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Life Sciences

Business comes to life in Greater San Marcos.

Based on local capacity and assets as well as benefits derived from super-regional employers, institutions, and talent, the Greater San Marcos region identifies Life Sciences as a target industry in two key niche areas: Biotechnology and Environmental Sciences

Greater San Marcos has several research assets, including Texas State, that support its growth opportunities within the Life Sciences target and associated niches.

Biotech research assets include:

  • Texas State’s Nutritional Biomedicine and Biotechnology Laboratory is housed in the School of Family and Consumer Sciences. The lab is a component of the Nutrition and Foods program, which focuses on current scientific research and explores the role that a diet rich in whole foods plays in preventing disease and attaining a healthy lifestyle. Current research topics are related to whether nutrients and non-nutrients affect stress response signaling. One interesting, applied partnership of Nutrition and Foods is with the National Center for Farmworker Health (NCFH). The goal of the partnership is to improve access to healthy food and safe physical exercise in Eastern Hays County by addressing the built environment and systems issues.
  • Along with the aforementioned new Materials Science and Polymer and Nanomaterials labs, the remainder of the STAR One building in Texas State’s STAR Park will house three new Life Science labs. Currently, there is one company specifically geared toward Life Sciences developments located at the park: PetaOmics, as described in a previous section. The ability of researchers and entrepreneurs to utilize state-of-the-art labs, particularly within a super-region with limited lab space available, and to take advantage of collaboration and human capital opportunities adds significantly to the region’s competitiveness.

Environmental Sciences research assets include:

  • The James and Marilyn Lovell Center for Environmental Geography and Hazards Research is housed in Texas State’s Department of Geography. The goals of research in this Center are to better understand the Earth’s environment, to analyze and reduce the impacts of natural and technological hazards, and to improve environmental policies.
  • The goal of Meadows Center for Water and the Environment at Texas State is to advance a holistic approach to natural systems management to ensure that water policy is guided by principles of sustainability and equitable use. Since 1991, the Center has trained over 7,600 citizen scientists through the Texas Stream Team program. These citizen scientists collect water quality data on various bodies of water, which is accessible online and is used to create analytic reports. Another major program operated by the Center is the San Marcos Watershed Initiative, a three-year research project which explores how to manage impacts to surface and groundwater resources. Those findings will drive the development of the Watershed Protection Plan for the Upper San Marcos River.
  • Another Texas State asset, the Edwards Aquifer Research and Data Center is a National Environmental Laboratory Accreditation Conference (NELAC) certified lab and research center located in the College of Science and Engineering. The Center provides water quality analysis on water collected from various sources, including nature, municipalities, and wastewater treatment facilities.
  • The San Marcos National Fish Hatchery and Technology Center is operated by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and located near the Edwards Aquifer. Research areas include equipment and technology development, captive propagation technique development, habitat restoration, historical studies of native species, and historical and control studies of invasive species. The Center partners with universities to provide research and job opportunities to undergraduate and graduate students in relevant majors.

Super-regional assets are plentiful, but at the forefront are:

  • The University of Texas at Austin’s Dell Medical School is preparing to accept its first class in 2016. In addition to training new physicians and providing treatment and applied training in a new teaching hospital which will be adjacent to the medical school, there will be research opportunities that Greater San Marcos should leverage. Central Texas Medical Center: in San Marcos has already put together a task force to identify opportunities to leverage the new medical school when completed.
  • The Texas A&M Health Science Center College of Medicine is a community-based medical school in Round Rock (Williamson County) providing third- and fourth-year clinical training at regional clinical campuses around the state through affiliations through local physicians, clinics and hospitals. Student rotations are in family medicine, internal medicine, obstetrics/gynecology, pediatrics, psychiatry and surgery.
  • The San Antonio Life Sciences Institute (SALSI) is a collaboration between the University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio and the University of Texas at San Antonio to address educational, scientific, and policy issues related to life sciences. Research areas include biomedical engineering, bioterrorism, cancer, health disparities, infectious diseases and vaccines, neuroscience, regenerative medicine, and translational science. SALSI encourages technology transfer and has partners such as the Southwest Research Institute and the Texas Biomedical Research Institute. SALSI’s Innovation Challenge is a contest for over $750,000 in grants to fund cutting-edge research in public health issues and diseases that impact South Texas. Funding is dedicated to early and conceptual stage projects.

Employment

Currently, the two-county Greater San Marcos region’s most concentrated Life Sciences subsectors are animal production, specialty hospitals, and remediation and other waste management services. These subsectors add to the region’s ability to grow this sector in different ways. Animal production is important to life sciences because of the research possibilities within animal genomics, nutrition, biotechnology, and other fields. Specialty hospitals are often sites for clinical trials and for advancements in surgery techniques and technologies. Remediation and other waste management services provide an arena to develop, test, and implement biological, hydrological, and chemical processes that protect water resources, improve environmental remediation, and enhance energy production. In other Life Sciences subsectors, however, Greater San Marcos’ concentrations are still emerging; these include pharmaceutical and medicine manufacturing, medical equipment and supplies manufacturing, and testing laboratories, each having less than 10 employees at this time.

Existing San Marcos area firms supporting the Biotechnology niche include Grifols, Inc., a plasma testing laboratory and fractionation plant, and PetaOmics, Inc., a functional genomics, epigenomics, and DNA methylation sequencing firm located at STAR Park. The Environmental Sciences niche is supported by firms such as the Whitenton Group, Inc. Environmental Consultants, which provides services such as natural resources surveying, environmental inspection, and erosion and sediment control services to public and private sector clients, and the Luling Foundation, a nonprofit organization that collaborates with private sector firms and universities to demonstrate profitable agriculture-related ideas, such as a rainwater harvesting system and a solar powered water well. Greater San Marcos also has several health providers and potentially strong translational research partners, including but not limited to Central Texas Medical Center, Seton Medical Center – Hays, and Seton Edgar B. Davis Hospital.


Occupations

There are over 82,000 super-regional workers in Life Sciences-related occupations in the 10-county Greater San Marcos labor shed, with principal labor concentrations focused on the Environmental Sciences niche. The highest concentrations are in cartographer and photogrammetrists, petroleum engineers, surveying and mapping technicians, health environmental science and protection technicians, hydrologists, and geoscientists. Job growth in the super-region has outpaced the nation in almost every occupation.