Teamwork

TMC receives grant to collaborate with a government agency to enhance illness-detecting technology

The TMC Innovation Institute has been tapped by the government to collaborate on illness-detecting technology. Courtesy of TMC

The Texas Medical Center has been identified as a key partner for a national health-focused initiative. TMCx has been selected as one of eight accelerator programs to be a part of the program that focuses on identifying emerging health security threats, according to a release from TMC.

The United States Department of Health and Human Services has provided TMCx a $96,500 to conduct research and provide solutions for two different challenges within mitigating these risks.

"The first is 'pre-symptomatic' detection of illness, or detecting illness in patients and suggesting treatment before they even begin to show symptoms," the release reads. "The second is addressing sepsis, a life-threatening reaction to infection."

Sepsis, which is one of the most costly illnesses hospitals treat, affects 1.7 million patients a year.

HHS' Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority, or BARDA, has a new entity called DRIVe, which stands for Division of Research, Innovation, and Ventures. The effort will be lead by the new organization, which comes at a result of the 21st Century Cures Act that was enacted to spur health security within technology.

In July, HHS officials toured the TMC Innovation Institute campus before deciding to work with the accelerator. TMCx is no stranger to the national spotlight. In November, the organization was lauded for its accelerator program with a national award.

The accelerator has announced its eighth cohort of startups this spring. The 21 companies will be focused on digital health. Last cohort, TMCx accelerated 23 companies that raised $73 million by demo day.

In December, Erik Halvorsen, who had lead the Innovation Institute for a few years, abruptly left his position as director. Lance Black, associate director of TMCx, has been named the interim director.

Ignite Healthcare Network has hosted a pitch compeition for a few years now, but this is the first year for its mini-accelerator program. Courtesy of Ignite

Within health care, female consumers make 80 percent of the buying power while women hold 65 percent of the workforce's jobs, according to a recent study. However, when you look at the C-suites in the industry, those percentages fall drastically, says Ayse McCracken.

"For as many women as there are involved in health care, it's not reflected in leadership," says McCracken, founder of Ignite Healthcare Network. "That's what brought us together."

Just 30 percent of health care C-suites are women — and only 13 percent have female CEOs, per the report by Oliver Wyman. Houston-based nonprofit Ignite is an organization comprised of over 150 of these rare female health care execs and focused on clearing a path for future female leaders in the industry.

McCracken founded the network in 2016, and her team established a "Shark Tank-style" pitch competition. After three years of the annual event seeing successes, Ignite is introducing its inaugural mini-accelerator program.

"As we saw this innovation economy and startup space begin to evolve in the city, it seemed that our contribution to this was that we could help incubate and find companies that had high likelihood of success," says McCracken.

Ignite and its partners identified 13 female-led companies from all around the world were selected from over 80 applications and now will go through a 10-week program called the Customer-Partner Program. Each company is paired with a partner and potential customer — from Memorial Hermann and Texas Children's Hospital to Humana and Gallagher.

Here are the participating female-led startups:

  • iTreatMD from San Francisco
  • BabyNoggin (by Qidza) from San Francisco
  • Ria Health from San Francisco
  • Savonix from San Francisco
  • MotiSpark from Los Angeles
  • UpHold Health from Chicago
  • Sound Scouts from Sydney, Australia
  • Augment Therapy from Cleveland, Ohio
  • Oncora Medical Philadelphia
  • Materna Medical from Mountain View, California
  • Path Ex Inc Houston
  • PyrAmes Inc. from Cupertino, California
  • Spoke Health Denver

The Fire Pitch Competition will take place on October 17 at the Texas Medical Center's Innovation Institute. Hundreds of thousands of dollars in prizes is on the line for the 13 companies.

"This year's event is already receiving increased recognition from investors," says Ignite board member and event co-chair, Cheryl Stavins, in a release. "In addition to the top three finalists sharing awards that include entry into the TMCx Digital Health Accelerator, over $125,000 in professional services, and cash prizes of $10,000, Fire Pitch participants will be eligible for investment prizes."

The Texas Halo Fund will be awarding its $100,000 investment prize, called the Corona Award, along with a $50,000 prize from TMC Innovation Institute.

Beyond the new program, McCracken says she wants to expand Ignite's reach and capabilities for its members and startups — including new investment opportunities.

"I think what we're doing now is reaching out beyond Houston and looking at how we can continue to grow the opportunity to have an impact and help women-led companies and women in organizations," she says.