Texas Biomedical Research Institute is an 80-year-old scientific center in San Antonio that unravels the mysteries of infectious disease and improves human health around the globe. Credit: Texas Biomedical Research Institute

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Throughout this difficult and lasting pandemic, we have rightly celebrated the heroes who have stepped forward to care for and comfort others, from the doctors and nurses working on the front lines to the teachers and principals who have kept school going in the most trying of circumstances.

We should also celebrate those who have been working for years to prepare for this type of moment and, through their innovation and wisdom, have developed the medicines and treatments that have helped us respond to COVID-19 and slow its spread. In fact, one of the world’s most important institutions in the fight against this virus is right here in San Antonio: Texas Biomedical Research Institute, known as Texas Biomed, which has become a global epicenter of infectious disease research.

“It’s not a matter of if a widespread pandemic will happen,” Dr. Larry Schlesinger, the president and CEO of Texas Biomed told the institute’s board months before COVID-19 was a household word. “It’s a matter of when.”

Texas Biomed is unique. It is the only independent, nonprofit infectious disease institute in the nation that has the highest level of biocontainment laboratories coupled with a national primate research center. These distinctions and abilities placed it on the frontlines in research and discovery to fight this ongoing global pandemic. And before COVID-19, the 80-year-old institute had gained worldwide recognition for life-saving advances leading to therapies and vaccines for Hepatitis, HIV, Ebola, malaria and much more.

The Pfizer coronavirus vaccine was tested at Texas Biomed. Scientists there also partnered with Regeneron to test its healing monoclonal antibody therapy and now are working on a similar drug targeting illness caused by the omicron variant. The institute has also partnered with Novavax to study and test its COVID-19 vaccine. At the start of 2022, it had published more than 50 scientific COVID-19-related studies.

As we’ve seen with the ever-evolving coronavirus, the need for deeper understanding of mechanisms of infectious disease has never been greater. With so much at stake, it is imperative we continue to support scientific development and biomedical research. Bolstering the bioscience economy is one of Texas’ best bets to provide opportunities for quality education, high-paying jobs and economic growth that resonates throughout the community. The health care and biosciences sector is San Antonio’s leading industry, resulting in an economic impact of $42 billion.

Texas Biomed is playing its part. Currently it provides a $100,000 average annual wage plus benefits, and that is projected to increase to $140,000 by 2028. Under Schlesinger’s bold leadership, the institute plans to add more than 350 jobs to its current 385 employees in the next 10 years, with a resulting impact of $3.2 billion to the local economy.

COVID-19 has brought with it challenges that our modern world has never experienced. It disrupted economies, separated loved ones and stressed personal and government budgets.

It also has brought greater attention to the role of science. Scientists such as the ones at Texas Biomed are at the leading edge of research, with the potential to solve problems during a time of upheaval. After all, this pandemic will not be the last time that science will be essential to our shared triumph over existential threats.

The last two years have proven why Texas Biomed is such an important part of our business and community landscape here in San Antonio. Its contributions go well beyond job creation and economic stimulus. This institute is playing a quiet-but-critical role in helping people around the world overcome COVID-19 and other infectious diseases. San Antonio can and should be quite proud.

Joe Straus

Jose Straus is former Speaker of the Texas House of Representatives and a member of the Board of Directors at Texas Biomedical Research Institute.