UTHealth biotech incubator nears capacity
Eight Texas-based startups now call TMC home
HOUSTON - (July 2, 2010) - The University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston (UTHealth) announced that its Biotechnology Commercialization Center (BCC) has leased more than three-quarters of its available space to eight Texas-based startups in less than a year. The center’s focus is to assist biotech entrepreneurs and small companies with the translation of discoveries into innovative health solutions.
The BCC provides entrepreneurs with office, conference and laboratory space, as well as access to critical equipment and core analytical facilities. The center is coordinated by the UTHealth Office of Technology Management and is approximately 20,000 square feet.
“The goal of the BCC is to establish a foothold in the ever growing biotechnology field by providing a facility to complement the local cluster,” said Bruce D. Butler, Ph.D., vice president of research and technology at UTHealth. “The tremendous response to the university’s new incubator demonstrates the need for the further development of these types of facilities.”
Technology commercialization, especially biotech, is a priority of the Texas Legislature and state leadership, Butler said. The Texas Emerging Technology Fund (ETF) was created to encourage the development of Texas early stage companies. Several BCC companies have received commercialization awards from the ETF thus far, totaling $3 million, and additional applications are expected.
The innovative health solutions being explored by BCC tenants include the use of nanotechnology to enhance the effectiveness of cancer drugs as well as medical device development in the area of heart disease.
“For life science-based companies, the center is phenomenal,” said Lynn Kirkpatrick, Ph.D., who is the CEO of two companies in the BCC - PHusis Therapeutics, Inc. and Ensysce Biosciences, Inc. “You’re in the heart of the Texas Medical Center. It allows us to interact with leading scientists.”
Ensysce is developing carbon nanotube technology licensed from Rice University and PHusis is working on cancer agents in collaboration with The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center, she said. “For a startup, the center has allowed us to start in a small space and we can expand as needed. It also enables us to keep costs down because we are able to share common equipment, a conference room and laboratory facilities,” Kirkpatrick said.
The ability to collaborate with other companies led George Holland, Ph.D., to bring his startup, Aviara Pharmaceutical Research, to the BCC. His company seeks to work with biotech and academic research groups in pharmaceutical drug discovery and development through the translation of novel chemical lead molecules into innovative commercially relevant pharmaceuticals.
“Being part of the collaboration that successfully moves a novel lead molecule or concept to a new therapeutic is one of the most exciting and professionally gratifying experiences a person can have. The commercialization focus of the BCC member companies is an excellent fit with Aviara’s drug development capabilities and it provides Aviara the opportunity to create jobs within a stimulating professional setting,” Holland said.
Christine Flynn, Ph.D., assistant director for new venture development with the UTHealth Office of Technology Management, said the center’s entrepreneurs will have an opportunity to team up with the faculty and staff of UTHealth.
Another BCC tenant, Assurance Biosciences, Inc., is developing a salivary-based cancer detection assay based on technology from The University of Texas Dental Branch at Houston, part of UTHealth. “As a startup, the focus is always on keeping the company moving forward as efficiently as possible. The BCC is doing just that by helping with all the little details,” Assurance President and CEO Derek Maetzold said.
So far, the demand for space in the BCC has been high, Flynn said. Other BCC tenants include: Nano3D Biosciences, Inc.; CorInnova, Inc.; Colibri Heart Valve, LLC; and Bissex & Watson, P.C. The BCC is considering an expansion within the UTHealth campus to accommodate the space demands of additional incubator companies.
The Biotechnology Commercialization Center is located on three floors in the University Center Tower at 7000 Fannin. For information on the BCC, please visit http://www.uth.tmc.edu/otm/startups/BCC.htm or call Flynn at 713.500.3369.
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