Biotechnology comprises a significant and growing part of the Texas economy as new innovative biotech companies sprout up in Austin and throughout the Lone Star State each year. Biotech is essentially technology grounded in biology that harnesses cellular and molecular processes in order to develop products aimed at improving human health. Biotech encompasses an array of breakthrough technologies, including those that combat diseases, increase crop yields, and develop cleaner energy sources.
Texas is home to one of the country’s leading biotech industries with more than 3,700 biotech manufacturing and research and development firms and more than 93,800 biotech-related jobs. (The average salary of these jobs is around $90,000). Dozens of global biotech companies, such as Novartis, Medtronic, and Abbott, have major operations in Texas. In 2012, Texas ranked No. 2 in the nation for the number of life scientists and physical scientists employed, with nearly 48,000, according to the National Science Foundation.
Austin, the state capital, is home to state-of-the-art research facilities and has one of the country’s most educated populations. Austin’s creative and entrepreneurial landscape is bolstered by the availability of funding, research collaboration, clinical trials, and highly-skilled workers.
This combination of factors begs the question: Could Austin become the next biotech hotspot?
This very question was posed in a recent article in STAT, an online health, medicine, and science publication.
The article points out that, within a 25-mile radius of downtown Austin, nearly 200 life science companies have sprung up, many of them startups that launched within the past few years.
The University of Texas at Austin currently brings in approximately $60 million in grants from the National Institutes of Health each year. This June, UT’s new Dell Medical School will welcome its first class of students. Dell Medical School promises to bring even more intellectual property and grant money to the region.
“We seem to have all the right components in play,” Tom Kowalski, president and CEO of the Texas Healthcare and Bioscience Institute, told STAT, when asked if Austin could become the next major biotech hub. “It all seems to be a wonderful harmonic convergence.”
Last year was a big one for the city’s biotech industry as Austin-based companies Mirna Therapeutics and XBiotech both went public with initial public offerings that raised $44 million and $76 million, respectively. Aeglea BioTherapeutics also filed for an IPO after receiving more than $80 million in private funding and grants in less than two years.
For biotech companies looking for a more affordable area than Silicon Valley, Austin makes a lot of economic sense. There’s no state income tax in Texas, and the state offers sales tax credits for some research and development expenses.