Diabetes, Infectious Diseases Early Focus of San Antonio Biomed Plan

Xconomy Texas — 

San Antonio — [Updated 12/14/17, 11:54 p.m. See below.] A study commissioned by a San Antonio bioscience advocacy group and local economic development officials is calling for the city to place additional focus on initiatives that recruit high-profile biotech executives to the Alamo City, bring in more young researchers, and further develop the healthcare IT industry.

BioMedSA, a life sciences advocacy group formed in 2005, revealed this morning a sweeping list of recommendations aimed at spurring additional scientific research into the healthcare industry in San Antonio. BioMedSA worked with consulting firm Frost & Sullivan to put together the list. Calling it an action plan for economic development, BioMedSA hopes the plan can help recruit new businesses, retain and grow ones that currently operate in the area, and help develop startups.

The advocacy group suggested that the development work primarily target disease conditions that are heavily researched in San Antonio, in particular ones that affect San Antonio citizens. The focus will initially be on diabetes and infectious disease, and later on cancer, neurological disorders, and trauma, wound-healing and regenerative medicine.

Though the planning is still early, BioMedSA and Frost & Sullivan suggested a few ideas for growth in the bioscience industry, including creating a fellowship program in San Antonio that would pay for researchers, entreprenuers, and technologists to work in the city for about a year. Those people could be given office space, funding, and other resources to try to create innovative solutions to problems related to diabetes and infectious disease, in the hope of developing technology that could be commercialized as a startup or licensed by an existing company, says Charlie Whelan, the director of Frost & Sullivan’s healthcare and life sciences consulting division in San Antonio. [Paragraph updated to clarify who the groups are trying to attract and that the people may be from inside or outside of San Antonio.]

Another possible short-term goal might be to create things like events or a partner network that might attract out-of-town executives who might be interested in San Antonio, Whelan says. The organizations also suggested placing an emphasis on promoting the city’s healthcare IT sector. [Updated to clarify the intent of some of the short-term goals.]

“It’s proactively developing that population of targeted individuals we’d be going after, actively recruiting them and telling them our story,” Whelan said during a meeting of life science executives, which BioMedSA hosted Wednesday.

Research institutions such as at The University of Texas Health Science Center San Antonio have played a key role in the development of numerous experimental drugs for conditions such as diabetes and cancer, with businesses such as Syner-III and Rapamycin Holdings developing potential candidates. The city also has plenty of other life science businesses, from startups like EO2 Concepts and Bluegrass Vascular to larger, established businesses, including Acelity.

Some of that uptick in commercial activity has sprung from the bevy of ongoing research in San Antonio, including 215 ongoing studies about diabetes and obesity and 257 looking at infectious diseases, according to BioMedSA. In a press packet, BioMedSA said it’s interested in seeing those numbers grow because in total there are 918 clinical trials in those conditions ongoing across the nation.

The new proposal also had long-term goals, including promoting San Antonio and the experts in the city as authorities about diabetes and infectious diseases, as well as using the city’s high prevalence of diabetes and conditions such as HIV as a way to spur medical device and therapeutic innovation.

While the ideas remain broad, BioMedSA says it plans to host a series of workshops with executives and other leaders in the life sciences industry to determine what next steps to take. BioMedSA says it also received help developing the plan from the San Antonio Economic Development Foundation, the City of San Antonio, and the Texas Research and Technology Foundation.