By Peggy O'Hare, San Antonio Express-News A trauma-care medical device company with U.S. headquarters ...
Vidacare CEO Mark Mellin says the company has made significant investments in talent and infrastructure ...
Austin, TX, June 19, 2012 - A new statewide survey of Texas' life sciences industry shows two significant signs of growth: improving access to capital for early-stage companies, and a more mature stage of commercialization.
Funding access. The survey found that access to early-stage capital, the biggest priority for any burgeoning tech sector, is more abundant than in previous years, although it remains the leading area in which companies say they need additional support. Of the companies surveyed, 62 percent said they have been fueled by angel investment and family and friend funds, and 61 percent have received government loans or grants. 42 percent of companies surveyed have received venture funding.
"Ten years ago Texas was losing early-stage companies to other states following the funding trail," according to Tom Kowalski, president of Texas Healthcare and Bioscience Institute (THBI). "Now, despite the federal regulatory hurdles they have to overcome, companies are commercializing and staying in Texas. This is a significant achievement and competitive advantage for our state."
Kowalski and other leaders concede work is not done on the funding front. While the majority of the state's early-stage companies can secure funding, 65% of companies surveyed said they still need support in identifying viable funding sources.
Texas sector maturing. Texas' life sciences industry is also growing up. While 22 percent of the companies surveyed are at the "clinical trial or regulatory" stage, a majority-51 percent-have moved beyond the IP creation, prototype, and preclinical signposts and have sufficient products in the pipeline or on the market to attract investors. A healthy product pipeline is critical for the state's overall life sciences industry.
Collaborative ecosystem. Forging a collaborative ecosystem for life sciences is a shared vision for organizational leaders responsible for promoting the survey in their individual regions. In an effort spearheaded by Austin Technology Council (ATC), 11 organizations from regions across Texas partnered to administer the 2012 Texas Life Science Survey, including:
• Austin Technology Council (www.austintechcouncil.org)
• Austin Technology Incubator (http://ati.utexas.edu/)
• BioAustin (http://www.austinchamber.com/technology/bio-austin/)
• BioHouston (http://www.biohouston.org/)
• BioMed SA (http://www.biomedsa.org/)
• Health Industry Council of the North Texas Region (http://www.healthindustrycouncil.org/)
• Texas BioAlliance (http://texasbioalliance.org/)
• Texas Healthcare & Bioscience Institute (http://www.thbi.com/)
• Texas Medical Device Alliance (http://www.texmda.org/)
• Texas Workforce Commission (http://www.twc.state.tx.us/)
The project's mission was to capture a real-time snapshot of the state of the life sciences industry in Texas as a whole and to set the stage for a big-picture strategy for supporting the growth of the sector. THBI's and TWC's statewide reach contributed to the project's broad perspective.
Of the 241 companies that participated in the survey, 82 percent are privately held. Approximately 72 percent have fewer than 50 employees, and 31 percent have fewer than five. One out of five companies surveyed has more than 100 employees.
TWC understands the needs of the life sciences industry in Texas from both the business side and the workforce side. With 28 employer-led workforce boards across the state, TWC has extensive reach into local talent and resources. Survey results can provide local workforce boards with valuable information from which they can develop activities that support regional goals.
TWC spokesperson Lisa Givens comments, "Life sciences jobs demand advanced technical knowledge. These are just the kind of high-wage/high-skill jobs we want to develop in Texas. Attracting, developing and retaining the talent needed in life sciences, as well as the research and commercialization opportunities that life sciences bring to the state, benefits other industries as well. The impact of life sciences goes beyond the state-it has international significance."
THBI's Kowalski says, "The survey was timely in terms of where the life sciences industry is today. What we're trying to do in Texas is create an environment for research/development and manufacturing in life sciences. This is a critical juncture to ensure the availability of the funds, talent and facilities needed to invigorate the industry."