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Booming Biomed Industry Takes a Bow With Tonight's Palmaz Award
September 20, 2012

By Jim Forsyth, 1200 WOAI News

BioMed SA tonight will honor Vidacare founder Dr. Larry Miller with the Palmaz Award for his work inventing the inside-the-bone i.v. unit and his starting of a company to market his groundbreaking invention, but it will also be the region's biomedical industry itself which will be in the spotlight, 1200 WOAI news reports.

Healthcare, Biotech and Biomedicine has quietly become the largest single sector employer in Bexar County, and has helped engineer the evolution of the region's economy from a low pay and low skill work force in tourism and civilian support of the military, into a cutting edge brainpower economy with a global reach.

"It's an industry with good paying jobs, with brainpower jobs, and jobs that are noble," said Ann Stevens, President of BioMed SA, the umbrella agency formed in 2005 by former Mayor Henry Cisneros and other community leaders to guide the expansion of the industry.

And while many people would tell you that theme parks, the military, or maybe Toyota are the major employers in the region, biomedicine now employs, directly or indirectly, more than 120,000 people in the region, with an economic impact in excess of $20 billion, according to a Trinity University study.

Stevens says much like Silicon Valley in northern California developed in the seventies and eighties around core industries like Hewlett-Packard, the local biomedical industry is being boosted by the growth in the last two years of military medicine.

"I think the emergence of miltiary medicine here in San Antonio is a new dimension to our sector and the growth of our sector that few other regions of our country can lay claim to," Stevens said.

She points out that basic research in the biosciences can build on the scientists who are in San Antonio with the Texas Biomedical Research Institute, formerly the Southwest Foundation for Biomedical Research, and the work being done at the University of Texas Health Science Center.

But Stevens says the 'critical mass' has now been created to help make San Antonio's biomedical industry an agent of growth. She points out the location of several new biotech companies here just in the past year, creation of the San Antonio Vaccine Development Institute, and the work being done locally in conjunction with the new bioterrorism vaccine development center at Texas A&M University.

"It really constitutes a leading industry in San Antonio, employing one out of every six people in our work force, which is really amazing," Stevens said.

She points out that as the nation's huge Baby Boomer population continues to age, it will be demanding the new drugs, medical equipment, and procedures being developed by the local biomedical industry. She also points out that local companies like the START Center for Cancer Care have opened branches worldwide, extending the city's biomedical reach worldwide.

As she put it, hope has never been in short supply in San Antonio.

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