THBI Life Science Innovation Tour Featuring San Antonio – 2020

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THBI hosted its Life Science Innovation Tour Featuring San Antonio on Dec. 8, 2020. Heather Hanson, President of BioMedSA, described BioMedSA and the life science community in San Antonio prior to speakers on several targeted disease areas. As the Hub of the Life Science Industry in San Antonio, BioMedSA convenes meetings and working groups to facilitate collaboration and growth, such as our Clinical Trial Taskforce and our upcoming Pre-Fiesta Financial Event to showcase IP available for license and connect companies seeking funding with potential investors. BioMedSA is formalizing Advocacy Board to work toward local, state and national policies and programs that will benefit healthcare and bioscience in San Antonio with our partners, such as THBI.  Each year, we select a recipient for the BioMedSA Innovation Award to celebrate life science innovation. And this year, we have added instructional programming and announcements of others’ programs in the life science community on our Events page and through social media. BioMedSA partners with the City of San Antonio, educational institutions and economic development organizations to promote workforce training programs to meet needs of our industry.

The healthcare and bioscience industry contributes over $42 billion to the San Antonio economy, where nearly one out of every 5 employees in San Antonio work in the life science sector. We’ve added over 50,000 jobs in the last decade. San Antonio has an extensive educational system with almost 30 public, private and military universities and medical schools. One of two major DOD multi-service graduate health education locations is located here. UT Health San Antonio educates the next generation of physicians, investigates the causes and cures of disease, and provides cutting edge medical care. UTSA trains engineers, biologists, chemists and other life science professionals. The University of the Incarnate Word offers degrees and certificates in healthcare fields, including specific professional degrees, such as ophthalmology and physical therapy. St. Mary’s University and Trinity University offer tech-oriented degrees for the life science industry, like bioinformatics and engineering. And, Alamo Colleges has non-degree training programs to support the workforce needs of the industry.

Education and research in San Antonio, led to 175 US patents published in life science area in 2019. Innovations are supported by local research organizations, including numerous pre-clinical facilities and the only independent primate research center, Tx Biomedical Research Institute. SwRI conducts contract R&D and drug manufacturing. The largest and most productive medical research facility for US Air Force is in San Antonio. In addition to research, technology is developed at the USArmy ISR, resulting in products in clinical use today. The Naval Medical Research Unit San Antonio conducts a variety of medical research also.

In 2019, there were over 1400 active clinical trials supported by top-rated healthcare systems. San Antonio has the 7th and 8th largest hospital systems in the country. University Health serves its patients in conjunction with UT Health San Antonio. BioBridge Global and its South Texas Blood and Tissue Center collects necessary blood and tissue for research and healthcare. WellMed conducts trials and supports primary and specialist care. Over 240,000 military personnel, veterans, and their families each year in the San Antonio Military Health System.

A unique aspect of SA’s healthcare and bioscience industry is our Collaborative Culture. Four institutions have pooled their resources to fund research under the San Antonio Partnership for Precision Therapeutics. Companies routinely share facilities, equipment, and knowledge to help each other here. In 2021, BioMedSA will be hosting targeted disease focus meetings to facilitate the sharing of knowledge and encourage collaboration.

San Antonio has a vibrant startup community with multiple incubator/accelerator programs focused on bioscience companies:

  • VelocityTX – life science
  • Watershed Idea Foundry – medical devices
  • Crown Scientific – therapeutics
  • Technovum – inventors from UT Health San Antonio
  • Venture Mentoring Service San Antonio – UTSA/UT Health San Antonio inventors

Bioscience companies in San Antonio develop and manufacture medical devices, diagnostics, therapeutics, and pharmaceuticals. We have a strong Drug development capability: modeling and candidate screening to manufacturing. Medtech components, medical devices, pharmaceuticals, biologics and tissue products are all manufactured in San Antonio directly or with contract manufacturers. R&D is predominantly in 5 disease areas: cancer, infectious disease, diabetes, neuroscience, and a big category comprised of trauma/wound care/regenerative medicine.

The speakers below shared details on work conducted in these disease areas and with the military.

Dr. Jenny Hsieh is a Professor of Biology at the University of Texas at San Antonio. She also holds the Semmes Foundation Chair in Cell Biology and is Founding Director of the UTSA Brain Health Consortium. The UTSA Brain Health Consortium is a campus-wide transdisciplinary research initiative which spans stem cell biology, precision medicine, neuroscience, and psychology & behavior. Dr. Hsieh also serves as a co-chair for the American Epilepsy Society early-grants review committee and is a Reviewing Editor for the Journal of Neuroscience.

Dr. James Watt is the VP of Life Sciences for Eagle Global Scientific and the Chief Scientist for the Eagle Medical Group. He has over 20 years of experience in life science research with a focus on infectious diseases and genomics. He is a co-inventor on multiple vaccine and delivery technologies targeted to providing low cost vaccines to resource limited communities. His experience as a NIH postdoctoral scholar in academia, a research scientist in private industry and a subject matter expert supporting federal public health programs allows him to provide valuable scientific and technical expertise to his clients. Dr. Watt has a PhD in Microbiology.

Dr. Kumar Sharma is an M.D. and the chief of the Division of Nephrology and vice chair for research in the Department of Medicine at UT Health SA. Dr. Sharma was professor of medicine and director of the Center for Renal Translational Medicine and director of the Institute of Metabolomic Medicine at the University of California San Diego. He serves on numerous study sections and is a standing member of the NIH Pathology of Kidney Disease study section. He plays a lead role in the NIH Kidney Precision Medicine program.

Maria Zannes is the CEO of BioAffinity Technologies, a company dedicated to advancing breakthrough oncology-focused diagnostics and therapeutics. Previously, Ms. Zannes founded The Zannes Firm where she was instrumental in gaining approval for $1.6 million in public funding for research into lung cancer. She is licensed to practice law in New Mexico and is a non-practicing member of the Washington State Bar.  She has been awarded the Lifetime Achievement Award by the American Society of Mechanical Engineers and the Earth Engineering Center Award from the Waste-to-Energy Council of Columbia University. She is also the co-founder of two engineering research centers at Columbia University.

Dr. Larry S. Schlesinger is a leading physician scientist whose studies focus on the pathogenesis of tuberculosis and other airborne infectious agents that subvert lung immune mechanisms.  He began his distinguished scientific leadership career after joining the faculty at the University of Iowa in 1991 where he served as Fellowship Director for the Division of Infectious Diseases and Associate Chair of the Department of Medicine. He moved to the Ohio State University in 2002 where he served as Director of the Division of Infectious Diseases, Department of Internal Medicine until 2011, when he became first chair of Microbial Infection & Immunity. During his tenure he founded the Center for Microbial Interface Biology, a university-wide center with a focus on infectious diseases of concern to public health (now called the Infectious Diseases Institute). In 2017, he became President and CEO of Texas Biomedical Research Institute. He is a recent NIH NIAID Council member, Fellow of the: American Association for the Advancement of Science, Infectious Diseases Society of America, Association of American Physicians and American Academy of Microbiology.

The entire presentation can be seen here.

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