On January 7-9, Southwestern Medical Foundation sponsored and attended the TAMEST (The Academy of Medicine, Engineering & Science of Texas) Annual Conference. 

The TAMEST Annual Conference brings together industry experts, thought leaders, and academic professionals to discuss innovation and growth in Texas. This year, the TAMEST Annual Conference explored how leading-edge research is being translated into commercialization and the impact these advances have on the future.

The most critical part about our state is an attitude. We’re a very optimistic, pro-business state.

Tom Luce, Director, Texas 2036, Honorary Trustee, Southwestern Medical Foundation

A unifying theme across all industries is the importance of ecosystems. The intersection between innovation, commercialization, and life sciences relies on a successful ecosystem in which every component works in unison to foster an environment rich with opportunity.

With the support of a healthy ecosystem, world-changing medical innovation is occurring everyday, from advances in cancer care to breakthroughs in gene-editing technology.

Biotechnology Innovation

Eric Olson, Ph.D., is the Director of the Hamon Center for Regenerative Science and Medicine and Professor and Chair of the Department of Molecular Biology at UT Southwestern. 

Dr. Olson has dedicated his career to understanding how muscles form, function, and malfunction. His most recent work has provided a new strategy for correction of Duchenne muscular dystrophy (DMD) using CRISPR gene-editing technology. 

Dr. Olson has co-founded multiple biotechnology companies to develop therapies for heart and muscle disease, including Myogen, Miragen, Tenaya Therapeutics, and Exonics Therapeutics. Exonics Therapeutics was recently acquired by Vertex Pharmaceuticals.

Dr. Olson’s track record of building successful biotechnology companies demonstrates the type of innovative momentum that occurs when ideas, science, and community intersect. At TAMEST, Dr. Olson spoke about what it means to invest in big ideas. 

The state of Texas has world-class, unparalleled institutions, including UT Southwestern and MD Anderson. There is a lot of wealth and entrepreneurial spirit. People are not afraid to invest in big ideas and risks, and that’s what biotech is all about.

Eric Olson, P.h.D., Professor and Chair, UT Southwestern

Although there is no shortage of resources in Texas, founding a successful biotech business requires a critical mass of people with skills in each area of the business. Dr. Olson expressed his hope that a new biotechnology incubator will form to attract expertise at all levels. 

Learn more about Dr. Olson’s biotechnology company, Exonics, and his experience in gene editing

The Impact of Collaboration and Teamwork

On October 14, 1985, it was announced that Drs. Joseph L. Goldstein and Michael S. Brown had won the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine. Never before had a Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine been awarded for research done exclusively within the state of Texas.

The same spirit of medical excellence and innovation that brought Texas its first Nobel Laureates continues to inspire research with far-reaching implications for the health of our nation. Drs. Goldstein and Brown participated in the TAMEST 2020 Annual Conference in a discussion about turning basic research into new therapies, moderated by HHMI (Howard Hughes Medical Institute) investigator Huda Y. Zoghbi, M.D.

One of the most significant factors Drs. Brown and Goldstein mention in contributing to their success was the collaborative nature of the teams with whom they worked. 

Today, Drs. Brown, Goldstein, and Zoghbi continue to champion the value of teamwork in driving the types of discoveries and breakthroughs that shape the future of health care. With institutions like UT Southwestern prioritizing teamwork and collaboration as a core value, Texas is one step closer to achieving a long-term, sustainable ecosystem for translating new ideas into patient care.

There is no lack of ideas being generated here; it’s a question of commercial investment.

Michael S. Brown, M.D., (NAM, NAS), UT Southwestern

Read more about Drs. Goldstein and Brown in Perspectives: 75 Years of Vision: Part II

CPRIT’s Role as a Vital Resource in Texas

CPRIT (Cancer Prevention and Research Institute of Texas) is a state agency established in 2007 by Texas voters, authorizing the state to issue $3 billion in bonds to fund cancer research, prevention programs, and services. During 2019, voters reauthorized CPRIT for another 10 years of funding.

The TAMEST 2020 Annual Conference examined the role of CPRIT as a vital funding resource, opening up a discussion with Tom Kowalski, President and CEO of Texas Healthcare & Bioscience Institute; Keith Argenbright, M.D., Professor, UT Southwestern Medical Center; Livia S. Eberlin, Assistant Professor, The University of Texas at Austin; and James Willson, M.D., Chief Scientific Officer, CPRIT.

CPRIT has been tremendous. When it was created, the saying was ‘can you imagine where it will be in 10 years’ and here we are. We are in the process right now of moving forward. We have another 10 years in front of us.

Keith Argenbright, M.D., Director, Moncrief Cancer Institute; Professor, UT Southwestern

In the last decade, CPRIT invested $2.5 billion dollars in grants that have expanded prevention services across Texas, helped establish best practices in all 254 Texas counties, and brought 34 early stage cancer research companies to Texas. 

More than 70% of CPRIT funding has supported the development of important research in cancer at Texas’ institutes of higher education. This includes the recruitment of 199 stellar cancer investigators, joining 18 different Texas institutions and contributing to the state’s innovation ecosystem. 

My students are committed and want to stay in Texas to do the type of impactful cancer research in which CPRIT has played a major role in. One of my students has been funded through CPRIT and now she’s going to MD Anderson. As part of her training, she’s been engaged with CPRIT as a funding agency, but also as an ecosystem of research and mindset of the type of passionate research that will make an impact for patients.

Livia S. Eberlin, Professor, The University of Texas at Austin

Texas as an Innovation Hub

Southwestern Medical Foundation celebrates and supports continued innovation in Texas and proudly supports the mission of TAMEST.

Texas is a state with an abundance of potential. Since its founding, TAMEST has helped connect leading innovators in science, technology, medicine, and engineering to each other. The goal was to bring more research funding and visibility to the work being done in Texas and that goal is being accomplished each day with the support of TAMEST members and contributors.

Kathleen M. Gibson, President and CEO, Southwestern Medical Foundation