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VenoStent has a new technology to improve outcomes for dialysis patients

Timothy Bouré and his co-founder Geoffrey Lucks were both near broke when they moved to Dallas to join the first accelerator they entered after forming VenoStent, a company that aims to improve outcomes for dialysis patients.

Failed dialysis surgeries occur in roughly 55% to 65% of patients with end-stage renal disease, according to the company. Caring for these patients can cost the Medicare and Medicaid Services system roughly $2 billion per year — and Bouré and Lucks believed that they’d come up with a solution.

So after years developing the technology at the core of VenoStent’s business at Vanderbilt University, the two men relocated from Nashville to South Texas to make their business work.

Bouré had first started working on the technology at the heart of VenoStent’s offering as part of his dissertation in 2012. Lucks, a graduate student at the business school was introduced to the material scientist and became convinced that VenoStent was on the verge of having a huge impact for the medical community. Five years later, the two were in Dallas where they met the chief of vascular surgery at Houston Medicine and were off to the races.

A small seed round in 2018 kept the company going and a successful animal trial near the end of the year gave it the momentum it needed to push forward. Now, as it graduates from the latest Y Combinator cohort, the company is finally ready for prime time.

In the interim, a series of grants and its award of a Kidney XPrize kept the company in business.

The success was hard won, as Bouré spent nearly three sleepless nights in the J-Labs, Johnson and Johnson’s  medical technology and innovation accelerator in Houston, synthesizing polymers and printing the sleeve stents that the company makes to keep replace the risky and failure-prone surgeries for end stage kidney disease patients.

The key discovery that Bouré made was around a new type of polymer that can be used to support cell growth as it heals from the dialysis surgery.

In 2012, Bouré stumbled upon the polymer that would be the foundation for the work. Then, in 2014, he did the National Science Foundation Core program and started thinking about the wrap for blood vessels. Through a series of discussions with vascular surgeons he realized that the problem was especially acute for end stage renal disease patients.

Already the company has raised $2.4 million in grant funding and small equity infusions. and the KidneyX Prize from the Department of Health and Human Services and the American Society of Nephrology. VenoStent was one of six winners.

“It’s part of this whole ongoing effort by the executive office to improve dialysis,” said Bouré. “[They are] some of the most expensive patients to treat in the world… Basically the government is highly incentivized to find technologies that improve patient’s lives.”

Now the company is heading into its next round of animal testing and will seek to conduct its first human trials outside of the United States in 2021.

And while the company is focused on renal failure first, the materials that Bouré has developed have applications for other conditions as well. “This can be a material for the large intestine,” says Bouré. “It has tunability in terms of all its properties. And we can modify it for a particular application.”

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NASA taps startup Axiom Space for the first habitable commercial module for the Space Station

NASA has selected Houston-based Axiom Space, a startup founded in 2016, to build the first commercial habitat module for the International Space Station (ISS). This module will be used as a destination for future commercial spaceflight missions, potentially housing experiments, technology development and more performed by commercial space travelers taking rides up to the ISS via human-rated spacecraft like the SpaceX Crew Dragon and Boeing Starliner, once those start regular operational service.

Axiom Space was founded in 2016, and is led by co-founder and CEO Michael T. Suffredini, who previously acted as program manager for the ISS at NASA’s Johnson Space Center. The company boasts a lot of ex-NASA talent on its small team, and eventually it plans to make its in-space modules the basis of its own private space station, after first attaching them to the ISS while it’s still operating. NASA has extended the planned service life of the ISS, but the plan of the agency’s current leadership is to eventually encourage private orbital labs and commercial facilities as an ultimate replacement.

In 2018, Axiom teamed up with designer Philippe Starck (yes, the same one who famously designed a luxury yacht for Apple founder Steve Jobs) to provide a look at what their future space station modules might look like, including crew quarters with interactive displays and a cupola that provides a breathtaking view of Earth and surrounding space.

This ISS module may not be a full-fledged private space station, but it is a step in NASA’s goal of further commercializing the existing space station and ultimately paving the way for more commercial activity in low Earth orbit. Axiom’s mandate also includes providing “at least one habitable commercial module,” with the implication being that it might be awarded extensions to build more in the future. Next up for the new partners is negotiating terms and price for a contract for the module, which will also include a timeline for delivery.

Source: TechCrunch