Texas Global Health Security Innovation Consortium created to alleviate COVID-19, future pandemic effects

Neha Madhira

More than 50 organizations across Texas have partnered together to form the Texas Global Health Security Innovation Consortium to alleviate the effects of COVID-19 and future pandemics. 

The consortium was organized by the Austin Technology Incubator, a deep tech incubator affiliated with UT-Austin, in late July. The consortium is working on numerous pilot projects such as mass vaccination systems, large-scale decontamination and community contact tracing, according to a UT News story. 

Members of TEXGHS will also participate in institutional research collaboration, company participation across incubator and accelerator programs, co-branding and co-marketing, according to their website.

The consortium is currently recruiting organizations, including Dell Medical School, and they will have a launch event Sept. 22 at 10 a.m. open to the public, said Dr. Lisa McDonald, director of healthcare incubation at Austin Technology Incubator. 

“We’re a partnership across the state of Texas between places like the University of Texas at Austin, different units within (UT-Austin), other academic units across (the) UT System and across other university systems,” McDonald said. “What we are doing is really supporting innovators and supporting technologies that are at the intersection of health, security and technology.”

Verena Kallhoff, a manager at Dell Medical School’s Workspaces, said there are a lot of great ideas for pandemic responses but not necessarily the resources and connections to implement those ideas.  

“There's a lot of really intelligent individuals out there with great ideas on how to combat specific facets of how the pandemic affects everybody,” Kallhoff said. “That is where (the consortium) comes in. We can help make those connections to build a communitywide impact.”

Arthur Jackson, an Austin Chamber of Commerce senior director, said the chamber joined the consortium to collaborate with community partners on bringing innovation and funding to the region. 

“With the Austin region being a top emerging life sciences and health care market, we look forward to being able to provide support (the consortium) as they seek development of new technologies and the adaptation of existing technologies that address pandemic infectious disease threats,” Jackson said. 

Mark Chiarello, senior student associate at Austin Technology Incubator and a mechanical engineering graduate student, said the consortium will become a very important player in global health security moving forward.

“I think a lot of the general population doesn't really think about (global health security) outside of episodic pandemics and infectious disease outbreaks,” Chiarello said. “At (the consortium), we are dedicated to supporting and facilitating these efforts — not just right now while everyone's life is impacted in a variety of ways by the pandemic, but to continue to do so even on the other side of this pandemic.”

Chiarello said that he was asked to join the consortium to help provide structure to the organization because of his background in project management.

“There are plenty of opportunities to get involved,” McDonald said. “It is a volunteer organization at this point of time and we are definitely looking to make an impact, certainly in the city of Austin but (also) across the state of Texas supporting entrepreneurs that are working toward COVID-19 solutions.”