Game-changing medical innovation happening at Texas Medical Center

HOUSTON – Houston is the birthplace of the artificial heart, site of the first heart transplant and home to one the nation's first medical helicopter programs. It’s a city built on medical innovation.

Now, a new generation of innovators is dreaming big at the Texas Medical Center. They’re working on incredible breakthroughs that will improve the health of people around the world for decades to come at twin facilities known as TMC-X and JLabs.

The facilities are the brain child of Dr. Robert Robbins, Texas Medical Center president and CEO.
The two facilities are located inside the old Nabisco cookie factory on Holcombe and are considered innovation incubators.

TMC-X brings together all 57 medical center institutions and connects them with emerging companies looking to develop new products.

[WATCH: KPRC Channel 2 News visits TMC-X]

“Just imagine the great scientists and physicians and nurses and researchers coming together from all of our great institutions working in a team fashion to be able to develop new drugs, medical devices, new diagnostics,” Robbins told KPRC Channel 2’s Dominique Sachse.

On the other side of the wall is JLabs. It’s part of global medical giant Johnson & Johnson. Inside JLabs, companies have access to state-of-the-art infrastructure to develop their research.

“It was really the first large medical corporation to put a flag down here in Houston. And since then, there are several others who have come,” Robbins explained.

Smaller startup companies have a role in the incubator, too.

“We envision in (the) next two to three years this entire 640,000-square-feet of space will be filled with startup companies, small companies that will be grown from local talent,” Robbins said.

Katherine Chambers is a Houston native who co-founded "The Right Place."

The digital startup helps hospitals find facilities for patients who are ready for rehab. Think of it as a medical version of OpenTable.

“They can then search and filter nursing homes based on location and certain capabilities. But because we have the bed data from nursing homes, we can also show which of those facilities have beds available,” Chambers said.

Channel 2 News visited TMC-X on demo day, where Chambers was pitching her company to potential investors. 
Austin Dirks moved Green Light Medical from San Francisco, California, to Houston. The-30 year-old was a medical sales representative, and then started his own business to help hospitals make purchasing decisions.

“Being able to pick up the phone and reach out and say, ‘Hey, MD Anderson; hey Baylor; hey Texas Children’s; let's have a meeting and see if our solution can help you …” Dirks said.

Dirks has a coveted spot here inside TMC-X.

“This is a treasure trove of opportunity and talent for them to be located nearby and be able to collaborate with the researchers, scientists (and) clinicians,” Robbins said.

Streamlining the long process of getting clinical trials approved is another huge part of this initiative. Right now there are 28 different review boards at different medical center hospitals. TMC-X changes everything.

“If I am a company wanting to do a clinical trial across all of our institutions, I have one-stop shopping and that's going to tremendously accelerate the process of getting new drugs, new cutting-edge devices to our patients here in Houston,” Robbins said. “We're a very entrepreneurial, pioneering spirit kind of people that just get things done through hard work and ingenuity and innovation.”

A bio design team working at TMC-X Plus has come up with a way to make spinal tap procedures less painful and more accurate. Click here for more information.