When the early Texas rancher Charles Goodnight invented the chuck wagon in 1866, he didn’t just presage today’s food trucks; he solved an immediate problem, which was how to keep cowboys on the remote parts of the range well-fed. During the rough-and-tumble frontier days, Texas demanded such inventiveness from its inhabitants just so they could survive. Through the years, as Texans have tamed the land, their signature moxie has led to many more triumphs, not just in the fight to survive but also in the quest to advance. Indeed, there’s a whole lot for which the world can thank Texas. The fields of ranching, oil and gas exploration, weaponry, medicine, science, and high technology have all been forever affected by the touch of a Texan. So too have the arenas of sports, music, entertainment, and the culinary arts. Nowadays, Texans like the ones below, every bit as tenacious as their predecessors, are inventing new ways to do everything from saving lives to serving brisket. The future is now.
The Medical Inventors
Ben Hertzog and Reynolds Delgado III
Though Houston has held strong to its reputation for world-class medical care and research, it hasn’t kept pace with the Bay Area and Boston in turning that work into groundbreaking products and companies. Hoping to reverse this course, medical leaders in Houston have launched a string of innovation labs and incubators to nurture start-ups that could help close the gap. Perhaps the closest to bringing a major new medical device to market is Procyrion, a company that has developed a tiny heart pump called Aortix.
Unlike standard heart pumps, which require open-heart surgery, Aortix can be installed during a ten-minute outpatient procedure. Thinner than a pen, the device enters the body via catheter through the femoral artery, then perches downstream of the heart, in the descending aorta. There, it can pump up to six liters of blood per minute and act as a backup. In time, CEO Ben Hertzog says, Aortix could give an ailing heart enough leeway to rest and heal, while the extra blood flow could alleviate related kidney and lung problems.
Dreamed up a dozen years ago by Reynolds Delgado III, a cardiologist at the Texas Heart Institute and now Procyrion’s chief medical officer, Aortix successfully underwent its first human tests last year. The pump could be on the market by 2020 if the FDA gives its blessing. Hertzog is bullish on the city’s future prospects too. “If you are an entrepreneur in the medical field, Houston is the happy hunting ground. There is so much innovation here.” —Sonia Smith