They know they’re far from first, but Texans won’t be last to capture some of the genomics market. The state’s last legislative session proposed a $45 million venture loan fund for startup biotech companies in the state. Though Da Hsuan Feng, vice president of research and graduate education at the University of Texas at Dallas, says it’s unlikely the funding will go through, he believes it’s a starting point. “This is a good time to build momentum for the [next] budget,” he says.
Other lures for the industry are yet to be dangled, says Dennis Stone, vice president of technology development at UT Southwestern. His school will receive $9 million annually to fund technology development. A tech group in Houston plans to launch a biotech park on more than 60 acres of land in the city, while San Antonio and Austin are also working on incentives for these companies.
According to Feng, this is based largely on Texans’ recognition “that they want to build more than one technology industry here,” pointing out that Dallas in particular was based on the telecommunications field.
Stone contends that with strong IP coming out of the universities, Texas should be in good shape. “We have five companies in the works at UT Southwestern, and at least one of those will be focused heavily on genomics and proteomics.”
Aside from new companies, the state is also looking to land some subsidiaries or branch offices of existing genomics, proteomics, and bioinformatics companies. “This is not a Hail Mary move,” Stone says. “But it’s time to put our energies in this field.”
— Meredith Salisbury