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Published on Thursday, August 17, 2017

City of San Antonio Providing $250,000 to Texas Biomedical Research Institute’s Efforts to Design a New High Containment Research Lab

Media Contacts: 
City of San Antonio Economic Development Department: Jeannette Garcia O: 210.207.3915  |   Jeannette.Garcia@sanantonio.gov
Texas Biomedical Research Institute Lisa Cruz O: 210.258.9437  |   lcruz@txbiomed.org

SAN ANTONIO (August 17, 2017) The San Antonio City Council today authorized a loan of $250,000 to locally based Texas Biomedical Research Institute (Texas Biomed), an independent, not-for-profit biomedical research institution, to help fund the design of a new state-of-the-art biosafety level 4 (BSL-4) facility on their campus. BSL-4 labs are essential to helping combat the growing threat of current and emerging infectious diseases by allowing scientists to develop vaccines with maximum safety precautions in a contained space designed for the isolation of dangerous biological threats.

In June 2017, Texas Biomed announced that their Board of Trustees had approved moving forward with the construction of Texas Biomed’s second BSL-4 lab, expanding the organization’s capabilities in developing vaccines and therapies for the world’s deadliest infections (including infectious pathogens with a growing resistance to current treatments). Texas Biomed has a longstanding history of high-quality, high-containment research with proven capabilities and expertise, as well as the flexibility and agility to respond to growing infectious disease research needs. Texas Biomed’s BSL-4 laboratory is the only privately owned BSL-4 laboratory in the United States.

“Texas Biomed has been a tremendous asset to our City and our nation, working to advance scientific and medical breakthroughs that keep our communities safer and healthier,” said Mayor Ron Nirenberg. “The expansion of the biosafety level 4 lab is crucial to ensuring that this institution, an anchor in our local economy, continues to receive the resources it needs to be a world leader in biomedical research.”

Under the Loan Agreement, Texas Biomed must retain 43 current BSL-4 jobs and create at least 9 additional full-time jobs in the new expanded facility. City Manager Sheryl Sculley commented, “Expanding the BSL-4 laboratory and its capabilities will allow Texas Biomed to retain and recruit some of the world’s top scientists in the area of infectious diseases, while also significantly increasing the amount of bioscience research dollars flowing into San Antonio.”

Expansion of the BSL-4 laboratory is part of a larger strategic and master planning effort the Institute is currently undergoing under the leadership of the recently-hired Texas Biomed President and CEO Dr. Larry Schlesinger.

“The Institute’s current biocontainment facilities (BSL-3 and BSL-4) must expand if we are to meet the growing demands for discovering more effective diagnostics, therapies and vaccines for these infections,” said Dr. Schlesinger. ”We are excited to get started so that we may bring greater innovation, new discoveries and added hope for a safer, healthier future.”

As the 2014 Ebola virus outbreak and the more recent Zika virus outbreak has shown, scientific discovery has not kept pace with emerging pathogens, and investment in basic biomedical science is critical. At least 25 percent of the approximate 60 million annual deaths in the world are due to infectious diseases.

In the past decade, Texas Biomed has contributed significantly to the understanding of infectious diseases. For example, the team has demonstrated efficacy of a live vaccine for Lassa Hemorrhagic Fever virus. The team has identified new inhibitors of Ebola virus disease in systematic screenings of FDA-approved drugs. Additionally, the team identified a viral component that is important for Ebola virus replication and could serve as a potential target for antiviral therapy. This finding was selected by the National Institutes of Health as a top discovery in 2015. The Institute is also making major advances in new therapies and vaccines for HIV, malaria and tuberculosis, which combined accounts for the majority of human suffering and death due to infections worldwide.

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