Texas Medical Center Makes Pitch to Boost Houston Biotech Startups

Xconomy Texas — 

The Texas Medical Center is slated this week to unveil its new life sciences accelerator, to be housed in a former Nabisco cookie factory near its main Houston campus.

The accelerator is part of a larger effort by the medical center, which is considered one of the world’s largest, to play a more active role in engaging with Houston’s biotech community and leverage its considerable resources to help those startups get traction.

Bobby Robbins, the TMC’s president and CEO, has said that he believes Houston can be home to an ecosystem on par with those in Boston or San Francisco, and that the TMC can play a vital role in helping the city get there.

“We’re going to open in October the country’s largest life sciences accelerator for taking startups and helping shepherd them through” the commercialization process, he said at an August lunch of the Hotel Lodging Association of Greater Houston, according to the Houston Business Journal.

The TMC accelerator plans to have lawyers, venture capitalists, mentors, and staff on site to help early stage biotech companies move from “the idea on the back of a napkin” to the next new drug or medical device, he added.

Robbins and Bill McKeon, the medical center’s chief operating officer, declined through a spokesperson to speak about the new accelerator or other plans to boost the city’s biotech sector.

The effort kicked off in January with a two-day VIP retreat at Houston’s Museum of Fine Arts. Since then, regular meetings of stakeholders—heads of medical and educational institutions, venture and other investors, life sciences entrepreneurs, and others—have taken place to flesh out how TMC could catalyze the city’s resources and talent, according to several people who have attended those meetings.

The planning of the accelerator, as well as other features of the TMC’s strategic plan—related to genomics, regenerative medicine, clinical trials, and health policy—has been in the works throughout the year and a topic of much discussion among those in Houston’s biotech ecosystem. The TMC is not only considering setting up an accelerator but also creating a campus that could house biotech and pharma companies, office space for the TMC and its member institutions, as well as possible retail and residential components, according to discussion points for a June meeting of its Innovation Strategy Design Team.

“This could provide a true aggregation point for startups and entrepreneurs and service providers within life sciences in Houston that just hasn’t happened before,” says Blair Garrou, co-founder and managing director of the Mercury Fund, a Houston venture capital firm. “Other projects haven’t been able to pull in startups in a way to allow them to collaborate with one another.”

Certainly, the … Next Page »

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