Texas Biomed steps closer to new high containment lab in US

San Antonio City is supporting Texas Biomedical Research Institute’s efforts to design a new high containment research lab

Texas Biomed is looking to expand its research capabilities
Photo: Clem Spalding, Courtesy of Texas Biomed Institute

The San Antonio City Council has authorised a loan of $250,000 to Texas Biomedical Research Institute (Texas Biomed), an independent, not-for-profit biomedical research institution, to help fund a biosafety level 4 (BSL-4) facility on its campus.

In June 2017, Texas Biomed announced that its Board of Trustees had approved moving forward with the construction of its second BSL-4 lab, expanding the organisation’s capabilities in developing vaccines and therapies for the world’s deadliest infections (including infectious pathogens with a growing resistance to current treatments).

Texas Biomed’s current BSL-4 laboratory is the only privately owned BSL-4 laboratory in the US.

“Texas Biomed has been a tremendous asset to our City and our nation, working to advance scientific and medical breakthroughs that keep our communities safer and healthier,” said Mayor Ron Nirenberg. “The expansion of the biosafety level 4 lab is crucial to ensuring that this institution, an anchor in our local economy, continues to receive the resources it needs to be a world leader in biomedical research.”

Under the Loan Agreement, Texas Biomed must retain 43 current BSL-4 jobs and create at least nine additional full-time jobs in the new expanded facility.

City Manager Sheryl Sculley saidd, “Expanding the BSL-4 laboratory and its capabilities will allow Texas Biomed to retain and recruit some of the world’s top scientists in the area of infectious diseases, while also significantly increasing the amount of bioscience research dollars flowing into San Antonio.”

Expansion of the BSL-4 laboratory is part of a larger strategic plan for the Institute under the leadership of recently-hired Texas Biomed President and CEO, Dr Larry Schlesinger.

“The Institute’s current biocontainment facilities (BSL-3 and BSL-4) must expand if we are to meet the growing demands for discovering more effective diagnostics, therapies and vaccines for these infections,” said Dr Schlesinger. “We are excited to get started so that we may bring greater innovation, new discoveries and added hope for a safer, healthier future.”

In the past decade, Texas Biomed has contributed significantly to the understanding of infectious diseases. For example, the team has:

  • demonstrated efficacy of a live vaccine for Lassa Hemorrhagic Fever virus
  • identified new inhibitors of Ebola virus disease insystematic screenings of FDA-approved drugs
  • identified a viral component that is important for Ebola virus replication and could serve as a potential target for antiviral therapy. This finding was selected by the National Institutes of Health as a top discovery in 2015.

The Institute is also making major advances in new therapies and vaccines for HIV, malaria and tuberculosis, which combined accounts for the majority of human sufferingand death due to infections worldwide.