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Houston’s TMCx Accelerator Debuts First Class of Device Startups

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a tool for what it says is better vascular access in dialysis patients.
WeaRobot (Monterrey, Mexico): Has developed an exoskeleton for seniors and the physically impaired.

The conclusion of programming for this latest startup cohort also comes about a year after the TMC announced that Halvorsen would be coming to Houston from Boston. A veteran of tech transfer and commercialization efforts at Harvard and Tufts universities and Boston Children’s Hospital, Halvorsen has presided over an expansion of TMC’s efforts to boost healthcare innovation.

In addition to beefing up the staff at the TMC Innovation Institute, the TMC has in the last year entered into partnerships designed to position Houston as a hub driving new advances in technology that are designed to make healthcare delivery better and more efficient.

Mostly recently, heart surgeon and serial entrepreneur William Cohn, who had been at the Texas Heart Institute, was appointed to be the first director of Johnson & Johnson Innovation’s new Center for Device Innovation, an entity that will work closely with TMCx’s device startups, Halvorsen says.

In March, the multinational pharmaceutical company opened its latest JLabs outpost at the TMC complex, which is home to more than 20 biotech startups seeking collaborations with J&J and the TMC. In June, telecommunications giant AT&T unveiled a Houston-based entity of its in-house skunkworks called Connected Health Foundry.

The goal for TMC, as well as for AT&T and J&J, is to harness the research capabilities, patient population, and potential entrepreneurs that exist at the medical center’s 50-plus institutions.

Connecting startup founders to people in relevant roles at those institutions can sometimes be a challenge, Halvorsen says. The effort is worth it, though, he adds. “The institutions are a tremendous resource to any early stage company,” he says.

The key, he adds, is finding the right people who have the time and capacity to take on pilot projects and work with startup founders seeking hands-on guidance. “It’s one of the biggest value-adds that our accelerator has over anyone else,” he says.

A year in, Halvorsen points to at least one metric of success: TMCx has received more than 100 applications for next year’s digital health startup class. “Applications don’t close until December,” he says. “The startup companies are telling other entrepreneurs about us. They are reaching out and saying, we want to be there.”

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