After hearing objections over its research on animals, the Texas Biomedical Research Institute on Thursday pulled its funding request from the city’s 2022 bond package.

Texas Biomed, located in District 6, originally asked for $11 million in bond money to fund infrastructure on its campus. The research center came up with that number after consulting with city staff, President and CEO Larry Schlesinger said in a letter to Mayor Ron Nirenberg and City Manager Erik Walsh on Thursday afternoon.

A citizens committee tasked with recommending bond projects for facilities to City Council approved 16 projects Thursday and kept the public art commitment at 1.5%, which brought the bond’s total to $134 million. Projects included municipal facilities and public safety buildings like a proposed police substation in District 3, priced at $19 million. 

Voters will see a total of six bond propositions on the May ballot, which add up to $1.2 billion. Citizens committees overseeing recommendations for streets, parks, drainage, and the first-ever housing bond proposition have already finalized their project lists.

Written comments submitted to the facilities committee mostly targeted Texas Biomed’s request, urging committee members to eliminate the project from its list of recommendations. Many copied and pasted the same comment, which argued that the primates at Texas Biomed do not receive basic care and having a primate research center designed to study infectious diseases in San Antonio is a “biosecurity threat.”

In his Thursday letter, Schlesinger stood by Texas Biomed’s procedures and research.

“We regret that there has been a vocal minority that has misinformed and misrepresented the work we do and disparaged our ethical, caring and nationally-recognized animal research program,” he wrote. “As has been stated before, the international scientific community recognizes that animal research is absolutely necessary to understand and further human health, and is required by the FDA for preclinical testing of new therapies and vaccines. Texas Biomed performs this research in a safe, compassionate and regulated environment.”

A spokesperson for Texas Biomed thanked city staff and City Council for supporting their bond request.

“However, we recognize the committee has to consider many competing priorities, so we determined it best to work with the city on alternative funding options for the Institute’s infrastructure project and withdrew our bond request,” Lisa Cruz, vice president of communications, said in a statement.

With the freed-up $11 million, committee members voted to put $10 million toward a new fire station in District 5 and $1 million toward a new Meals on Wheels San Antonio facility.

While $10 million won’t fund the entirety of a new fire station, Councilwoman Teri Castillo (D5) said she would look for the $2.5 million that’s still needed to build one. The proposed fire station would replace an old one facing heating problems, electrical issues and inadequate bathrooms for female firefighters.

City Council will hear the bond committees’ project recommendations in January and finalize the list in February.

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Jackie Wang

Jackie Wang covered local government for the San Antonio Report.