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Chevron venture arm enters partnership with West Houston coworking space

Chevron Technology Venture will have an office in the new, 120,000-square-foot coworking space The Cannon is expecting to open this spring. Courtesy of The Cannon

As corporate venture grows as a presence in oil and gas, more and more startups have access to funding from large corporations. Aware of the corporate venturing trend, The Cannon, a West Houston coworking space, has formed a partnership with Chevron Technology Ventures, Chevron's venture arm that's currently based in Downtown Houston.

CTV will have an office and regular office hours in The Cannon's new, 30-acre campus that is expected to open this spring. (A previous version of this story included other details of the CTV office at The Cannon.)

"We are always trying to surround our members with as much support and as many resources as possible to help them succeed. Chevron's engagement with our community will help further these efforts in a really exciting way," says Lawson Gow, founder and CEO of The Cannon, in a release. Gow is the son of David Gow, owner of InnovationMap's parent company Gow Media.

Established in 1999, CTV aims to champion "the innovation, commercialization and integration of emerging technologies into Chevron," reads the Chevron website. The team seeks to identify and invest in technologies or processes that could enhance and optimize core aspects of Chevron's operations. The technologies of interest to CTV are, according to the website: Water management, production enhancement, emerging materials, power systems, information technology, and subsurface and base business.

The Cannon's commitment to helping startups find access to venture has been an ongoing goal since May of last year when The Cannon launched Cannon Ventures — a venture studio and investor network. Cannon Ventures then teamed up with a few other venture funds in December to create the Houston Investment Network Alliance.

Peek inside what the new Cannon space will look like

Courtesy of The Cannon

Houston-based Abel Design Group and Burton Construction are responsible for the designs and execution of the building.

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This UH engineer is hoping to make his mark on cancer detection. Photo via UH.edu

Early stage cancer is hard to detect, mostly because traditional diagnostic imaging cannot detect tumors smaller than a certain size. One Houston innovator is looking to change that.

Wei-Chuan Shih, professor of electrical and computer engineering at the University of Houston's Cullen College of Engineering, recently published his findings in IEEE Sensors journal. According to a news release from UH, the cells around cancer tumors are small — ~30-150nm in diameter — and complex, and the precise detection of these exosome-carried biomarkers with molecular specificity has been elusive, until now.

"This work demonstrates, for the first time, that the strong synergy of arrayed radiative coupling and substrate undercut can enable high-performance biosensing in the visible light spectrum where high-quality, low-cost silicon detectors are readily available for point-of-care application," says Shih in the release. "The result is a remarkable sensitivity improvement, with a refractive index sensitivity increase from 207 nm/RIU to 578 nm/RIU."

Wei-Chuan Shih is a professor of electrical and computer engineering at the University of Houston's Cullen College of Engineering. Photo via UH.edu

What Shih has done is essentially restored the electric field around nanodisks, providing accessibility to an otherwise buried enhanced electric field. Nanodisks are antibody-functionalized artificial nanostructures which help capture exosomes with molecular specificity.

"We report radiatively coupled arrayed gold nanodisks on invisible substrate (AGNIS) as a label-free (no need for fluorescent labels), cost-effective, and high-performance platform for molecularly specific exosome biosensing. The AGNIS substrate has been fabricated by wafer-scale nanosphere lithography without the need for costly lithography," says Shih in the release.

This process speeds up screening of the surface proteins of exosomes for diagnostics and biomarker discovery. Current exosome profiling — which relies primarily on DNA sequencing technology, fluorescent techniques such as flow cytometry, or enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay (ELISA) — is labor-intensive and costly. Shih's goal is to amplify the signal by developing the label-free technique, lowering the cost and making diagnosis easier and equitable.

"By decorating the gold nanodisks surface with different antibodies (e.g., CD9, CD63, and CD81), label-free exosome profiling has shown increased expression of all three surface proteins in cancer-derived exosomes," said Shih. "The sensitivity for detecting exosomes is within 112-600 (exosomes/μL), which would be sufficient in many clinical applications."

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