By Peggy O’Hare, STAFF WRITER San Antonio Express-News InCube Labs of San Antonio has been ...
Dr. Her-Shyong Shiah, lead researcher at START Taipei (Photo Courtesy Taipei Medical University) David ...
In addition to being a regional hub for medical care in South Texas, San Antonio is increasingly recognized as a national center for bioscience research and innovation. The city’s vibrant research community is discovering and developing new treatments, vaccines and prevention techniques for some of mankind’s most challenging and complex diseases, such as cancer, cardiovascular disease and diabetes, as well as bio-threat agents like smallpox, Ebola and tularemia.
Research is the fuel that drives bioscience industry growth, and in San Antonio it springs from three distinct, but collaborative, sources: academia/non-profits, the military, and the private sector. The first two sources are profiled below. For the private sector, see the “Bioscience Firms” section of our website.
San Antonio’s biomedical research community is anchored by The University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio (UTHSCSA), which ranks in the top 5% of the 1,650 U.S. universities and non-profit institutions that receive federal research funding. Its research strengths include aging, cancer, cardiopulmonary disease, transplantation, infectious disease, metabolic biology, neuroscience, trauma and women’s health.
For the period 2001 to 2005, UTHSCSA ranked sixth in the nation in clinical medicine research impact, according to Science Watch. The survey calculated the citation impact of papers produced by the top 100 federally funded U.S. universities. UTHSCSA produced 2,576 papers in the clinical medicine category over the five-year period and was assigned a relative impact percentage of 90, meaning that its papers were cited 90% more often than the world average for papers in clinical medicine.
The UT Health Science Center operates the Cancer Therapy & Research Center (CTRC), a National Cancer Institute-designated cancer center – one of 63 in the U.S. and one of three in Texas. CTRC boasts the world’s largest Phase I clinical trials network for testing new cancer drugs for the first time in humans. Sixteen cancer drugs approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration underwent preclinical and clinical development at the CTRC’s Institute for Drug Development. CTRC also sponsors the annual San Antonio Breast Cancer Symposium, the world’s largest gathering of breast cancer researchers.
The UT Health Science Center is also home to the Greehey Children’s Cancer Research Institute (GCCRI), a specialized center to probe the underlying genetic and molecular causes of pediatric cancers and accelerate the translation of existing knowledge into novel interventions. The GCCRI opened in 2004 in a new 100,000-square foot facility, supported by a $200 million endowment from the State of Texas tobacco settlement. In January 2007, it was awarded a $25 million grant from the Greehey Family Foundation, the largest private cash gift ever received by the Health Science Center and one of the largest gifts in the history of the UT System.
The study of the basic biology of aging is one of the Health Science Center’s signature research activities at the Sam and Ann Barshop Institute for Longevity and Aging Studies, founded in 2001. Investigators at the Barshop Institute receive approximately $28 million in research funding annually. The National Institute on Aging (NIA) of the National Institutes of Health is the primary source, funding a total of 45 grants equaling $11.3 million annually, making the Barshop Institute the top-funded Texas institution and one of the top five nationally.
Several Health Science Center facilities, including the Barshop Institute, the Institute of Biotechnology, and the CTRC’s Institute for Drug Development, are located at the Texas Research Park in western Bexar County. Owned by the Texas Research and Technology Foundation, the 1,236-acre park is also home to various commercial enterprises and was a 2008 finalist for the National Bio and Agro-Defense Facility.
In addition to the Health Science Center, San Antonio’s other UT System university, the University of Texas at San Antonio (UTSA), is on track to become the state’s next premier research university. One of the nation’s fastest growing academic universities, UTSA is conducting increased amounts of biomedical research. Its Biotechnology, Sciences and Engineering Building, with 220,000 square feet and 70 laboratories, is one of the largest science-related educational facilities in Texas. Alongside it, a new Engineering II Building is expected to be completed by December 2009.
San Antonio’s two UT System universities collaborate on joint research projects and educational degree programs through the San Antonio Life Sciences Institute (SALSI), created in 2004. The two schools have also combined efforts to develop intellectual property through a single Office of Technology Ventures, known as South Texas Technology Management. This unique joint venture, which also includes two UT System campuses in South Texas, is expected to maximize opportunities for bundling discoveries arising from multiple research labs.
Another San Antonio research powerhouse, Texas Biomedical Research Institute (formerly known as the Southwest Foundation for Biomedical Research), is one of America’s leading independent biomedical research institutions. Texas Biomedical Research Institute operates the world’s largest computing cluster for genetics and genomics research, as well as the nation’s only privately-operated, maximum containment (BSL-4) laboratory. It is also the site of the world’s largest baboon research colony at the Southwest National Primate Research Center.
In addition to these major bioscience-focused institutions, biomedical research is also performed in San Antonio by the Southwest Research Institute, a leading applied science institution benefiting government, industry and the public through innovative science and technology since 1947.
With its diverse population, San Antonio is a major location for clinical trials of new drug therapies and medical devices. Pharmaceutical and biotechnology companies from around the world conduct human trials at locations throughout the city, including dedicated sites such as Healthcare Discoveries, Inc. Altogether, more than 3,000 active clinical trial protocols are being conducted in San Antonio.
San Antonio also is rapidly becoming the "Home of Military Medicine" with the largest military healthcare and biomedical research operations in the United States, providing unique collaborative opportunities not available elsewhere.
These include the U.S. Army Institute of Surgical Research (USAISR), based at Brooke Army Medical Center (BAMC), a modern healthcare facility that operates a Level I trauma center, world-renowned burn unit and new $37 million rehabilitation facility, the Center for the Intrepid, for amputees and other wounded soldiers. BAMC’s clinical care and research facilities conduct significant amounts of translational and clinical research that stand to benefit trauma victims nationwide.
As the only DoD research laboratory focused on traumatic injury, USAISR has a staff of 350 personnel and an annual research budget of $14 million. In addition to its core research programs, in 2004-2005 USAISR investigators conducted $3.8 million in sponsored research from DARPA, National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), and the Office of Naval Research. Prominent examples of USAISR, BAMC, and UTHSCSA collaborations are the development of sulfamylon for burns and the development of the first coronary artery stent, the Palmaz-Schatz stent by BAMC cardiologist, Richard Schatz with UTHSCSA’s Julio Palmaz.
The prominence of BAMC and USAISR in military medicine will grow significantly between now and 2011, as many Department of Defense (DoD) medical and dental missions relocate to San Antonio as a result of the Base Realignment and Closure (BRAC) process. The expected growth of approximately 230 additional investigators and staff will provide added unique opportunities for collaboration between BAMC, USAISR and other community researchers.
San Antonio is also home to Wilford Hall Medical Center (WHMC), the Air Force's largest medical facility. As a result of the recent BRAC process, WHMC is being consolidated with BAMC to become the San Antonio Military Medical Center (SAMMC), the largest of two national military medical centers.
WHMC currently operates the only DoD programs for allogeneic bone marrow transplantation, has the only DoD eye bank and operates the Air Force's treatment and evaluation center for HIV. Now in its 20th year, approximately 1,500 patients have participated in WHMC’s HIV research program. Some 350 persons living with HIV infection are enrolled in studies, including a large study of the Natural History of HIV in Military Beneficiaries.
Brooks City-Base, a partnership between the U.S. Air Force and the Brooks Development Authority, is a unique technology, research and business center on the site of San Antonio’s former Brooks AFB. The 1,250-acre complex is home to the USAF School of Aerospace Medicine, as well as DPT Laboratories' $24 million research, development and distribution facility and a charter school focused on science and engineering.