Tag: BioMed SA

BioMed SA Honors San Antonio Native and Nobel Prize Winner William Moerner

William Moerner, San Antonio native and 2014 Nobel Prize Winner in Chemistry and recipient of the 10th annual BioMed SA Julio Palmaz Award .  Courtesy Photo.

William Moerner, San Antonio native and 2014 Nobel Prize Winner in Chemistry and recipient of the 10th annual BioMed SA Julio Palmaz Award . Courtesy Photo.

Nobel Prize Winner William Moerner spent the first 18 years of his life growing up in San Antonio and graduated from Thomas Jefferson High School.

Moerner went on to get multiple degrees in physics and math, including his PhD, and last year he won the 2014 Nobel Prize in Chemistry.

BioMed SA honored San Antonio native Moerner Thursday night by awarding him the 10th annual Julio Palmaz Award for Innovation in Healthcare and Biosciences. More than 500 people turned out for the event, which took place at the Grand Hyatt.

“Tonight we’re especially pleased to celebrate the success of a man who grew up here in San Antonio and graduated from Jefferson High School and went on to win the Nobel Prize in Chemistry,” said Mayor Ivy Taylor.

“This is a testament to what bright young minds in our city can aspire to and achieve,” Taylor said.

Even the principal of Thomas Jefferson High School attended the event.

Moerner, during his presentation to the crowd, acknowledged the importance of his education in San Antonio as providing the foundation for his science career. He showed a picture of himself as the winner of his 9th grade science fair. He also credited a high school counselor with providing him with information to apply for a full scholarship as an Alexander S. Langsdorf Engineering Fellow at Washington University in St. Louis. Moerner earned three bachelor’s degrees in physics, mathematics and electrical engineering. He went on to earn his master’s and doctoral degrees in physics from Cornell University.

In high school, Moerner participated in band, amateur radio club, math and science contest team, national honor society and the speech and debate team. He also achieved the status of Eagle Scout in the Boy Scouts.

His parents helped him immensely in his love of learning, Moerner said. His mother read to him every night from birth to five years old, he said. And his father, a member of the U.S. Air Force, encouraged him to take things apart and troubleshoot problems with automobiles and electronics.

Moerner, the Harry S. Mosher Professor of Chemistry at Stanford, shares the Nobel Prize with Eric Betzig of Howard Hughes Medical Institute and Stefan W. Hell of the Max Plank Institute for Biophysical Chemistry in Germany. They received the prize “for the development of super-resolved fluorescence microscopy.”

“For a long time optical microscopy was held back by a presumed limitation: that it would never obtain a better resolution than half the wavelength of light,” according to a news release from the Nobel Prize organization. “Helped by fluorescent molecules the Nobel Laureates in Chemistry 2014 ingeniously circumvented this limitation. Their groundbreaking work has brought optical microscopy into the nanodimension.”

Moerner was the first person to visualize a single molecule. His later research with fluorescent light allowed him to see molecules turning on and off and allowed researchers to study smaller molecular structures.

Moerner’s discovery is leading to breakthroughs in research on detecting and treating various diseases. In particular, his research has been used to reveal how a mutation in proteins leads to Huntington’s disease and damages the brain.

Moerner ended his presentation with a plea to parents and educators to inspire kids to pursue careers in science and to question their assumptions and pursue their passions.

BioMed SA Celebrates 10th Anniversary

Reporter with Silicon Hills News

Ann Stevens, president of BioMed SA, courtesy photo.

Ann Stevens, president of BioMed SA, courtesy photo.

Ten years ago, a group of leaders in San Antonio, led by former Mayor Henry Cisneros and the Greater San Antonio Chamber of Commerce, created an advocacy organization for the city’s biomedical industry.

They founded BioMed SA with the core mission to raise the visibility of San Antonio’s sizable biomedical industry locally, statewide, nationally and internationally.

“We’ve gained considerable traction in the last few years,” said Ann Stevens, BioMed SA’s president.

During the last decade, the organization’s mission has evolved to include economic development, Stevens said.

In 2009, Medtronic selected San Antonio for its new Diabetes Therapy Management & Education Center with plans to create 1,400 jobs. San Antonio beat out more than 900 other cities for the project and BioMed SA played an important role in convincing the company to locate here, Stevens said.

“EDF (The San Antonio Economic Development Foundation) had been working on it for more than a year,” Stevens said. “In the final stages, they asked BioMed SA to come into the project and help them land it.”

Since then, BioMed SA has worked closely with the EDF to bring new businesses here and to retain the ones that are here as well as foster new startups.

“We believe we are bringing real value by not only our promotional activities, but we’re beginning to attract outside investments to the city,” Stevens said.

In addition, the local startup scene in the life sciences industry is growing, Stevens said. The entrepreneurial side of the life sciences industry fosters new companies, attracts venture capital, brings seasoned executives to the city and helps the overall ecosystem to grow, she said.

