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With TMC3, Texas Leaders Aim to Launch Houston as Top Biotech Hub

Xconomy Texas — 

Houston—Texas political leaders, along with heads of the Texas Medical Center and its institutions, announced on Monday plans for a biotech-focused hub that could place Houston on the map of life sciences innovation centers.

The TMC Translational Research campus, or TMC3, is a planned $250 million research center in the shape of a double helix that would include restaurants, bars, retail, housing, and a conference center and hotel. Bond covenants prohibiting commercial activity at the TMC properties were removed for this specific project, and officials said they expect pharma and other businesses to join physicians and researchers at the TMC3 site. The numeral three stands for Houston’s ambitions to be biotech’s “third coast” and join existing hubs in Boston and the West Coast.

Texas Gov. Greg Abbott told an assembled group of political and medical leaders that while the TMC is known as a center for healthcare excellence, there is a “void in terms of a thriving biotech sector.”

“That gap needed to be filled,” he added.

The development will be built on 30 acres at one edge of the broader TMC footprint and is a collaboration among the TMC, Baylor College of Medicine, Texas A&M University Health Science Center, the University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston, and the University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center.

The TMC owns the land, which is currently being used for parking, and will be contributing $40 million to the TMC3 project. The other four academic institutions are providing $36 million each. TMC said they hope to break ground on the project next year with a possible opening in 2022.

Among the technologies that TMC3 will seek to specialize in are medical devices, cancer drugs, genomics, and data science, officials said.

Bill McKeon, the TMC’s president and CEO, said Monday’s announcement is the culmination of a four-year-long effort. At the press conference, there were a few references to the sometimes difficult process of bringing together some of the state’s most powerful, and competitive, institutions onto the same page. But, ultimately, leaders said, each institution saw the need for a more collaborative effort such as the Broad Institute, which is a joint project of Harvard University and MIT in Cambridge, MA.

TMC3 is the medical center’s latest effort in boosting Houston’s biotech innovation credentials. In the last several years, the TMC opened its own Innovation Institute, which houses the TMCx accelerator, and brought in branches of JLabs and the AT&T Foundry to its campus.

Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner concurred that Houston has “lagged behind” when it comes to supporting startups and innovative new technologies. TMC3, along with efforts such as Houston Exponential and the recently announced plan to convert a shuttered Sears store into a home base for tech startups, represents the development of the future economy of Houston, he added.

“This is another step in the progression,” he said.