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University of Houston reveals $35M campus transformation ahead of centennial

Coogs' house is getting ready for a remodel. Rendering courtesy of UH

As the University of Houston gets ready for its centennial in 2027, the school is launching a major transformation to its urban campus. The $35 million project aims to transform several prominent areas of the university grounds and create a stronger first impression of the school — and stir up pride for students, faculty, staff, and alumni.

To achieve this transformation of the Coogs’ lair, the university hired Houston-based urban design firm OJB, which will develop a new multi-purpose gathering space — dubbed Centennial Plaza —at the heart of the campus. Harking to great university and collegiate gathering spaces, Centennial Plaza will be constructed in the original — and familiar — campus quad. Plans call for an “awe-inspiring” public destination for game day and students events and official ceremonies,

Meanwhile, UH's’ main entrance on University Drive will be reimagined and redefined, meant to create a memorable arrival experience. A new gateway monument will be installed at Spur 5, according to press materials. In a push to assist with campus walkability, a new, continuous line of trees will form a shaded central pathway from the gateway to Cullen Performance Hall.

Rendering courtesy of UH

Other aspects of the project include the addition of monument gateways at several university entrances. Sustainable landscaping and storm water management will be also be added across campus.

The design process is currently underway with construction expected to commence next summer.

“Our centennial plan is a transformative project,” University of Houston President Renu Khator says in a press release announcing the initiative. “The University of Houston is a crucial part of the fourth largest city in the country, and having a welcoming campus that everyone can be proud of is paramount. This reimagination will create a sense of place, community and learning, while also promoting health and well-being not only for our students, but for all Houstonians.”

Additional areas targeted for landscaping improvements are Lynn Eusan Park, Cougar Woods, Butler Plaza, and the campus woodland from the Science and Research 1 building to the Gerald D. Hines College of Architecture and Design.

The campus enhancements are scheduled to be completed by the end of 2026 to help kick off the school's centennial celebrations.

Current and past Coogs should take heart in OJB’s design resume — especially with institutes of higher learning. Locally and in Texas, the award-winning, prolific firm has designed Aggie Park at Texas A&M University and the popular Klyde Warren Park in Dallas. Statewide it has overseen campus improvements for Rice, Baylor, and Texas Tech universities. Nationally, OBJ has spearheaded improvements at prestigious institutions such as Harvard and Stanford.

“So much of the student and campus experience is found in the spaces in between buildings: its landscape and open spaces,” Chip Trageser, partner in charge for OJB, notes in a press statement. “We know that spending time outdoors is beneficial for social connection, as well as improved mental and physical health. Creating inclusive spaces for people to come together is at the core of innovation. The Centennial Plan strengthens these experiences, not only from a physical point of view, but also as an expression of the University of Houston’s values and mission.”

Earlier this year, UH also revealed details on its central hub for innovation on campus. The building, which is slated to open in 2025 next to the M.D. Anderson Library on UH's main campus, will be around 70,000 square feet and will house a makerspace, the Cyvia and Melvyn Wolff Center for Entrepreneurship, the Energy Transition Institute, innovation programs, and Presidential Frontier Faculty labs and offices.

In short, big changes and updates are coming to the Coogs House.

Rendering courtesy of UH


Steven Devadanam contributed to this article, which originally ran on CultureMap.

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A research team housed out of the newly launched Rice Biotech Launch Pad received funding to scale tech that could slash cancer deaths in half. Photo via Rice University

A research funding agency has deployed capital into a team at Rice University that's working to develop a technology that could cut cancer-related deaths in half.

Rice researchers received $45 million from the National Institutes of Health's Advanced Research Projects Agency for Health, or ARPA-H, to scale up development of a sense-and-respond implant technology. Rice bioengineer Omid Veiseh leads the team developing the technology as principal investigator.

“Instead of tethering patients to hospital beds, IV bags and external monitors, we’ll use a minimally invasive procedure to implant a small device that continuously monitors their cancer and adjusts their immunotherapy dose in real time,” he says in a news release. “This kind of ‘closed-loop therapy’ has been used for managing diabetes, where you have a glucose monitor that continuously talks to an insulin pump. But for cancer immunotherapy, it’s revolutionary.”

Joining Veiseh on the 19-person research project named THOR, which stands for “targeted hybrid oncotherapeutic regulation,” is Amir Jazaeri, co-PI and professor of gynecologic oncology at the University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center. The device they are developing is called HAMMR, or hybrid advanced molecular manufacturing regulator.

“Cancer cells are continually evolving and adapting to therapy. However, currently available diagnostic tools, including radiologic tests, blood assays and biopsies, provide very infrequent and limited snapshots of this dynamic process," Jazaeri adds. "As a result, today’s therapies treat cancer as if it were a static disease. We believe THOR could transform the status quo by providing real-time data from the tumor environment that can in turn guide more effective and tumor-informed novel therapies.”

With a national team of engineers, physicians, and experts across synthetic biology, materials science, immunology, oncology, and more, the team will receive its funding through the Rice Biotech Launch Pad, a newly launched initiative led by Veiseh that exists to help life-saving medical innovation scale quickly.

"Rice is proud to be the recipient of the second major funding award from the ARPA-H, a new funding agency established last year to support research that catalyzes health breakthroughs," Rice President Reginald DesRoches says. "The research Rice bioengineer Omid Veiseh is doing in leading this team is truly groundbreaking and could potentially save hundreds of thousands of lives each year. This is the type of research that makes a significant impact on the world.”

The initial focus of the technology will be on ovarian cancer, and this funding agreement includes a first-phase clinical trial of HAMMR for the treatment of recurrent ovarian cancer that's expected to take place in the fourth year of THOR’s multi-year project.

“The technology is broadly applicable for peritoneal cancers that affect the pancreas, liver, lungs and other organs,” Veiseh says. “The first clinical trial will focus on refractory recurrent ovarian cancer, and the benefit of that is that we have an ongoing trial for ovarian cancer with our encapsulated cytokine ‘drug factory’ technology. We'll be able to build on that experience. We have already demonstrated a unique model to go from concept to clinical trial within five years, and HAMMR is the next iteration of that approach.”

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