New to town

Exclusive: Out-of-state venture firm specializing in research-based startups expands into Houston

A new venture development company has expanded into Houston with a Texas Medical Center office. Photo by Dwight C. Andrews/Greater Houston Convention and Visitors Bureau

For an Arkansas-based technology venture development firm that focuses on research-based companies coming out of universities, the Lone Star State was a tempting spot for expansion.

VIC Technology Venture Development has appointed James Y. Lancaster as the Texas branch manager. Lancaster, who lives in College Station, will oversee business there, in Dallas, and in Houston. Locally, he will work out of a TMC Innovation Institute office.

"I am excited to be working to TMC member institutions to provide a new avenue for commercializing their technologies, expanding on our fast start in Texas with an exciting opportunity in the Houston innovation ecosystem," Lancaster says in a release.

VIC specializes in taking university-founded research innovations to the marketplace by partnering with technology and business experts at every stage of the process.

The company already has a presence in Dallas with Dr. Ralph Henry, who is an entrepreneur in residence at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center and also serves as VIC's vice president of life science and medical technology. VIC's first Texas portfolio company was Solenic Medical, which was brought on in February of this year.

According to the release, the company's presence in Houston might be similar to that of its arrangement in Dallas, focusing on leveraging the resources of the TMC.

"Our local presence will include new technology assessment and licensing, along with expanding our national investor network. Of course, the end goal is to have a string of startup company successes based on TMC inventions, as well as the potential to license technology from across the country into new companies located in Texas," Lancaster continues in the release.

Lancaster has over 25 years of experience across industries. Prior to VIC, he was the founder and managing director of the Innovate Family of Companies including Innovate CXO Services, Innovate Angel Funds, and Innovate BCS Development in College Station. He's also worked with and advised companies coming out of the Texas A&M University System for 12 years.

BrainCheck has moved to a new office as it grows its team and expands its product. Natalie Harms/InnovationMap

Following a series A round of fundraising, a Houston digital health startup is on a bit of a hiring spree, leading to new office space the company has room to grow into.

BrainCheck, which was founded in 2015 by neuroscientist David Eagleman, is a cognitive assessment startup that has developed a software tool for primary care doctors to use to assess their patients' cognitive health so that they can more quickly diagnose and treat them for maladies like dementia.

The 19-person company headquartered in Houston — with a secondary office in Austin focused on product development — has relocated its operations from coworking space in the Texas Medical Center to an office in the Rice Village area. The move was made possible by an $8 million series A financing round that closed in October.

"It's pretty exciting to have reached this milestone where we need more space," Yael Katz, co-founder and CEO of BrainCheck, tells InnovationMap. "We were pretty much bursting at the seams in our old office."

The move comes at a time when the company is building out its team. Katz says she is looking to fill a few roles within marketing, sales, and R&D. The team expects to expand to around 25 people by the end of Q1 and then again to 32 employees by the end of the year.

The new positions are needed in part to support the company's product development growth. Rather than just assessing cognitive health, BrainCheck is piloting some automated care plan technology.

"We have a lot of new product development that's underway," Katz says. "A big focus is expanding the output of the cognitive assessment into the cognitive care management."

Following the BrainCheck assessment, this new software will automate a cognitive care plan that doctors can then customize for his or her patients.

"The care plan process right now takes a very long time for the doctors to do, and therefore is very seldom done," Katz says.

And, in some cases, care plans aren't done because there's no cure or limited medications that help these types of cognitive diseases.

"A lot of people think of dementia sometimes as something there's no treatment for," Katz says. "It's true that there are limited pharmaceutical treatments for it, but there's evidence that comprehensive management of the disease is effective."

BrainCheck has opened the door on cognitive assessment. Traditional cognitive assessment used to only be done through a lengthy process and only by a small group of neuropsychologists. It's difficult for patients to find a neuropsychologist and then book an appointment.

"There's a big need to empower primary care doctors to have that ability to assess and manage patients' cognitive help," Katz says, explaining that this creates a perfect market for BrainCheck.