Texas Tech University

A Look Inside the Companies That Make Up the Innovation Hub at Research Park

Hope Lenamon

October 25, 2018

Innovation Hub

Tenant companies share their stories and how Texas Tech University’s Innovation Hub got them to where they are today.

Texas Tech University's Innovation Hub at Research Park has been housing and providing access to resources for students, faculty, alumni and entrepreneurs since 2015. The Hub focuses on driving economic development in West Texas and beyond by assisting in the formation of technology startup companies critically relevant to today's local and regional economy.

“All 19 companies located at the Hub are representative of innovation,” Kimberly Gramm, senior managing director of The Hub said. “Lubbock is a better community because we enable smart people to help people.”

The Hub is currently impacting three tenant companies who are utilizing the enterprenual and innovative advantages.

NextGen Code Company

The technology of science fiction movies can seem light-years away. Arriving at that future will take years of molding the world into a more technologically sophisticated and safe environment.

NextGen Code Company hopes to bring that future a little faster by creating code-related solutions for businesses of all sizes to use. The company offers technology-related consulting while acting as a think tank to develop unique and creative solutions for businesses and partners.

NextGen analyzes a partner's need and desires to produce a product best-suited for the intended purpose. These projects have taken shape as graphic design, building and refining websites and web and mobile apps, user interface and user experience design, internal business solutions and many more.

“The value that we bring is helping people discover what service or technology is out there that can help them become more efficient,” said Jess Davis, a founding member of the company.

One project of NextGen's that has seen major success is TownWave, a music app designed to help undiscovered musicians expand their following on a local level. The company recently presented the mobile app at the Forbes 30 Under 30 event in Boston. The company also has worked with Icon Machine, My Patient Express and VetGraft.

Davis and JP Valdez, another founding member of the company, said NextGen's success was made possible by the environment fostered at The Hub and the recognition one gets from coming out of Texas Tech and The Hub.

“This is where good ideas congregate and come to life,” Davis said. “People understand it's a special place.”

Davis, Valdez and the rest of team look forward to giving back to that environment as mentors for students' new projects and ideas.

“Texas Tech is doing a phenomenal job at fostering entrepreneurship, especially at the Innovation Hub,” Valdez said. “One of the main reasons we actually ended up here was so that we could help all of those young entrepreneurs out there. You know, that was us before, so the idea of being in the Innovation Hub now is to help the students coming through that have ideas but don't really know how to get those things done. We can help them.”

Reproductive Solutions

In the U.S., there are currently 7 million couples seeking reproduction assistance, and over the last four decades male fertility worldwide has dropped 60 percent.

Reproductive Solutions, Inc. (RSI) is a bioscience company which produces ProteX, a medical device used by fertility clinics to improve collection of human semen among couples seeking assisted-reproduction procedures. Currently, standard practice requires male semen to be collected in clinic via common specimen cup. ProteX improves upon the design of the specimen cups to help increase the viability of semen collected.

While the ProteX medical device is similar in shape and size to a standard specimen cup, it is composed of three components: an insulated outershell, a conical interior insert, and a small holding well which the sample is funneled into. This design creates an environment which protects samples from damaging temperature changes and many other factors which cause a sample to degrade.

John Smothers, president and CEO of RSI, said the significantly higher viability of semen can help couples find success in fewer rounds of In Vitro Fertilization cycles or result in the ability to try lower-cost procedures like intrauterine insemination.

“In the clinical trials we did, the ProteX provides a 40 percent stronger or better sample than traditional methods,” Smothers said.

He added that in the clinical trials, instances of conception achieved while using a specimen cup went to full-term, healthy deliveries in 40 percent of cases. Instances of conception while using ProteX all resulted in full-term, healthy deliveries.

RSI came to the Innovation Hub when Smothers originally was looking to serve as a mentor to startup companies. During his interview process, it was suggested he enter RSI in iLaunch Competition instead. Now, Smothers and his team utilize the mentor program for their own company. In fact, RSI's mentors helped Smothers find the Texas-based company that now produces ProteX's injection-molded components.

ProteX's first rollout shipped to the 38 fertility clinics across Texas on Oct. 15. Smothers said he and his team are interested to see how quickly word of the product spreads.

“It's exciting not just for us, but also for the many couples we will be able to help with their dream on conceiving a child, and what we will be able to give back to Texas Tech,” Smothers said.

CerRx, Inc.

In 2018, the National Cancer Institute estimated 1,735,350 new cases of cancer will be diagnosed in the United States and 609,640 people will die from the disease.

CerRx, Inc. is an intermediate-stage, targeted-oncology-drug discovery and development company aiming to improve the lives of cancer patients with unique therapeutics. The company does so by developing anti-cancer therapeutics which target the ceramide pathway, the key wax-like building blocks used by cells to make membranes and as signaling molecules.

CerRx drugs trick cancer cells into overproducing certain ceramides and reactive oxygen species that kill the cancer cells with little or no ill effects to healthy normal cells. To date, the lead CerRx drug, intravenous fenretinide, has shown multiple, sustained, complete responses in T-cell lymphomas and with early indications of activity in adenocarcinomas of the colon and esophagus and in pediatric neuroblastoma.

Bill Simpson, CEO of CerRx, and his team were recently awarded an $11.7 million grant by the Cancer Prevention and Research Institute of Texas (CPRIT) to initiate a clinical trial for the treatment of cutaneous T-cell lymphoma (CTCL).

The newly funded combination trial in CTCL with IV fenretinide and histone deacetylase inhibitor (HDACi) is based upon recently published research by TTUHSC investigators that demonstrated a synergistic killing of tumor cells in 15 different human T-cell lymphoid malignancy models compared to either drug alone, with a doubling of event-free survival in animal models of human cancer. If such results can be replicated in human studies, this drug combination could revolutionize how CTCL is treated.

“Our laboratory data demonstrated that fenretinide and HDAC inhibitors act together via a novel mechanism that has the potential for being both well-tolerated and highly active in patients,” said Dr. C. Patrick Reynolds, chief scientific officer of CerTx and director of the Texas Tech University Health Sciences CenterSchool of MedicineCancer Center.

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