fforts to incubate startups in this city of 66,100 – located halfway between Dallas and San Antonio – are getting a boost from the Texas Emerging Technology Fund and collaboration between Texas A&M Health Science Center College of Medicine (TAMHSC) and Scott & White Healthcare.
"Everyone is trying to work together to make the environment conducive to developing bioscience companies and research," says Mike T. Norman, CEO of Global BioDiagnostics Corp. (GBD).
His Temple-based startup, founded in 2009, is commercializing a diagnostics tool that will enable non-medical personnel to conduct field tests for tuberculosis in Third World environments. Confirmation of TB presently requires extensive and costly laboratory testing.
GBD's technology was discovered by Jeffrey D. Cirillo, a TAMHSC microbial and molecular pathogenesis professor. The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation partially funded his research and related chemistry studies at Stanford University.
GBD is still raising startup capital since it announced in March that it will co-develop and commercialize tuberculosis tests with the Foundation for Innovative New Diagnostics (FIND) in Geneva, Switzerland.
Before the creation of GBD, Cirillo's research was effective in the laboratory, but it did not necessarily convince large pharmaceutical and biotech companies that it was ready for market. Undeterred, the Texas A&M University System Office of Technology Commercialization decided to take it to the next step.
"We, as an institution, essentially decided to force commercialization with the creation of Global BioDiagnostics," says Brett Cornwell, associate vice chancellor for commercialization for the Texas A&M University System. "The goal is to create a company with the license to the technology."
Leveraging relationships with the bioscience and entrepreneurial communities in Central Texas, the university system chose Norman, a Temple-based attorney, as CEO since he has a history of securing funding for startups.
GBD is the second major startup to spin out of Temple's healthcare and bioscience institutions in recent years. Atumida Inc. is developing technologies that treat and reverse hemorrhagic shock. Also founded in 2009, Atumida was a spin-off from Scott & White research in Temple. It has private investors and maintains formal relationships with the hospital system, Texas A&M, the University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center and Viral Genetics Inc.
Atumida's technology belongs to Scott & White, but Texas A&M maintains equity in the startup because its office of commercialization helped write a business plan. Universities tend to focus on commercializing technology licensed from within their own institutions, making the Atumida a unique animal for Texas A&M.
"We think much broader about how we can use commercialization," Cornwell says. "It's a little out-of-the-box for Scott & White, too, but it's the right thing to do to have a creative, vibrant bioscience commercialization environment in Temple."
The hospital employs more than 100 scientists and researchers, many of whom also serve as faculty at Texas A&M's four-year medical school in Temple. A hospital intellectual property committee regularly reviews their research for potential patents and licensing.
"We're definitely excited about Atumida – we hope it will encourage other inventors to disclose their inventions and collaborate with our partners across Texas," says Charlette Stallworth, Scott & White Healthcare's director of capital finance.
Atumida is awaiting an investment from the Texas Emerging Technology Fund, which has also provided $5 million to help fund stem cell research collaboration between Texas A&M and Scott & White. In 2008, Texas A&M, Scott & White and civic leaders recruited Dr. Darwin Prockop from Tulane University Health Sciences Center, where he served as director of the Center for Gene Therapy.
He now serves as inaugural holder of the Stearman Chair in Genomic Medicine, professor of molecular and cellular medicine in the Texas A&M Health Science Center College of Medicine and director of the Institute for Regenerative Medicine at Scott & White.
Scott & White's headquarters in Temple has long made the city a Central Texas player in healthcare – the company was founded in 1897. The system serves a 29,000-square-mile (75,110-sq.-m.) region area that includes Austin, Waco and College Station. It employs 13,000 people, including 900 physicians and scientists at 12 hospitals, 60 clinics and two nursing homes along the middle stretch of Texas' Interstate 35 corridor.
Its flagship in Temple serves as the teaching and research hospital for Texas A&M Health Science Center College of Medicine. The medical school is based in College Station, home of the Texas A&M University campus, but it had used Scott & White's hospital as a teaching facility for first- and second-year students.
In recent years, the Texas A&M University System broadened the Temple medical school to four years, opening the door to more university research.
"The complements have all been there for years, but the effort to pull them together is new," said Jack Hart, director of the Temple Health and Bioscience District. It was the state's first bioscience district since the Legislature authorized creation of the entities in 2003.
Robert Crowe is a freelance writer based in San Antonio, Texas.