It’s known as the “valley of death” – the gap that a promising innovation must cross from the research lab to market. Not many make it, and success depends largely on available capital to jump start a prototype into large-scale production.
An important bridge has now been built across that valley in the field of biomedical research, thanks to a partnership between a little-known federal office acting like a venture capital firm within the U.S. government and a nonprofit infectious disease research institute in San Antonio.
Texas Biomedical Research Institute (Texas Biomed) is the only lab in the state recently tapped to be part of the national readiness network advancing research and development of vaccines and therapeutics for public health emergencies stemming from infectious disease outbreaks and biological incidents/attacks. The new designation as a prime contractor with the federal Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority (BARDA) opens Texas Biomed up to a portfolio of up to $100 million in funding over the next five years.
It's the latest in a string of investments in Texas Biomed. The Institute is a novel and nimble organization grounded in basic science that operates at the speed of industry and pivots quickly. Just this past year, the Institute saw a record year in research grants and contracts and received $13.5 million in emergency preparedness funds from the San Antonio City Council and Bexar County Commissioners.
“This move further expands Texas’ significance as a leader in military and community preparedness.”
— U.S. Rep. Tony Gonzales, R-San Antonio
Top national and state officials heralded the BARDA prime designation as key to quickly standing up new therapies and vaccines that would not be developed without federal investment, yet are critical for U.S. national security and biodefense.
“Texas Biomed’s new partnership with BARDA will improve our ability to prevent, assess, prepare for, and respond to biological threats,” said U.S. Rep. Tony Gonzales, R-San Antonio. “This move further expands Texas’ significance as a leader in military and community preparedness.”
Texas Biomed is the nation’s only non-profit, independent research institute with the highest-level biocontainment laboratories, a national primate research center and over 80 years of experience. Scientists at the 200-acre campus in San Antonio regularly collaborate with academic institutes, the military, pharmaceutical companies, the National Institutes of Health, and biotech start-ups.
BARDA was created a few years after the September 11 attacks as part of a national strategy to speed up research, development and stockpiling of vaccines and treatments that can be tapped during public health emergencies and potential bioterror attacks. It plays a critical role in coordinating public and private funding, and accelerating commercialization of tomorrow’s next-generation technologies.
Texas Biomed has long been a partner with BARDA through subcontractor status. Since 2015, the Institute has received about $46 million through subprime contracts. The promotion into its limited network of prime contractors moves the Institute into the upper echelons of global readiness and preparedness work, said Dr. Larry Schlesinger, President & CEO.
“We are now fully integrated into the federal fabric of preparedness,” he said. “Texas Biomed is ideally and uniquely suited to be part of forward-thinking solutions for the growing infectious disease threats we face.”
Since the opening of its high containment biosafety lab, known as a BSL-4, in 1999, Texas Biomed has worked closely with federal agencies on combatting national security bioterror threats.
State Sen. Jose Menendez, D-San Antonio, said the new designation with BARDA will create high-paying jobs in the region while keeping residents of the state safe.
“San Antonio and Bexar County continue to be at the forefront of innovative techniques to protect our communities,” he said. “This adds even more fuel to our thriving economic engine that’s been built on biotech.”
Learn more at txbiomed.org