San Antonio’s Texas Research and Technology Park is losing one of its bioscience companies to nearby Schertz.

Ze'ev Shaked is CEO and co-founder of Evestra, a pharma manufacturing company.
Ze’ev Shaked, CEO and co-founder of pharma manufacturing company Evestra. Credit: Courtesy / Evestra

The biopharmaceutical research and development company Evestra will move its headquarters and build a pharmaceutical manufacturing facility in Schertz sometime this summer. CEO Dr. Ze’-ev Shaked and his co-founder, Dr. Klaus Nickisch, launched the company in 2007 as an offshoot from Texas BioMed to develop drugs addressing women’s health concerns.

Evestra will receive a $200,000 incentive grant from the City of Schertz Economic Development Corp (SEDC) to make the move. The company has retained Brandt, an engineering firm, to begin work on customizing an existing 12,900-sq.-ft. building at 6410 Tri-County Parkway into a biomanufacturing facility. The company is currently located in the Texas Research and Technology Park on Omicron Drive north of Route 90, near Potranco Road.

“We needed to grow,” Shaked said. “We don’t have the space, and even if we had the space, the arrangement is not appropriate. We need to move into a large shell where we can build out the biomanufacturing facility.”

The manufacturing facility will include a quality-control laboratory and space for Evestra’s research and development division. With 22 employees, Evestra is in the process of hiring several additional people for both manufacturing and quality control at the new facility in Schertz.

“Over the next two years, we will gradually establish Evestra’s presence in Schertz and join the city’s robust manufacturing community,” Shaked said. “We believe this move will be great for Schertz and for our company.”

SEDC’s support for Evestra is part of Schertz’s strategic effort to attract growing small businesses and to provide long-term stability to the city’s tax base, said Kyle Kinateder, SEDC executive director. In early May, the City of Schertz approved a business development strategy that included looking for an “opportunity to partner with strategic small businesses to diversify the businesses already in Schertz.”

“Evestra is a great fit for our city because they build upon our local manufacturing base and introduce research and development operations into our city,” Kinateder said. “We’re looking for manufacturers who are looking to grow, as well as looking for new industries to open in Schertz such as life sciences.”

“We generally understand that the Bexar County economy doesn’t stop at the county line,” said David Marquez, executive director of Bexar County’s Economic and Community Development department. “While Evestra is a first-class company in a target industry, and we would have loved to retain them in Bexar County, their move to Schertz is far better than a move to a different metro area, or even out of state.”

Evestra’s competitive advantage is based on the founders’ experience in the pharmaceutical research and development of steroid hormonal drugs. Products in Evestra’s development pipeline target conditions such as fibroids, endometriosis, and breast cancer. The company also is working on developing vaginal rings for birth control.

“Evestra is on the map as a leader in innovation in women’s health products,” Shaked said. “This field has been neglected for many years. There is still a huge number of unmet medical needs for women from ages 15 to post-menopause age.”

Shaked explained how drug development is usually driven by meeting patient needs in the more lucrative markets for oncology, metabolic disorders, and aging. Another reason why women’s health has been neglected may be traced to the lack of specific expertise and scientific insights into how to meet these unmet medical needs for women.

For example, women suffering from painful endometriosis are offered three treatment options: pain management, hormonal drugs, and surgery. In severe cases of endometriosis, surgery to remove the uterus and cervix – a total hysterectomy – is often the last resort, because it eliminates a woman’s ability to have children.

In August 2008, the company raised its first round of funding from investors. The company recently began a new collaboration agreement with Hungarian company Gedeon Richter PLC, the third project agreement between the two companies. Evestra also has an R&D agreement in place with India-based Glenmark Pharmaceuticals. In January, Evestra’s Polish subsidiary received a major European R&D grant for development of its endometriosis drug.

“Evestra is developing treatments that will enhance the quality of life for women without drastic measures that impact their ability to have children as a side effect from surgeries,” Shaked said. “By September we hope to have a functional facility [in Schertz].”

Iris Gonzalez

Iris Gonzalez writes about technology, life science, and veteran affairs. She won the Texas Veterans Commission Media Excellence Awards for her 2016 Veterans Day story "Life as a Veteran: What Veterans...