) vaccine platforms. This comprehensive approach will leverage our expertise in these platforms for both infectious disease and cancer therapies."

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