Educate, communicate, collaborate, innovate. That is the stated goal of Pumps & Pipes, the day-long conference that celebrated its 11th year at the TMC Innovation Institute yesterday.
This year’s “Expanding Our Ecosystem” theme brought together a standing-room-only crowd of professionals to discuss innovations that connect the aerospace, energy and medicine industries.
Pumps & Pipes is the brainchild of Alan Lumsden, M.D., medical director of the Houston Methodist DeBakey Heart & Vascular Center, William Kline, Ph.D., a retired ExxonMobil research manager, and Ellen Ochoa, Ph.D., director of NASA’s Johnson Space Center.
From under the Earth to among the stars, experts from the fields described projects they were working on that utilized what Lumsden called “deploying the neighbor’s toolkit.”
“This is about reaching into the other person’s toolkit because that is there the solutions lie,” he said.
One of the focuses for this year’s conference was radiation exposure. Ochoa spoke about the development of Deep Space Gateway, a habitation module that astronauts would stay in for about a month at a time.
“We are looking to Mars, but the distance is a barrier to us, and human health is a factor with the amount of radiation to and from Mars,” she said. “We have to make sure that when astronauts get there, they can work productively and maintain life support.”
Kate Rubins, Ph.D, an astronaut and molecular biologist for the Johnson Space Center, discussed being the first person to do DNA sequencing of living organisms in microgravity. She said this kind of innovation could eventually be used to determine changes to genetic material over time as crew members, and the bugs they bring with them, are introduced to the International Space Station.
Back in the operating room, there was a live demonstration at Houston Methodist of a new robotic procedure that keeps vascular surgeons and interventional cardiologists out of the radiation field while performing surgery.
Two TMCx accelerator companies, Alleviant Medical and PolyVascular, also presented their medical devices. Alleviant aims to help congestive heart failure by creating a hole in the heart to reduce pressure, while PolyVascular is developing heart valves for pediatric patients.
The conference wrapped up with a look at Houston Exponential, a hub for innovation and entrepreneurship supported by Mayor Sylvester Turner’s Innovation and Technology Task Force, the Houston Technology Center and the Greater Houston Partnership’s Innovation Roundtable.
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