Claire Aldridge, Ph.D., is the AVP of Commercialization and Business Development at UT Southwestern Medical Center.
She recently graciously agreed to share her insights on innovation at UT Southwestern, and her view on North Texas’ position in the biotech industry.
Q: Tell us about how the Office for Technology Development supports innovation at UT Southwestern.
A: UT Southwestern’s Office for Technology Development collaborates with our faculty to advance innovative scientific discoveries from the lab into therapies and solutions that may benefit patients. You could say we help bridge the gap between curiosity and commercialization. Our scientists pursue that essential curiosity to make novel discoveries, but by putting innovation on a path towards commercialization we have the potential to change health outcomes for patients.
Q: What is one new development that our community needs to know about?
A: In addition to the exciting science going on at UT Southwestern right now, a truly notable development is the national recognition North Texas is gaining as a hub for healthcare innovation. For a number of reasons, the traditional biotech clusters on the coasts have likely peaked and the industry is looking for new regions to expand into. We’re ideally located in the middle of the country, possess a uniquely business-friendly atmosphere, and our state has wisely made a significant investment into research through the Cancer Prevention and Research Institute of Texas. All of these factors have and will continue to benefit the North Texas innovation ecosystem for years to come.
Q: How does North Texas fit into the larger landscape of innovation in our nation?
A: After years of trying to be the next San Francisco or Boston, the North Texas biotech industry is now leveraging what differentiates us from these traditional hubs. We have the opportunity to address challenges that are unique to less geographically dense populations, such as delivering cutting-edge medical therapies to areas without local access to hospitals or clinics. Our state’s diverse population is representational of our country as a whole – we have the opportunity to leverage that to improve care across the continuum. Also in this new era of personalized medicine, such as CAR-T cells and gene therapies, our two excellent airports allow for timely delivery of these types of lifesaving treatments across the entire country in four hours or less.
Q: What inspires you?
A: I am inspired daily by our remarkable staff and faculty who treat patients facing devastating diseases – from Parkinson’s to intractable epilepsy to cancers. They provide cutting-edge and compassionate care, then head to their laboratories to continue researching the next generation of therapies. To be part of that in any way is what drives me.