San Antonio Makes Pact to Commercialize Military, Academic Research

Xconomy Texas — 

San Antonio — Life science groups, city officials, and research institutes in San Antonio are organizing an effort to commercialize more scientific developments coming out of the city’s military organizations.

The goal of the project is to develop an alliance between researchers at San Antonio’s numerous military medical units, the two University of Texas institutions in town, and public and private life sciences groups, where people are developing medical innovations that may have commercial appeal—or even just appeal to the other institutions. A city-backed economic development group is paying for early work on the project: $50,000 to consultant Teresa Evans, who will begin connecting the dots between the groups involved during the next six months and will develop a charter for the coalition.

“There are innovators in the military who have intellectual property they’re trying to push forward,” Evans says, adding that academic researchers have also developed products that have relevance to the military. “In order to grow, to make (those products) part of military and civilian medicine, they need to be commercialized.”

After Evans develops the groundwork for the formal partnership between the various groups, the plan is to hire a person next year to run the program. That person will work closely with the various institutions and their commercialization offices, with the goal of establishing San Antonio as a hub of “innovation and commercialization pertaining to trauma, critical care, and clinical training,” according to a document Evans developed for the project.

San Antonio officials have long been working to bolster the existing life sciences industry—as well as other sectors—with things like city-funded incentives that aim to draw startups and other businesses to town, as well as by encouraging the creation of groups that try to stimulate the innovation, such as VelocityTX. This effort has been partly modeled after partnerships other cities and regions have made with military and academic groups, such as the North Carolina Military Business Center and Propel San Diego, Evans says.

San Antonio already has examples of commercializing military research, such as Prytime Medical Devices’ catheter that can be used in emergency and critical care situations to prevent patients from bleeding to death after a traumatic injury. The technology, which received FDA approval in 2015, was developed at the San Antonio Military Medical Center. The city is also home to the Metis Foundation, a nonprofit that aims to help medical researchers get federal government grants, particularly scientists working in the military who might be able to qualify for funding from the U.S. Department of Defense.

Meanwhile, academic institutions like the University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio and the University of Texas at San Antonio have countless researchers developing everything from cancer drugs and diabetes therapies to medical devices.

Those two institutions are among the various groups collaborating on the local coalition, in addition to other efforts they have made to boost the life sciences industry. The military groups participating in the initiative include the U.S. Army Institute of Surgical Research, the Navy Medical Research Unit San Antonio, and the Air Force’s 59th Medical Wing. The city of San Antonio’s economic development department and the city-funded San Antonio Economic Development Corporation—and in particular Rene Dominguez and Ed Davis, who lead those organizations—got the coalition project started, Evans says.

In addition to her consulting business, Evans is the chief operating officer of a clinical trial operator in San Antonio called Trauma Insight. She has previously worked for startup groups in town, including RealCo and Alamo Angels.

It appears Evans may not seek out the permanent position with the coalition, after she finishes the $50,000 contract. “With those hats, it’s hard to take on another one. However, I’ll continue to support this however I can,” she says.

A steering committee is working with Evans on developing everything, and will work with whoever is hired on staff to run the coalition, Evans says. The committee is made up of leaders from academic, military, and city organizations, as well as from other local privately and publicly funded research groups, including Southwest Research Institute, VelocityTX, InCube Labs, BioBridge Global, and BioMed SA. InCube Labs, a healthcare research and development company, moved to San Antonio in 2010 after an investment from the city.

“While there are already existing local partnerships between military medical missions and academia, as well as a few commercialization success stories, we believed there was a need to have a more coordinated and sustained effort to identify and pursue more commercialization opportunities,” Davis and Dominguez wrote to Xconomy in a joint statement. “Expanding how we collaborate and really talking to each other, while creating a plan to help grow military medical commercialization opportunities, really demonstrates how such collaboration between our partners and key institutions improves our local bioscience ecosystem.”