Skip to main content

Houston Organizations Gaining Recognition for Innovation in Life Sciences

Published Jul 11, 2022 by Brina Morales

UH Medtech Robotic Arm

Stroke patient using brain-controlled robotic arm developed by University of Houston engineering professor Jose Luis Contreras-Vidal. (Courtesy: Catalina Rodriguez/University of Houston)

Houston is known for its world-class institutions and professional talent in the health care and life sciences industries, so it comes as no surprise that healthcare systems, academic institutions and medtech startups are being recognized for their innovations. 

Here are just a few examples: 

Brain-Controlled Robotic Arm for Stroke Patients

The University of Houston recently made news with its creation of a robotic arm that can be controlled by a patient’s brainwaves – it’s considered a gamechanger for stroke patients. According to UH, engineering professor Jose Luis Contreras-Vidal and his team developed the portable brain-computer interface (BCI) exoskeleton to restore upper limb function. Contreras-Vidal’s innovation differs from similar technologies because the brain-controlled robotic arm doesn’t require surgery and is available to a patient both at home and in a clinic. Most neuro technologies are limited to a lab or clinic and are expensive and hard to operate, according to UH.


Brain-controlled robotic arm can be used by stroke patients to recover the use of a limb. (Courtesy: Catalina Rodriguez/University of Houston)

“The broader impact and commercial potential of this project is to advance national health by accelerating development, efficacy and use of brain-controlled robotic rehabilitation after stroke by capitalizing on the benefits of non-invasive brain interfaces that extract information about the patient’s motor intent and the real-time assessment of impairment and recovery of motor function," said Contreras-Vidal.

Robotic-assisted Heart Surgery

HCA Houston Healthcare Medical Center successfully completed a robotic-assisted coronary angioplasty, according to InnovationMap. The technology allows doctors to perform the procedure inside a radiation-protected cockpit by using a joystick to robotically place catheters, angioplasty balloons, and stents to clear a blockage and restore blood flow. Doctors say the robot-assisted surgery is safer and more precise.

Earlier this year, two other HCA Houston Healthcare hospitals also celebrated milestones. The hospitals performed their first peripheral lung biopsies using robotic-assisted technology, according to InnovationMap. The technology allows doctors to go through the lung’s natural airways, lowering the risk of complications. It also supports the early diagnosis of lung disease when used as a screening tool due to the technology’s ability to examine hard-to-reach areas.

Robotic Device for Failing Hearts

Houston-based medtech startup, CorInnova, was recently accepted into an international accelerator program, MedTech Innovator. CorInnova has created what they describe as the world’s first minimally invasive robotic cardiac-assist device that treats acute heart failure without touching the blood. The device’s ability to collapse and self-expand makes it a less invasive option compared to other devices, according to the company. Existing devices also have higher risks of side effects, including elevated risk of stroke, blood damage and kidney problems.

According to MedTech Innovator, their accelerator programs aim to promote the growth of early and mid-stage startups by working closely with stakeholders across the industry.  

CorInnova has previously been a part of accelerator programs at TMC Innovation and is currently a resident at JLABS @ TMC. JLABS provides startups access to a medical device prototype lab and highly specialized tools to further advance their innovations. 

Houston has more than 1,900 life sciences companies, cutting edge hospitals, health facilities and research institutions with a workforce of more than 370,000 people in health care, biotech and related fields in the area. The city ranks No. 13 in CBRE’s latest analysis of the nation’s top 25 life sciences markets.

Learn more about Houston’s life sciences and biotech sectors and how the city is advancing life sciences with several large-scale development projects.

