President’s Perspective

Innovation at the TMC


By William F. McKeon | April 3, 2018

Five years ago, the leadership of the Texas Medical Center (TMC) and our major institutions set forth to pursue a bold vision: the creation of an innovation institute unlike any other in the world.

Our goal was to develop an environment that would serve as the nerve center for the next generation of therapies, medical devices and digital health applications. Since that, we’ve come a long way: more than 175 companies have called the TMC Innovation Institute home, including 46 pharmaceutical firms, 42 medical device companies and 82 health technology businesses. We’re proud that today, the TMC Innovation Institute is the largest business accelerator of its type in the U.S.

Getting to this point required the leadership of the TMC and its members, who came together for the first time in our more than 70-year history to share perspectives and define a strategic plan that would set our course for decades to come.

Innovation clusters

We looked at “innovation clusters” in the leading cities across the nation and world. In doing so, we recognized that while we had many of the attributes of these places, some of our own innovation efforts were fragmented, isolated and lacking the resources required to turn brilliant ideas into viable solutions. We knew that by aligning our efforts and resources centrally, we would have the most prolific life sciences ecosystem in the world.

So what have we done to get there?

First, we needed a site to house such an undertaking that had the size to scale for future growth and the aesthetics to support an innovation community. We selected the iconic former Nabisco cookie factory, which fit both those criteria.

Second, we built the TMCx accelerator and recruited a talented team of individuals dedicated to providing the support our start-up companies need, including business plan refinement; free legal advice to establish or protect intellectual property; prototype design and development; regulatory guidance; and introductions to both medical center partnerships and venture capital.

Third, we set out to attract industry to Houston. We convinced Johnson & Johnson to establish its JLABS @ TMC incubator for life sciences at the Texas Medical Center. When J&J leadership started visiting the TMC, they were so intrigued with the opportunity that they decided to build the J&J Center for Device Innovation at the TMC (CDI @ TMC), the company’s only facility of this type in the world. This center is headed by renowned cardiac surgeon and entrepreneur Billy Cohn, M.D.

Just the beginning

Finally, we launched the $25 million TMC Venture Fund, dedicated to investing in early stage technologies that can advance human health.

These are big wins, no doubt, but this work is just the beginning. We are only now starting to hit our stride, and we plan to expand further to support the growth of the TMC Innovation Institute. We have so many more opportunities to leverage the synergies across the Texas Medical Center to further establish Texas as the “third coast” of life sciences.

What’s next for innovation at the TMC? Stay tuned for important announcements in the coming months.

 

Bill McKeon
President and CEO of the Texas Medical Center




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