population health

University of Houston launches new health equity initiative, degree programs

The campus-wide initiative is focusing on health equity. Photo courtesy of University of Houston

The University of Houston announced its latest and largest initiative to improve health equity and outcomes in the city, state, and county this week.

About 70 percent of health outcomes can be traced back to factors outside of health care and genetics, according to the program's website. The campus-wide initiative, called UH Population Health, aims to take a deeper look into those outside factors, which can include lifestyle, environment, access to healthcare, and more.

UH will add health courses and degree programs to the university's curriculum as part of the initiative and aims to help undergraduate students align population health studies with their major.

It will also look to collaborate across industries to build digital solutions for chronic disease management, and boost its population health research. Currently individuals at the university are working on 27 research grants in the population health field totaling about $37 million in funds.

“The numbers add up to one inexorable fact: Health is a social, not just medical matter,” Bettina Beech, chief population health officer at UH and a clinical professor of population health in the Department of Health Systems and Population Health Sciences at the UH College of Medicine, says in a statement. “UH Population Health is a better approach to better health. We will work together to build healthier communities and a stronger society by focusing on health equity.”

UH has been a leader in health equity programs over the last few years.

Last summer the University of Houston College of Medicine opened a low-cost health care facility on the campus of Memorial Hermann Southwest Hospital. Funded by a $1 million gift from The Cullen Trust for Health Care, the facility offers direct primary care to the uninsured, where patients pay a monthly membership.

Additionally, the university paired up with Humana to launch a value-based care program in the spring. And it's even launched research on how to use AI to improve its health equity research and vice versa.

Bettina Beech is the chief population health officer at UH. Photo via UH.edu

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Building Houston

 
 

You can now hop online and invest in this promising cell therapy startup. Photo via Getty Images

A clinical-stage company headquartered in Houston has opened an online funding campaign.

FibroBiologics, which is developing fibroblast cell-based therapeutics for chronic diseases, launched a campaign with equity crowdfunding platform StartEngine. The platform lets anyone — regardless of their net worth or income level — to invest in securities issued by startups.

The funding, according to a press release, will be used to support ongoing operations of Fibrobiologics and advance its clinical programs in multiple sclerosis, degenerative disc disease, wound care, extension of life, and cancer.

"We're excited to partner with StartEngine on this campaign. StartEngine has over 600,000 investors as part of their community and has raised over half a billion dollars for its clients," says FibroBiologics' Founder and CEO Pete O'Heeron, in the release.

"This is an exciting time at FibroBiologics as we continue progressing our clinical pipeline and developing innovative therapies to treat chronic diseases," he continues. "This new funding will fuel our growth in the lab and bring us one step closer to commercialization."

The campaign, launched this week, already has over 100 investors, at the time of publication, and has raised nearly $2 million, according to the page. The minimum investment is set at around $500, and the company's indicated valuation is $252.57 million.

In 2021, FibroBiologics announced its intention of going public. Last year, O'Heeron told InnovationMap on the Houston Innovators Podcast of the company's growth plans as well as the specifics of the technology.

Only two types of cells — stem cells and fibroblasts — can be used in cell therapy for a regenerative treatment, which is when specialists take healthy cells from a patient and inject them into a part of the body that needs it the most. As O'Heeron explains in the podcast, fibroblasts can do it more effectively and cheaper than stem cells.

"(Fibroblasts) can essentially do everything a stem cell can do, only they can do it better," says O'Heeron. "We've done tests in the lab and we've seen them outperform stem cells by a low of 50 percent to a high of about 220 percent on different disease paths."


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