Pushing Boundaries at the Connected Health AT&T Foundry

April 27, 2017
By Erik Halvorsen, Ph.D.

Time flies! It is hard to believe it’s almost been a year since AT&T joined the Texas Medical Center Innovation Institute here in Houston.  

As director of the Innovation Institute at the Texas Medical Center (TMC), my team and I oversee selection, incubation and acceleration of health care startups. We do this in an accelerator program called TMCx.  

We’re housed in a 100,000-square-foot open innovation facility. About 100 health care, life science and digital health companies are involved in the TMC Innovation Institute ecosystem. Participants can grow their companies and learn from experts in every facet of running a health-related business.  

The team at the Connected Health AT&T Foundry has quickly become part of the TMCx family. And they’re now strong contributors to the vibrant health care innovation ecosystem in Houston. 

When most people think of Texas, they may not realize it’s home to the largest medical center in the world. The Texas Medical Center is home to some 58 organizations, including 21 hospitals. It accounts for more than 10 million patient visits per year and $2 billion in external research funding across world-class institutions like The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center, Texas Children’s Hospital, The University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston and Baylor College of Medicine.   

When most people think of AT&T, they may not realize its hand in health care startups. But that’s what the Houston AT&T Foundry team of Nadia Morris (head of innovation), James Yu (biomedical engineer), Mohamed Elmahdy (biomedical engineer), and Jessica Autrey (business development) are up to at TMCx. 

TMCx merges digital health, medical device and IoT startups from around the world with CIOs, physicians and nurses across TMC. They work together to develop new products for some of health care’s most challenging unmet needs.   

To date, the 66 early-stage healthcare companies that have come through the TMCx accelerator have raised a total of $130M.  

We just celebrated the first successful exit of a company in the TMCx family, Adhesys Medical. The medical device startup – which develops adhesives used in surgery – was a part of the first TMCx accelerator in 2015. And only two years later in April 2017, Grünenthal Group acquired them. 

AT&T has offered strong relationships with a deep bench of talent in tech development, user-experience testing, marketing and sales—all areas green entrepreneurs need help on.  

The AT&T Foundry team works with the TMCx staff and the 100 young companies to spur innovation. But it also helps determine which technologies to bring to TMCx. Each year, we review hundreds of applications to decide which are the most promising. 

And it doesn’t stop there. Other AT&T employees contribute to our accelerator curriculum with lectures, fireside chats and panel discussions. They even hold one-on-one office hours with TMCx companies.   

As if that wasn’t enough, the Foundry team finds time to hunt for new ideas and innovations percolating within the TMC’s 21 hospitals. And the team works a number of their own side projects. Some include connected wheel chairs, scales for the elderly and smart glasses for the visually impaired

We’re fortunate to have the AT&T Foundry as a part of our health care innovation ecosystem. We’ll continue to push boundaries together to transform health care for years to come.  

Erik Halvorsen Ph.D., is the Director of Innovation Institute at Texas Medical Center

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