TX Roundup: Xenex & data.world Funding, Accenture Hub, & Lynda Chin

Let’s get caught up with the latest innovation news from Xconomy Texas.

—When you spent your childhood in places like Dakar, Senegal, and Beirut, perhaps it’s not so surprising that, in adulthood, your travel itinerary would include the South Pole and outer space. NASA astronaut and serial inventor, Scott Parazynski, speaks about Thomas Edison and the possibility of alien life forms in our latest installment of “Five Questions For.”

Xenex Disinfection Services, a San Antonio-based maker of a robot to rid hospital rooms of bacterial and viruses that can cause potentially deadly infections, has raised $38 million in venture funding. The investment was led by Essex Woodlands, a healthcare-focused investment fund with offices in Palo Alto, CA, Houston, New York, and London. Xenex was founded in 2009 and has raised a total of $94 million, including this latest round of funding.

—In the four months since San Antonio cloud computing company Rackspace was sold to a New York private equity firm, several of Rackspace startups have been successfully spun out. Among them are HelpSocial, which makes software that aims to help call center employees respond to users on social media (and received an investment from Mark Cuban), and Mailgun, which earlier this month raised $50 million in venture funding to help push sales of its API project for software developers.

—A scathing audit conducted by the University of Texas System on MD Anderson Cancer Center’s five-year-old project with IBM Watson does not necessarily mean the effort to use artificial intelligence in cancer treatment is over. The audit cited problems with the mishandling of aspects of procurement and contract management in the Oncology Expert Advisor (OEA) program, and specifically singled out Lynda Chin, who led the project while at MD Anderson, for blame. In an interview with Xconomy, Chin, however, disputed the bulk of the audit’s conclusions. “If the issue being raised is that OEA is a failure, I disagree,” she said.

—Consulting firm Accenture has opened the first of 10 innovation centers in Houston. The skunkworks is designed to help connect the firm’s largely corporate and industrial clients—especially those in the oil and gas sector—to emerging technologies they could need to spur innovation. The hub is part of a $1.4 billion investment by Accenture.

Dell has started a new pilot program to use recycled “ocean plastics,” collected from waterways and beaches, as 25 percent of packaging for its Dell XPS laptop. The program is part of an effort to prevent 16,000 pounds of plastic from entering the ocean. The Round Rock, TX-based computer company says it has a goal of 100 percent sustainable packaging by 2020.

Data.world, an Austin-based “social network for data people,” announced it has raised nearly $19 million in venture capital. The round was led by Aon founder Pat Ryan’s family investment group and includes capital from Chicago Ventures, Fyrfly Venture Partners, Hunt Technology Ventures, LiveOak Venture Partners, Shasta Ventures, and Sherpa Asset Management AG. Data.world has raised a total of $32.7 million in funding.

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