How Texas Medical Center Accelerates Medtech: Interview with Tom Luby, Director of TMC Innovation


Walk around the city-like campus of Texas Medical Center (TMC), and you might find it hard to picture the bootstrapped, garage-like digs that one associates with startup companies. But on the eastern edge of the sprawling complex in a former Nabisco cookie factory, TMC has set up the Innovation Institute for these types of ventures.

During our recent visit to TMC, we had the opportunity to tour the Innovation Institute and learn how they’re supporting innovative and promising medtech and healthcare startups. TMC currently offers seven different resources which include accelerators programs, coworking spaces, internships and fellowships, and mentorship programs.

Our visit focused on TMCx, a 6-month accelerator program where healthcare startups attend workshops, hands-on events, and strategy sessions. They receive guidance from over 200 industry advisors and all of TMC’s member institutions, but don’t pay membership fees or equity sharing. Our visit occurred just as 19 finalist startups had just finished the last day of a two-week bootcamp. Nine of these companies were selected at the beginning of April to be part of the Spring 2020 cohort. They’re developing a wide range of innovative products, including wearables, digital therapeutics, clinical workflow tools, and health IT platforms.

Our tour of the “cookie factory” was given by Dr. Tom Luby, the director of TMC Innovation. Tom was kind enough to share a little more about what makes TMC and Houston a great place for medtech startups.

Scott Jung, Medgadget: How is TMCx different from other accelerators/incubators, like Y Combinator or Rock Health?

Tom Luby, Ph.D., TMC Innovation: TMCx is ultra-focused on the TMC Member Institutions and the companies that have the potential to impact healthcare access, delivery, or outcomes. Companies who participate in our accelerator are on the path toward lasting relationships with our hospitals such as a clinical trial, pilot, or customer agreement. We unique in that our accelerator focuses on multiple large enterprise health systems as the target customers for engagement.

Medgadget: What are some of the things you look for in startups that are accepted into the program?

Tom Luby: We look for novel improvements to healthcare that have a pathway to implementation that considers the current standard of care but provides the opportunity to change healthcare delivery, access, payment, quality, etc. going into the future. Selected companies are ready for long term engagements with our system, which typically includes having pilot data demonstrated prior to working with us, a robust team that can execute on relationships we help them to develop, and a commitment to engage with our member health systems, mentors, corporate partners, and other key stakeholders in our community.

Medgadget: How has TMCx changed and evolved with medtech since the first cohort?

Tom Luby: Over the last six years, TMCx has seen growth in several key areas. We have demonstrated value for our hospital partners by supporting relationships with companies who could implement or co-develop their technologies to meet their needs. Relationships with our corporate partners such as Johnson and Johnson, AT&T, and ABB enable us to provide valuable insights into the future of healthcare and maintain our focus on implementation, scale, and commercialization of the technologies we support. In 2020, we changed our TMCx model to meaningfully integrate with our member and corporate partners and to customize the program for each participant. The customization enables unique value drivers for each stakeholder.

Medgadget: We learned that TMC has also expanded its expertise internationally through the TMC BioBridge program. Can you share what the program is and what countries you’re working with?

Tom Luby: The Texas Medical Center BioBridges establish relationships between the TMC and another country to promote the exchange of research collaborations, healthcare research, and innovation. For innovation specifically, the BioBridge relationships enable our team to have a nuanced understanding of how startups in Australia, Denmark, or the UK have demonstrated value to health systems in their respective countries, and which companies are most likely to have success translating that value into the US market. We have TMCx companies from around the world who look to Houston as a launchpad to validate their US go to market strategy in a location with relatively low cost of living and easy access to opportunities throughout the US.

Medgadget: Why should medical startups consider setting up shop in Houston?

Tom Luby: Medical startups should set up operations in Houston because their customers are here. With ten million patient visits per year and clinical leadership across the spectrum of practice, a startup can find a collaborator and a key customer here. We also have a welcoming, international city with amazing food and a low cost of living, so companies can find lower burn rates and access to great talent here. TMC Innovation anchors other resources for startups including corporate partners, business mentors, and a community of entrepreneurs to further support company development.

More information: TMCx website

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