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7 San Antonio biotech companies to watch in 2017
December 30, 2016

Acelity CEO Joe Woody 

By W. Scott Bailey, San Antonio Business Journal

The takeaway from 2016, at least as it relates to San Antonio's health care and bioscience industry, is that it was a year of emergence on an international stage - for the city and several of its companies.

As we flip the calendar to January and to 2017, it's worth keeping an eye on some of the players I believe are entering a critical phase in their evolution. There are several other bioscience organizations which merit our attention. But I believe any one of the seven entities listed below could have a breakout year or a game-changing score that propels them to the next stage, while advancing local leaders' efforts to position the Alamo City as a major bioscience hub.

Acelity LP
San Antonio has plenty riding on Acelity LP, a global company with deep Alamo City roots that has entered a key period. Over the last month alone, the company has put off plans to launch an initial public offering and sold off one of its subsidiaries, LifeCell, to Dublin-based Allergan plc (NYSE: AGN) for $2.9 billion.

These moves may prove to be a precursor to a larger strategical shift in the year ahead. At a minimum, they are a clear indication that Acelity is rethinking its game plan.

BioBridge Global
This is another company with a long reach and plenty of upside potential. In September, it got a new leader as Martin Landon succeeded Linda Myers as CEO. Landon previously served as CEO of CeloNova Biosciences Inc. and before that was executive vice president and chief financial offer for Kinetic Concepts Inc., which ultimately become Acelity.

BioBridge operates several companies, including South Texas Blood & Tissue, QualTex Laboratories and GenCure. The latter entity, especially, could be one of San Antonio's aces in the hole when it comes to establishing the city as an international center of regenerative medicine. Meanwhile, BioBridge could play a key role in helping San Antonio secure another World Stem Cell Summit in the next year.

Bluegrass Vascular Technologies
Since deciding in 2014 to relocate from Lexington, Kentucky to San Antonio, Bluegrass Vascular Technologies has hit some important milestones. This fall, for example, the firm secured the CE Mark for its Surfacer Inside-Out Access Catheter System.

Bluegrass Vascular CEO Gabriele Niederauer said the regulatory approval has cleared the path for the San Antonio company to market its initial device in Europe and to begin generating revenue. That clearance could open the door to more international expansion.

During the 18 months since relocating its headquarters from Rostock, Germany, to San Antonio, Cytocentrics has entered into a collaborative relationship with Cologne-based Axiogenesis, returned some of the incentive money it received to move to the Alamo City and changed its name to CytoBioscience. In recent days, the biotech company - which develops and manufactures devices that allow researchers, medical institutions and pharmaceutical companies to better understand how human cells react to medicine - struck a deal to acquire Soluble Therapeutics. As part of the transaction, the Birmingham, Alabama, company is changing its name to Soluble Bioscience and moving its operations to San Antonio.

CytoBioscience CEO Dr. James Garvin has hinted that there is more to come. That should come as no surprise to any of the leaders who were involved in recruiting the company to San Antonio.

Prytime Medical Devices Inc.
There is little correlation between fictional television and the advancement of biotechnology. But in the case of at least one San Antonio company, the small screen has provided some big recognition. Producers of CBS' medical drama "Code Black" used Prytime Medical Devices Inc.'s initial product, the ER-REBOA Catheter, in an October episode. Since then, Prytime has secured a CE mark for the device.

The company's president and CEO, David Spencer, said recently that Prytime was already preparing to launch sales of the medical device in targeted European markets. But as word spreads about the device and about Prytime's commitment to improving military trauma care, its commercial opportunities could swell.

StemBioSys Inc.
This is another prime-time player in San Antonio's bid to become a global center for regenerative medicine. In October, the U.S. Army awarded a nearly $8 million contract to a group that includes BioBridge Global, StemBioSys Inc. and Fort Sam Houston's U.S. Army Institute of Surgical Research.

But StemBioSys also has its sights set on the international market. Over the last several months, the company has entered into agreements with firms to distribute its stem cell products in the Republic of Korea and Japan. StemBioSys CEO Bob Hutchens said the company has also secured patent approval for its technology in China and Australia. That global expansion will likely continue over the next several months.

Xenex Disinfection Services
Xenex, which got its start in Austin before deciding to relocate to San Antonio in 2012, is riding a huge wave of growth. The biotech company has found its footing by tapping into increasing concerns about health care-associated infections and by selling more of its germ-zapping robots to help eradicate those HAIs. Already, Xenex has its machines in more than 350 hospitals and has a presence in several countries, including Canada, the Netherlands, Spain, South Africa and the U.K.

In October, Xenex CEO Morris Miller said the company expected to generate more than $30 million in revenue in 2016 - a 50 percent improvement over 2015. Miller added that he expects the growth trend will continue.

Up-and-comer worth watching
There is no honorable mention here, as this is not an awards competition. But there is another company, bioAffinity Technologies, that warrants some recognition. In a relatively short period of time, the company has secured more than 40 patents in nearly two dozen countries for its CyPath Lung early cancer detection technology. So, it is surely worth keeping an eye on this company in the coming year.


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