Friday, September 19, 2008

Home planned for firms based on university inventions

UT Southwestern Medical Center announced Thursday that it will build a biotech park to develop and make money off medical discoveries.

The 500,000-square-foot complex of four buildings, dubbed BioCenter at Southwestern Medical District, will be built on 13 acres purchased from the city of Dallas for $4.1 million.

The land is near the medical center's campus on Inwood Road.

"Ninety-five percent of biotechnology companies are founded on university-based inventions," said Dennis Stone, vice president for technology development at UT Southwestern. "So it makes eminent sense to have the development center in immediate proximity to the scientists who are creating new technologies."

The first building, costing $50 million, will be ready next summer.

BioCenter is expected to serve the full spectrum of the biotechnology and biodevice industry, offering space to both fledgling and mature companies, Mr. Stone said.

He called the development a "public-private relationship," with industry and scientific progress driving each other.

For example, AT&T Inc. said Thursday that it is contributing $750,000 to create an incubation entrepreneurial area at BioCenter.

"Science is spurring important medical advances at a phenomenal rate," Mr. Stone said.

The commercialization process has changed and "over the past five or six years ... we've begun to capitalize on our scientists and their discoveries."

UT Southwestern discoveries have already led to several spinoff companies, including:

Myogen Inc., a Colorado-based biopharmaceutical company focusing on treatments for cardiovascular disorders. The company was sold in 2006 to Gilead Sciences Inc. for $2.5 billion.

Eliance Biotechnology, which was acquired in 2002 by MacroGenics Inc., a Maryland-based company developing treatments tied to the immune system for cancer, infectious diseases and autoimmune disorders.

Reata Pharmaceuticals Inc., based in Irving and pioneered by UT Southwestern scientists in September 2002 to develop cancer and neurodegenerative drugs.

The site for BioCenter was purchased with profit UT Southwestern received from its technology transfer program, in which it sells the rights to develop an idea developed at UT.

Since 1984, more than 550 UT Southwestern researchers have been named as inventors on more than 1,200 inventions, according to the school's public relations department.

Revenue from more than 300 licenses has generated more than $110 million for UT Southwestern since 1984, according to the school.

By JASON ROBERSON / The Dallas Morning News