Related News

Industry Event

TMC Announces New 500-Acre Biomanufacturing Campus, Additional Expansion Plans

The Texas Medical Center plans to expand by building a new biomanufacturing facility, TMC BioPort, that aims to further advance Houston’s life sciences ecosystem. Bill McKeon, President and CEO of TMC, shared the announcement during the Partnership’s annual State of the Texas Medical Center event this week.  “TMC BioPort will be the home of our biomanufacturing. This will be a new 500-acre campus and we are still in the due diligence phase. We believe this alone will add another 100,000 jobs,” McKeon said.  In addition to serving as the primary biomanufacturing and medical supplies distribution engine, BioPort will offer an on-site upskill training center. McKeon said the COVID-19 pandemic revealed the importance of having manufacturing facilities like the BioPort in the region. The new campus is expected to create over 100,000 new jobs as the region works to meet the increased demand for biomanufacturing capacities. McKeon added the new campus will double the size of TMC in roughly five years.  McKeon also announced that TMC Innovation Factory Labs will open in the first quarter of 2023 at the TMC Innovation campus, which opened in 2015 in the former Nabisco Cookie Factory.  TMC Helix Park, formerly known as TMC3, will serve as the anchor of the multiple districts. Phase one of the 37-acre life science campus is slated for completion in 2023. McKeon said Helix Park will encourage collaboration among industry, academia and entrepreneurs through more than six million square feet of developed space as well as nearly 19 acres of green space. The TMC3 Collaborative Building, the first multi-institutional research facility in TMC’s history, is expected to finish next year. The project is expected to  add 27,000 jobs to the area.  TMC and its 61 institutions are consistently attracting recognition nationwide as some of the top hospitals and universities, contributing to Houston’s rising position at the forefront of advancing life sciences. Houston ranks as No. 2 in the U.S. by CBRE for the top emerging life science clusters.   “I know the Texas Medical Center will continue to thrive not only as an economic powerhouse for the region but will spearhead accelerating Houston as a global leader in life sciences and health care,” said the Partnership’s President and CEO Bob Harvey.   Read more about Houston’s life sciences industry.
Read More
Life Sciences

Cellipont Bioservices to Open Life Sciences Manufacturing Facility in The Woodlands

A California life sciences manufacturing company is expanding to The Woodlands.  San Diego-based Cellipont Bioservices, a cell therapy contract development and manufacturing organization, or CDMO, said this week it will open an 76,000-square-foot manufacturing facility for cell therapies and gene-modified cell therapies.  Cellipont said the facility is slated to open in phases starting in the first half of next year and will include state-of-the-art manufacturing, process development, assay development and testing capabilities.  “Cellipont is excited to move forward with this next stage of our company’s development as a best-in-class cell therapy CDMO,” said Deborah Wild, CEO at Cellipont in a statement. “As our client programs advance through the clinic and toward commercialization, we are working diligently to offer them state-of-the-art facilities and capabilities. This site near Houston is an ideal location to serve clients and patients across all of North America, with two major airports and a strong local workforce.”  Cellipont Chief Operating Officer Mike O’Mara said the expansion offers the company a blank canvas to create the ideal cell therapy facility in a phased approach as its clients grow their programs. Gil Staley, CEO of The Woodlands Area Economic Development Partnership, said Cellipont’s dynamic facility will be a “jewel” among the bioscience companies in the community’s Research Forest area. “With healthcare as our largest business sector, Cellipont will undoubtedly enhance the sustainability of our medical hub,” Staley said.  Ann Tanabe, CEO of industry group BioHouston, Inc. said, “We know that the Houston area is a great place for the life sciences industry to take root, so it’s wonderful when a company located in one of the premier biotech hubs – San Diego – recognizes this and chooses Houston as their next strategic location.” This is just the latest economic development announcement for The Woodlands. Last month the Houston Business Journal reported that chemical manufacturing company SI Group Inc. was moving its global headquarters from New York State to the Hughes Landing complex. SI Group, which makes performance additives, active pharmaceutical ingredients and chemical intermediates, plans to move into the new office in the fall, according to the report.  SI Group operates roughly 20 offices and manufacturing facilities across the U.S. and has operations in nine other countries. The company employs approximately 2,000 workers, according to its website.  Learn more about why companies are choosing to relocate to Houston and see details about the region's life sciences sector.   
Read More

Related Events

Digital Technology

Innovation Council

For Houston to continue moving forward as a great global city, we must further the innovation ecosystem in order to attract tech and start-up companies. This council examines how the greater Houston region can…

Learn More
Learn More