SAN ANTONIO (August 23, 2021) – Even amid a global pandemic and widespread shutdowns, the more than 50-year-old organization that supports and promotes the Texas Biomedical Research Institute raised $510,000 this year in support of research.
The Texas Biomedical Forum, known as The Forum, typically hosts educational and social events throughout the year to raise awareness and funding for the scientific research taking place at Texas Biomed. COVID-19 threatened to affect this long tradition, but The Forum leaders and members got creative to meet their goals.
As a result, scientists studying infectious agents such as SARS-CoV-2 will receive support for their work through the Forum Pilot Study Grants Program. These seed grants allow selected scientists to generate preliminary data to attract larger grants from organizations such as the National Institutes of Health.
“It’s just incredible what The Forum has pulled off this year,” said Akudo Anyanwu, MD, MPH, Texas Biomed Vice President, Development. “Like our scientists, members went above and beyond during this highly unusual time to make sure we could continue protecting our local and global community from the threat of infectious disease.”
The Forum began distributing pilot study grants over 20 years ago and has since awarded about $4 million to scientists to Texas Biomed. The funding has brought in more than $75 million in subsequent awards (a 23-times return on investment!).
Cynthia Kerby served as The Forum president for 2020-2021. She said she was particularly proud of Texas Biomed’s involvement during the pandemic in testing the successful Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine.
Scientists were able to validate the effectiveness of the vaccine using rhesus macaques at the Southwest National Primate Research Center (SNPRC) at Texas Biomed. The Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine was tested in this model at the Institute and has now been given to millions of people around the world.
“I kept thinking that I was part of a smaller group helping to support and raise funds for Texas Biomed’s larger global impact,” Kerby said. “The experience was truly remarkable…I was honored to be leading such an extraordinary group of women in support of science.”
Because of the pandemic, some Forum events were canceled altogether. Board meetings were all offered via Zoom. A few member events were optional and planned for the safety of those who attended. The ever-popular spring Gala at The Argyle also could not take place as usual. Other events paved the way for successful fundraising.
“We had a ‘Cookies with Santa’ event in December at The Argyle,” Kerby explained. “Santa was staged behind Plexiglas. Families registered for a time slot to come by one at a time to take photographs and receive a cookie decorating kit to take home.”
The event sold out. The Forum was praised by attendees who said their families might not have had an option for their children to visit with Santa otherwise.
In February, The Forum hosted a virtual Valentine’s Day raffle that netted more than $14,000. In May, as events were beginning to open up again after the introduction of vaccines, The Forum hosted an online auction that also had an optional, in-person element.
The final board meeting for the 2020 members took place on May 5 with a year-end luncheon to celebrate the accomplishments during a strange and challenging year. Now, with 2021-2022 President Amelita Mauzé leading The Forum, plans are underway for yet another successful year supporting Texas Biomed.
ABOUT TEXAS BIOMED
Texas Biomed is one of the world’s leading independent biomedical research institutions dedicated to eradicating infection and advancing health worldwide through innovative biomedical research. Texas Biomed partners with researchers and institutions around the world to develop vaccines and therapeutics against viral pathogens causing AIDS, hepatitis, hemorrhagic fever, tuberculosis and parasitic diseases responsible for malaria and schistosomiasis disease. The Institute has programs in host-pathogen interaction, disease intervention and prevention, and population health to understand the links between infectious diseases and other diseases such as aging, cardiovascular disease, diabetes and obesity. For more information on Texas Biomed, go to www.TxBiomed.org.