Move Positions Texas as Top Provider of Medical Countermeasures for Public Safety and National Security
SAN ANTONIO (December 13, 2022) – The federal agency that protects against pandemics and bioterrorism has elevated Texas Biomedical Research Institute into the top ranks of its national readiness and preparedness network.
The new designation as a prime contractor opens Texas Biomed to a portfolio of up to $100 million in funding over five years through the Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority (BARDA), part of the Administration for Strategic Preparedness and Response within the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. BARDA oversees advanced research and development of medical countermeasures – vaccines, treatments and diagnostics – for public health emergencies stemming from infectious disease outbreaks, as well as chemical, biological, radiological, and nuclear incidents and attacks.
“Texas Biomed’s new partnership with BARDA will improve our ability to prevent, assess, prepare for, and respond to biological threats,” said U.S. Rep. Tony Gonzales, R-San Antonio. “This move further expands Texas’ significance as a leader in military and community preparedness. The jobs and innovations that will be generated from this designation will boost San Antonio’s ability to compete globally in the biomedical and biotech realms.”
Fewer than 15 labs nationwide – now including Texas Biomed as the only one in the state – are part of BARDA’s Nonclinical Biological Indefinite Delivery/Indefinite Quantity (IDIQ) Network. BARDA describes the purpose of these awards as building lab capability in the areas of “animal model development and analytical method development, qualification, validation and testing.”
The network was developed in 2011 in order to better develop and bridge animal research study data to humans to provide evidence of therapy and vaccine effectiveness. It’s a key element in studying medical countermeasures since efficacy of many products surrounding such critical threats often cannot be verified using human clinical studies.
“This is a huge win for San Antonio and Texas Biomed – not to mention for the whole state,” said State Sen. Jose Menendez, D-San Antonio. “San Antonio and Bexar County continue to be at the forefront of innovative techniques to protect our communities. This adds even more fuel to our thriving economic engine that’s been built on biotech.”
Texas Biomed is the nation’s only non-profit, independent research institute with the highest-level biocontainment laboratories, a national primate research center and over 80 years of experience. Scientists at the 200-acre campus in San Antonio regularly collaborate with academic institutes, the military, pharmaceutical companies, the National Institutes of Health, and biotech start-ups.
“If the pandemic has taught us anything, it’s that we need modern, cutting-edge responses to 21st-century health security threats,” said San Antonio Mayor Ron Nirenberg. “Texas Biomed has a proven track record of delivering those solutions so I’m not surprised that they’ve been chosen for this prestigious responsibility.”
Nirenberg said the move affirms San Antonio City Council’s decision this year to support Texas Biomed in an “impactful investments” category of emergency pandemic preparedness funds.
“We created the special category for the handful of local organizations we knew had the ability to leverage the award and multiply its returns,” he said. “This announcement confirms that our investment in Texas Biomed is already paying off.”
Texas Biomed has long been a partner with BARDA through subcontractor status. Since 2015, the Institute has received about $46 million through subprime contracts. The promotion into its limited network of prime contractors now places the Institute in the upper echelons of global readiness and preparedness work, said Dr. Larry Schlesinger, President & CEO.
“The significance of this cannot be overstated – it demonstrates Texas Biomed’s ability to compete at the top level for research grants and contracts designed to keep our nation safe,” Schlesinger said. “We are now fully integrated into the federal fabric of preparedness. Texas Biomed is ideally and uniquely suited to be part of forward-thinking solutions for the growing infectious disease threats we face.”
Since the opening of its high containment biosafety lab, known as a BSL-4, in 1999, Texas Biomed has worked closely with federal agencies on combatting national security bioterror threats. A recent example is its ongoing subcontract work with the Sabin Vaccine Institute through BARDA in developing a vaccine candidate for a variant of Ebola currently causing an outbreak in Uganda.
Under federal regulations, Ebola is considered a select agent and toxin that has the potential to be weaponized and pose a severe threat to public health and safety.
Previously developed vaccines for the Ebola virus are not effective against this Sudan strain of the disease that has sickened 141 and killed at least 55 people in Uganda as of mid-November, according to the World Health Organization. But Texas Biomed worked with Sabin on pilot studies demonstrating a new vaccine worked and then evaluated specific dosages safe for humans.
The vaccine is being deployed now under a rule allowing experimental treatments to be offered in life-threatening global outbreaks. Later work between the partners will round out the requirements for future FDA evaluation.
“Receiving the BARDA prime designation is proof that public/private partnerships produce high-value results,” said Jamo Rubin, Texas Biomed Board of Trustees Chair.
“As the only private, non-profit, business-minded research institute in the nation, we have brought more innovation at a faster rate and a lower cost than anyone else working in infectious disease,” Rubin said. “With this new federal classification and through continued community support, Texas Biomed is on track to realize our strategic plan goals of doubling the size of our campus and staff in the mission of improving global health.”
This program has been funded in whole or in part with Federal funds from the Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority (BARDA), Administration for Strategic Preparedness and Response, (ASPR), Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) under contract number 75A50122D00020.
About Texas Biomed
Texas Biomed is a nonprofit research institute dedicated to protecting the global community from infectious diseases. Through basic research, preclinical testing and innovative partnerships, we accelerate diagnostics, therapies and vaccines for the world’s deadliest pathogens. Our San Antonio campus hosts high containment laboratories and the Southwest National Primate Research Center. Our scientists collaborate with industry and researchers globally, and have helped deliver the first COVID-19 vaccine, the first Ebola treatment and first Hepatitis C therapy. For more information, go to www.TxBiomed.org.