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Houston Healthcare Start-ups: Starting to achieve escape velocity from the gravitational pull of oil & gas
03/26/2018

Houston Healthcare Start-ups: Starting to achieve escape velocity from the gravitational pull of oil & gas

By Tom Luby

On March 2, 2018, JLABS @ TMC celebrated its second anniversary. The pace of our evolution over the past 24 months continues to be rapid. We started with 22 companies, and have grown to just under 50, we have quadrupled the size of our device prototyping labs in order to meet the ongoing demands of our medical device resident companies, and our internal team continues to grow in order to support the needs of the many companies on our site.  While these are meaningful growth metrics for us, we find that we are just a part of an emerging healthcare start-up dynamic here in Houston

The growth we are witnessing here has surpassed the expectations that I had when I moved here a year ago from Boston. Our neighbors are the strong team within the TMC Innovation Institute who run the TMCx accelerator program sponsored by the Texas Medical Center.  They opened their doors a year before us and welcomed their first cohort of 21 companies. In three short years, they have had 6 cohorts and hosted 108 companies from around the globe. The current cohort of 22 health tech companies is drawn internationally, only 3 are from Houston, with 20% coming to Texas from Silicon Valley.  Here at JLABS we have welcomed 7 of their graduating companies to stay in Houston and become JLABS residents.

In addition to the accelerator program, the TMC Innovation Institute at 2450 Holcombe also holds X+, a co-working space for healthcare companies that now houses 70 life science companies.  J&J’s Center for Device Innovation is also located here, run by Billy Cohn, and now staffed with over 10 J&J machinists and engineers.  So, in just three short years, this place has gone from being a former cookie factory, to a vibrant life sciences community housing over 175 different healthcare startups, employing hundreds of people, that you could meet here on any given day. I walk down the halls, and I am consistently challenged to remember names of people, companies, and technologies.  This close proximity creates crucial connection points for entrepreneurs, scientists, and venture capitalists that previously did not exist in H-town. And if you ask them, they will all tell you that this is absolutely critical to their success.

With the commitment of time and capital from Bill McKeon and his team at the Texas Medical Center, in addition to our neighbors the institute including BioHouston, TMC BioDesign and angelMD, we have helped establish a strong foundation in Houston for the growing life science community. Houston has begun to creep up on the short list for the hot spots for innovation, and when you come here you can see why. We have all helped to build it, and start-ups have responded by coming. It is our goal to recruit and foster these companies to find continued success, whether that’s in the clinic or through financial partnering. Johnson & Johnson Innovation helps to provide the connective tissue to the east and west, while the Texas Medical Center provides access to one of the largest concentrations of patient populations in the world.

We will continue to look ahead, as more growth at this site is planned. It is an absolute kick to be here every day and be a part of it.  So, if you’re into solving some of the challenges we all face in healthcare, or curious to see for yourself, head down to the former cookie factory. We’ll be happy to show you why the Innovation Institute at 2450 Holcombe is adding rocket fuel to Houston’s growing healthcare footprint (pardon the pun, but it is Houston…).

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