Texas Biomedical Research Institute. Photo courtesy of Texas Biomed.
Texas Biomedical Research Institute's campus is located at 8715 W. Military Dr. West San Antonio. Credit: Courtesy / Texas Biomed

Texas Biomedical Research Institute in West San Antonio will retool over the next decade – doubling its faculty and redesigning its campus – to concentrate more on studying infectious diseases, which the nonprofit’s leadership expects will generate more revenue in the face of heightening challenges.

Per a 10-year strategic plan, which includes input from one-third of the Texas Biomed staff and was approved by the institute’s board of trustees Thursday, the facility is gearing up for a major transformation. The organization would struggle to survive if the overhaul isn’t put into effect, the plan states.

Funding would come from a variety of sources, including philanthropic, Texas Biomed spokeswoman Lisa Cruz said, but she declined to release the projected cost for the planned overhaul.

The organization says it is “on a precipice” facing greater competition for research funding, challenges recruiting and retaining highly qualified talent, increasing costs for conducting research, and growing security risks.

“This plan enables us to focus on science in which we have critical mass and expertise, which is infectious disease research,” said Dr. Larry Schlesinger, Texas Biomed president and CEO, in an emailed statement. “The threat of infectious diseases continues to grow – from global diseases like tuberculosis, HIV and malaria to drug resistance, weakening immune systems and hospital-borne infections.

“Our plan calls for bold evolution over the next 10 years to combat these threats. With more scientists, contemporary structures and new programs, Texas Biomed will become a world-leader in this area, discovering and sharing critical breakthroughs needed to help protect everyone from the growing threat of infectious diseases.”

According to the strategic plan, infectious diseases will become the No. 1 cause of death globally and cost $100 trillion by 2050.

“While this is a major problem for our society, the global market for biomedical research is projected to grow nearly 60 percent in the next five or six years,” the plan states. “Thus, there is a positive convergence between our core competencies and the marketplace, one which reinforces this decision to focus on infectious diseases.”

Texas Biomed will organize its scientific research around three key areas: host-pathogen interaction, disease intervention and prevention, and population health.

The plan lists an isolated professional culture, aging infrastructure, inadequate scientific facilities, inefficient administrative support, unequal productivity among staff, and limited training opportunities among its current weaknesses.

Home to around 60 scientists – including physiologists, geneticists, virologists, immunologists, molecular biologists, cell biologists, physicians, and veterinarians – Texas Biomed’s research efforts entail internal collaborations but also extend to regional, national, and international institutions.

In addition, the work of its 250 professionals helps undergird its research in a variety of subjects.

Its 200-acre campus is located at 8715 W. Military Dr. and comprises laboratories, offices, an animal hospital, a library, and specially designed animal facilities, including a six-acre livestock enclosure.

Dr. James “Jamo” Rubin, who serves as CEO of TAVHealth and chairs the Texas Biomed board, called the strategic plan “visionary” after he and the seven-member board approved it unanimously.

“The plan aims to place Texas Biomed and San Antonio squarely at the top of infectious disease research institutes in the world,” Rubin said. “This plan, when executed, ensures Texas Biomed’s success and ultimately greater scientific discoveries leading to better diagnostics, vaccines, and cures for infectious diseases.”

JJ Velasquez

JJ Velasquez

JJ Velasquez was a columnist, former editor and reporter at the San Antonio Report.