Just recently, Targeted Technology, a locally based venture capital fund, brought Cytocentrics Bioscience, a Rostock, Germany-based biotech company, to San Antonio. The company agreed to relocate its corporate headquarters to San Antonio and create 15 jobs by the end of the year. In June, the City of San Antonio granted Cytocentrics $1 million in economic development funds to attract the company, which has pledged to create 285 additional jobs in the next eight years and invest $15 million. The company will be based initially at 18618 Tuscany Stone. Cytocentrics makes a medical device called a CytoPatch Machine. The company’s patch clamping technology evaluates drug interactions with human cells and analyzes data.

In addition to biomedical startups relocating here, one of the trends locally is to focus on technology transfer by taking academic research out of local institutions like the University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio and the University of Texas at San Antonio and spinning that technology out into startups, Stevens said.

On the startup front, Invictus Medical, which makes a cranial support device for the heads of newborn babies, is a prime example of a spin off coming out of the University of Texas at San Antonio, Stevens said. Other startups spinning out of the Health Science Center include Astrocyte Pharmaceuticals, which is developing drugs for brain injuries, and Rapamycin Holdings, a drug development company focused on disease prevention and treatment in pets and humans.

Randy Goldsmith, who heads up Rapamycin, also runs The Texas Technology Development Center, known as T3DC, and hosts a quarterly luncheon to keep everyone informed on what’s going on in the biomedical industry in San Antonio. About 200 people attend the luncheon, which features company presentations.

“By working together and raising visibility we have attracted more economic activity including a lot of activity in entrepreneurial startups and retained our hometown business,” Stevens said.

To continue to move the life sciences industry forward, BioMed SA plans to pursue new revenue sources from foundations, corporate grants and donations from individuals, said BioMed SA Chairman Ken Trevett.

Nobel Laureate, W.E. (William Esco) Moerner, Ph. D., to receive BioMed SA's 10th Annual Julio Palmaz Award. Photo courtesy of BioMed SA

Nobel Laureate, W.E. (William Esco) Moerner, Ph. D., to receive BioMed SA’s 10th Annual Julio Palmaz Award. Photo courtesy of BioMed SA

A few of BioMed SA’s key accomplishments in its first 10 years include the creation of the annual Julio Palmaz Award for Innovation in Healthcare and Biosciences. The next award, now in its 10th year, will go to W.E. Moerner, PhD, a San Antonio native and winner of the 2014 Nobel Prize in Chemistry. He will receive the award at BioMed SA’s annual award dinner in San Antonio on September 10th.

BioMed SA also recently completed a two-year Asset Initiative to identify “five key disease areas in which San Antonio has biomedical assets and expertise of national or world-class caliber.” That information is being used to promote San Antonio to researchers and companies in those areas and helped attract the World Stem Cell Summit to San Antonio last December.

San Antonio’s healthcare and bioscience industry employs nearly one of every six members of the city’s workforce and has an annual economic impact exceeding $30 billion, according to BioMed SA.

BioMed SA’s Role in San Antonio’s Thriving Life Sciences Industry

Molecular photo licensed from iStockphoto.com

Molecular photo licensed from iStockphoto.com

Founder of Silicon Hills News

Ann Stevens has served as BioMed SA’s president since its inception in 2005. She has helped to grow and promote San Antonio’s healthcare and bioscience industry. She recently answered some questions about BioMed SA and the role the nonprofit organization plays in the city’s booming healthcare and bioscience industry.

SHN: Why was BioMed SA created?

Ann Stevens photo courtesy of BioMed SA

Ann Stevens photo courtesy of BioMed SA

AS: BioMed SA was founded in 2005 by former Mayor Henry Cisneros and the San Antonio Chamber of Commerce to organize and promote the community’s substantial biomedical assets and raise the visibility of San Antonio as a City of Science and Health. Our mission is to accelerate the growth of what is already San Antonio’s leading industry, healthcare and bioscience, to create economic benefit for the region and contribute to improving global health.

SHN: What have been BioMed SA’s major accomplishments since its founding in 2005?

AS: Having an industry cluster organization like BioMed SA in place, along with a cohesive industry growth strategy, has helped San Antonio raise its biomedical profile to attract industry professionals and companies like Medtronic, InCube Labs, and Innovative Trauma Care from outside the region. At the same time, we’ve helped develop a local “innovation eco-system” to foster the growth of homegrown companies and talent. In addition to raising awareness of the sector overall, BioMed SA spearheaded a strategic initiative to identify San Antonio’s leading biomedical assets and leverage them for the collective benefit. The attraction of the World Stem Cell Summit to San Antonio Dec. 3-5, 2014 is testament to the potential of this strategy.

SHN: How does BioMed SA work with San Antonio’s life sciences companies and institutions?

