Texas' Biosciences Industry Booms, Welcomes Innovation
Texas has become a major hub of life science enterprises, spanning cancer research, medical devices, animal sciences, food safety and pharmaceuticals.
The diverse and vibrant sector encompasses more than 4,100 companies, employs more than 104,000 people and means billions in annual salaries.
World-class educational and research institutions, an educated workforce and significant state investment have created a climate where innovation is welcomed and rewarded.
Funds, State Support
In 2001, lawmakers appropriated $800 million for science, engineering, research, commercialization and infrastructure. In 2002, Gov. Rick Perry established the Council on Science and Biotechnology Development.
In 2003, the Texas Legislature passed and the governor signed legislation authorizing the Texas Enterprise Fund (TETF), a “deal-closing” fund to attract businesses and new jobs to Texas. The Texas Emerging Technology Fund was launched in 2005 to promote and finance technological innovations in multiple industries, including biotechnology. The plan is to invest $600 million.
“I think Texas has really stepped up,” says Thomas R. Kowalski, president of the Texas Healthcare and Bioscience Institute. “It is really a hotbed of activity, and the genesis has been in academic centers.”
Texas' Business Climate for Biosciences
One example is Dr. John C. Criscione, an associate professor of biomedical engineering at Texas A&M University in College Station, who is working on a new device to mechanically treat congestive heart failure by restoring healthy heart motion.
CorInnova Inc., his company, is in the preclinical stage and developing a commercial prototype of a cone-shaped device that would cradle the heart, but not require major thoracic surgery. CorInnova received a $250,000 pre-seed investment from the TETF, with a commitment of up to $1 million if the company hits certain benchmarks.
Having worked at Johns Hopkins University and other research heavyweights, Criscione says the Texas climate is refreshing.
“I can be innovative and people will listen, and they are looking for things outside the box,” he says.
US Oncology in Texas
Houston-based US Oncology provides support, research, business services and care coordination for doctors across the United States who treat 17 percent of the nation’s cancer patients.
“You have to have an incredibly diverse and incredibly good pool of employee talent, and the talent pool in Houston in particular and Texas in general is just what is needed,” says Dr. Roy Beveridge, US Oncology’s medical director.
Affiliated clinics are independently owned, but US Oncology, a Fortune 1000 company with a staff of 600 in Houston, provides foundational services that have advanced cancer care. In summer 2010, the company will open an oncology lab in Dallas that will handle all tissue and tumor testing for its doctors, plus retain pre- and post-treatment specimens. The goal is to track clinical results to lower toxicity levels and work toward truly customized treatment, Beveridge says.
Research is a big part of that, and US Oncology has played a role in the development of 39 of the cancer drugs most recently approved by the FDA. “We have the largest research platform in the world for oncology,” Beveridge says. “With most of the drugs going through development now, every manufacturer comes to us.”
BioNumerik Pharmaceuticals Inc. in San Antonio
San Antonio-based BioNumerik Pharmaceuticals Inc. has two novel drug candidates for cancer treatment in Phase III clinical development. BioNumerik recently treated its first patients in an international multicenter Phase III clinical trial of Tavocept in patients with the most common type of lung cancer.
In addition, BioNumerik’s Karenitecin is undergoing testing in an international Phase III clinical trial in patients with advanced ovarian cancer. The 40-person company has eight additional drug discovery research programs.
State involvement in helping build life sciences industries has created an awareness of its importance and set the stage for future growth, says David Margrave, BioNumerik’s vice president for administration.
“There is no question it is a growing part of Texas’s future and means jobs for Texas, and a large number are high-wage jobs,” he says.