Texas BioMed Hires Will Focus on Commercialization Strategy for Infectious Disease Research

By Iris Gonzalez
Texas Biomedical Institute exterior, courtesy image

The Texas Biomedical Research Institute (Texas BioMed) has grown its leadership team as part of a ten-year strategic plan launched in 2018 to position it as one of the world’s top scientific centers focused on infectious diseases.

Of its recent hiring announcements, two experts stand out for their focus on developing the nonprofit research organization’s ability to commercialize its research discoveries for the market.

Since early March, Cory Hallam, Ph.D., has been in the newly created position of vice president for business development and strategic alliances. He will also serve at the Institute as a professor of innovation management to help the faculty leverage commercialization pathways in getting research from the lab to the market.

Hallam was the founding director of The University of Texas at San Antonio (UTSA) Center for Innovation Technology and Entrepreneurship. He also served as UTSA’s chief commercialization officer and an associate professor holding the Jacobson Distinguished Professorship of Innovation and Entrepreneurship.

Starting in mid-September, Akudo Anyanwu, M.D., M.P.H., will serve as the Institute’s vice president of development. She will be setting Texas BioMed priorities, managing operations, and overseeing overall development strategy. She was recruited in early 2020 after the current vice president for advancement and public relations, Corbett Christie, retired after more than 20 years of fundraising at the Institute.

Currently the associate dean of development at Johns Hopkins University, Anyanwu is a global health expert and social entrepreneur with 17 years of experience in the field of global health and international development. In her role at Johns Hopkins, she is responsible for securing major gifts, attracting new corporate and foundation funding, and recently led a $45 million capital campaign for a new building.

Over the next decade, Texas BioMed plans to double its faculty and redesign its 200-acre campus to focus on its core competencies in studying infectious diseases. The nonprofit’s leadership expects this approach will generate more revenue as the global market for biomedical research is projected to grow by nearly 60% in the next five to six years. By 2050, infectious diseases are projected to be the #1 killer globally costing $100 trillion.

“Our plan calls for a new business model to diversify our portfolio, so we stood up the office of business development and strategic alliances,” CEO and president Dr. Larry Schlesinger said. “The original plan was to bring in a leader for that in 2021, but Cory became available. His goals align with our vision into becoming a much more robust CRO (clinical research organization).”

The Institute has worked with commercial partners over the past decades, Schlesinger said. The organization’s funding has primarily been driven by federal contracts.

“Dr. Anyanwu’s experience in public health innovation, international philanthropy, and infectious diseases brings significant strength to our fundraising efforts and will grow the philanthropic program, attracting new supporters and enthusiasm for the work we do.”

Vice president of research Joanne Turner’s role in implementing the Institute’s 10-year plan will be to ensure its researchers are well supported with training, equipment, facilities, and opportunities to collaborate with other scientists. Texas BioMed plans call for doubling the research faculty from approximately 60 doctoral-level scientists to about 120 by 2028.

Last fall, Texas BioMed opened a new specialized biocontainment laboratory or BSL 3 facility that is being used for the Institute’s COVID-19 research.

“As an infectious disease expert, I knew that the next pandemic was around the corner,” Schlesinger said. “It’s inevitable that our challenges in infectious diseases will continue to increase.”

Preparing for the future is not just about responding to the next pandemic, but also to drug-resistant “superbugs,” and the need for new molecular diagnostic therapies, Schlesinger said. That calls for a forward-thinking strategy to develop a more robust research and development pipeline that can support work on diagnostic therapies needed in the future.

“Our business model itself is unique because we foster cutting-edge research in our laboratories as well as our business development programs to enhance, broaden, and accelerate commercial partnerships,” Schlesinger added.  “It’s not one or the other, we embrace both.”

Hallam’s mission will be to put into place new mechanisms so Texas BioMed can respond quickly to study and develop therapies for known and emerging pathogens.

Over the past four months, the nonprofit research organization has tested early-stage therapies and vaccines as well as hospital cleansing systems for companies like Xenex. The Institute is also supporting Operation Warp Speed companies by developing testing criteria and running preclinical tests for them, Hallam said.

“Building upon the Institute’s endowments and partnerships over the next decade will make Texas BioMed even more forward-looking in its mission focus,” Hallam said. “Our vision of development through commercialization is being built upon the shoulders of our scientists.”

Featured image is of the exterior of the Texas Biomedical Institute or Texas BioMed, courtesy image.

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