Texas boasts more than 900 biotechnology, biomedical research and medical manufacturing companies, universities and research centers that employ 78,896 workers at an average salary of $68,293.
Source: The Office of the Governor’s 2007 Texas Biotechnology Industry Report.
Biotech drives jobs, economy.
From groundbreaking heart drugs to lifesaving medical devices, biotechnology is a billion-dollar business in Texas.
Biotechnology in Texas is more than just genetic engineering and pharmaceuticals, says Dr. Mae Jemison. The first African-American woman to go into space, Jemison was aboard the space shuttle Endeavour for a 1992 flight. She is also founder and CEO of Houston-based BioSentient Corp., a medical device company.
“It’s a broad range of industries and activities, including medical devices, laboratory testing, and chemical and agricultural industries,” she says. “Tie it with the research institutions at Texas A&M and the University of Texas and our medical resources, and it becomes incredibly important.”
Earnings generated by the state’s biopharmaceutical industry will reach $1.3 billion annually by 2014, according to the Milken Institute.
“The beauty of Texas is that we are so big and so diverse in biotechnology,” says Tom Kowalski, president of the Texas Healthcare and Bioscience Institute. “If we look at West Texas, bioagriculture is big. If we go to Houston, cancer [research] is huge. In Dallas, there’s a large medical device component.”
The state’s agricultural biotechnology sector is working on advances such as using genetics to increase crop yields and enhance nutritional value. In fiscal 2005, Texas public higher education institutions spent $87.2 million for agricultural sciences research and development, reports the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board.
Food biotechnology combines crop breeding with genetic engineering to produce a heartier, higher-yielding crop, says Lona Sandon, an assistant professor at UT Southwestern Medical Center.
“Now, with sophisticated scientific techniques, a gene with the desired trait from one plant can be inserted into another using a living organism,” Sandon says.
Scientists have used biotechnology to improve soybeans, corn, cotton and other crops. In 2004, Texas grew more acres of genetically modified cotton than any state in the nation, with 3.4 million acres, reports the Pew Initiative on Food and Biotechnology.
In 2005, the state’s academic institutions and businesses ranked sixth in the nation for National Institutes of Health grants, which primarily supply biotechnology funding, with $1.15 billion.
At Texas A&M University’s Institute of Biosciences and Technology (IBT) in Houston, more than 200 scientists and staff from around the world search for cures for cancer, heart failure, stroke and birth defects. Three biotechnology companies have sprung from IBT research, including Inhibitex, which develops pharmaceuticals to treat infectious diseases.
IBT Director Robert Schwartz says his charge is “to enhance our ability to transfer basic research to the marketplace. The idea is to use our influence and our science to create more jobs for Texans.”
UT Southwestern Medical Center’s Office for Technology Development develops and commercializes intellectual property and creates regional biotechnology companies. OTD has launched several biotechnology companies, including Reata Pharmaceuticals Inc., says Dr. Dennis Stone, vice president of technology development at UT Southwestern.
Michael White (right), professor of cell biology at UT Southwestern Medical Center, and Angelique Whitehurst, postdoctoral researcher, isolate genes that affect how human cancer cells react to certain chemotherapy drugs.
In 2008, UT Southwestern will break ground on an adjacent 13-acre complex to its Dallas campus that will support biotechnology ventures.
“We plan to ultimately build about a 500,000 square-foot complex that will house our companies, companies that might want to locate here and strategic partners in the biotechnology/bio-device space,” Stone says.
Funding the Future
The state has backed its biotechnology industry with substantial resources, according to the Governor’s 2007 Texas Biotechnology Industry Report. In 2001, the Texas Legislature appropriated $800 million for science, engineering and commercialization, including $385 million for research infrastructure. In 2005, the State’s Emerging Technology Fund (ETF) was created to promote innovations in high-tech industries. Since then, the ETF has awarded $18.8 million to biotechnology projects.
“We have some wonderful policies that have been passed by the Legislature that are allowing us to invest in this particular industry,” says Kowalski. “And that is making us very competitive, not only nationally but also globally.”
From Medicines to Machines
The Governor’s Office divides the state’s biotechnology market into several industry segments, including life sciences, biomedicine and pharmaceuticals, medical devices, agriculture and the environment. Biomedicine and pharmaceuticals is the largest area, with about 135 pharmaceutical manufacturing companies employing more than 9,500 workers. Another 1,762 medical research and testing laboratories employ 35,212 workers, according to the Texas Workforce Commission.
The state’s medical-device industry includes companies that manufacture medical equipment such as pacemakers. Houston-based medical device maker Cyberonics developed the first FDA-approved electro-medical device for treating epilepsy. Trials under way are using the device to treat obesity, bulimia and Parkinson’s disease as well, says Cyberonics CFO Greg Browne.
In 2005, Texas counted 2,782 clinical trials for global and domestic pharmaceutical and biotechnology firms, more than any other state, according to the 2005 Texas Biotechnology and Life Sciences Cluster Report.
Texas Ranks High in Biotech
Texas is a national leader in the biotechnology market. According to a 2007 report by Batelle, the Dallas-Fort Worth-Arlington metropolitan area ranked 13th in the nation in employment in the Biosciences sector in 2004, with 16,863 jobs. Houston-Baytown-Sugar Land came in 14th with 15,993 jobs.
Between 2000 and 2004, the University of Texas was the top-ranked university in the nation for biotechnology patents, according to the Milken Institute.