The healthcare and bioscience industry has always been a steady economic engine and represents the biggest opportunity for collaboration and innovation. The complementary medical research occurring here is considered a national asset and significant competitive advantage for San Antonio. We, the leadership from the four leading academic and research institutions announced a major collaborative initiative meant to spur economic growth and innovation. The collaborative coined Precision Therapeutics brings the major complementary research assets in each institution together to work toward progressing personalized medicine that represents the future of medical diagnostics and treatment.
Precision Therapeutics fits San Antonio’s economic strategy and brand perfectly. Precision Therapeutics draws on multiple industries to advance innovation. It’s not only traditional medical research, but it combines and leverages data analytics, applied research, IT/cybersecurity, manufacturing, artificial intelligence, and other vital sectors. It requires multiple disciples and a diverse industry portfolio. More importantly, it represents a game-changing approach to medical diagnostics and care. San Antonio can emerge as a global leader from not only bench to bedside research but can be a global leader in advancing and innovating in this new type of healthcare diagnostics and delivery.
When you consider the reputation UT Health San Antonio, the University of Texas-San Antonio (UTSA), Southwest Research Institution (SwRI), and Texas Biomedical Research Institute represent — the breadth and enormity of this opportunity begin to take shape. Collectively they represent over $1B in annual research spend that, when leveraged and connected collaboratively, can be the firepower we need to compete with major metro area at the international level. Additionally, the game changer and what distinguishes us from all other communities is military medical research. The tri-services of the armed forces have major medical research capabilities here in San Antonio. The U.S. Army Institute for Surgical Research, the Naval Medical Research Unit San Antonio, and 59th Medical Wing represent world-class research and innovation centers in trauma, critical care, and clinical training. The point is, whether it’s diagnostics, specialized research in trauma and regenerative medicine, disease-specific areas like diabetes or cancer – it’s the linkages and leveraging or our collective strengths that provides the biggest opportunity.
These military assets and our academic/research institutions have also been focusing on commercialization and tech transfer. All are recognizing the positive impact commercialization and start-ups have on spurring innovation and economic growth, not to mention the life-changing innovations that these inventions represent.
We know that we underinvest in our innovative ecosystem. Compared to other peer cites, those we compete with for economic projects, there are considerable disparities in what we generate in terms of funding, business formation, wages, and secured venture. All these cities have invested in infrastructure, transportation, education, and specific ecosystem elements like incubators, wet labs, consortiums, and workforce development, to name a few. There are good indicators showing we are making progress, but so are our competitors at a faster rate in some cases.
I can make the case that those critical elements gain momentum and get funded and developed when there is critical mass and the time is right. I can argue that the time is right. We have aggressive thought leaders heading up SwRI, Texas Biomed and UTSA (at UT Health); a focus on collaboration within the Department of Defense; a supportive and active public sector at the City and County; and momentum and willingness to partner in the bioscience community.
38 years after forming the Texas Research and Technology Foundation (TRTF), created by Gen. McDermott and community leaders to focus on collaboration and the life sciences, there is a new sense of opportunity and urgency. There is a fierce international competition for economic progress, and if we don’t react now – then when. The TRTF board of directors has doubled down on supporting innovative research and entrepreneurial development. We have developed and funded a state-of-the-art life science innovation center near Ft. Sam on the near Eastside. This multi-million-dollar effort is meant to activate the regions research partners, the private sector and the military. It’s a critical element needed to generate innovation and subsequent jobs and investment. We are ready to do our part, and we’re supportive and promote the concept of our major academic and research institutions partnering together. We fully support the integration of our military research assets into this consortium.