AS: Joining BioMed SA enables companies and institutions to collaborate in growing and promoting this dynamic sector. Members benefit from strategic introductions, visibility raising initiatives, information updates, and getting to know local economic developers. They can participate in industry-specific work groups and events to advance sector growth and can submit nominations for BioMed SA’s annual Julio Palmaz Award for Innovation in Healthcare and the Biosciences. Members can also take advantage of a national cost-savings program that provides discounts on valuable products and services.
SHN: What are the strengths of San Antonio’s Life Sciences industry?
AS: In addition to being a regional hub for medical care and health professions education, San Antonio is increasingly recognized as a national leader in bioscience research and commercialization. Our vibrant biomedical community is bringing new therapies and solutions to market for some of mankind’s most complex diseases, with recognized strengths in diabetes, wound healing and regenerative medicine, infectious diseases, neurologic disorders, and cancer. We are also the “Home of US Military Medicine” with the nation’s largest military medical treatment complex and allied health training campus.
The city’s biomedical assets are supported by an innovation eco-system consisting of multiple tech transfer generators, incubators and accelerator initiatives; commercialization and entrepreneurship programs; research and technology parks with available land and flexible office space; supportive local government officials; and organizations that bring people together to exchange ideas and collaborate.

SHN: Which areas will generate growth?

AS: We believe all five of the disease areas identified above are ones that San Antonio can build on as it brings its biomedical expertise and assets to bear and as the word begins to spread. We’ve already seen several examples of companies relocating or expanding into San Antonio because of our critical mass of expertise in these areas.

SHN: What are San Antonio’s competitive advantages in the Life Sciences industry?

AS: Healthcare and bioscience is the city’s leading industry, employing more than one of every six people in the local workforce, with an annual economic impact of $30 billion. It is also one of the target industries in the community’s SA2020 vision and economic development strategic plan. Having a cohesive strategy and cluster organization in place to bring the industry segments together is key.
Research is the fuel that drives the life sciences industry, and in San Antonio it springs from three distinct, yet collaborative, sources: research organizations, private sector companies, and the U.S. military. Some of these entities have been operating in San Antonio for more than 70 years and are recognized leaders in their fields. The willingness of these organizations to collaborate with each other has been an important advantage for us.

SHN: What problems does San Antonio need to address to expand its Life Sciences industry?

AS: It is important for San Antonio to continue raising awareness of its exceptional biomedical assets and strengths since we have historically been better known for other industries. At the same time, we must focus on expanding the availability of venture capital to translate discoveries made in our research labs into innovative solutions for physicians and patients with unmet medical needs. San Antonio’s biomedical sector is a resource to the world, and local breakthroughs can have global impact when sufficiently funded and promoted.

SHN: Is there enough venture capital available to fuel the startup of new medical device, drug and other life science ventures?
AS: Capital availability has been a limiting factor for us in the past but has improved significantly in the last few years. We now have two homegrown VC funds focused largely on the life sciences, and we have begun to attract increasing interest from investors around the nation.
SHN: We live in an increasingly global world, how does San Antonio compete and collaborate with other countries in the life sciences industry?
AS: Our vision for this industry is for San Antonio to be recognized as a global leader in healthcare and bioscience, so getting the word out about our extensive biomedical assets and strengths is very important. BioMed SA exhibits at international industry conferences and participates in foreign economic missions to open doors and forge relationships with biomedical entities around the world. Over the years, we have traveled to Canada, Mexico, Japan, China, India, and Israel to build awareness and facilitate collaboration with interested companies and institutions.

SHN: How important is the commercialization of new technology spinning out of local universities to the city’s Life Sciences industry?
AS: San Antonio is increasingly recognized as a biomedical hub with unique assets in place and a track record of life-saving medical innovations. The stent invented in the 1980s by Dr. Julio Palmaz of the UT Health Science Center San Antonio revolutionized cardiac care and was named one of “Ten Patents that Changed the World.” Both the Health Science Center and the University of Texas at San Antonio (UTSA) have spun off a number of biomedical companies to commercialize medical discoveries made here.

SHN: How will the new Dell Medical School at the University of Texas in Austin affect San Antonio’s Life Sciences industry?

AS: A good medical school is the foundation for developing a life sciences industry in any region. That has certainly been the case here in San Antonio with the UT Health Science Center and its five professional schools, and we would expect that to be the case in other regions as well. At the same time, San Antonio will soon be getting a new School of Osteopathic Medicine, being developed by the University of the Incarnate Word, which will further strengthen our capabilities. In addition, San Antonio’s expertise in key disease areas continues to distinguish it from other regions. We are also known for being highly collaborative and open to exploring possibilities that leverage our strengths. By understanding what our strengths are and consciously building on them and promoting them, San Antonio is well-positioned for continued momentum.

SHN: What do you think San Antonio’s Life Sciences industry will be like in ten years?

AS: With continued focus and investment, I believe San Antonio will be recognized as a global leader in healthcare and bioscience, capitalizing on the strong foundation we already have in place and the vibrant growth that is currently under way. Much like our 5-time NBA Champion San Antonio Spurs, by continuing to work together and consciously building on our strengths, we have the opportunity to go from “good to great” and make major contributions to the health of the nation and world.


Editor’s note: This article appears in the current issue of Silicon Hills News’ print magazine on the life sciences industry in central Texas.

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