Can Houston Replace Boston?
It’s the first step in the Texas Medical Center’s new long-term goal to become a premier life science commercialization cluster—Yesterday, it opened TMCx, an accelerator for life science and digital health startups.
We snapped TMC COO Bill McKeon and CEO Bobby Robbins at the TMCx on Holcombe yesterday morning. Bobby says the Med Center’s year-long strategic plan (which included feedback from all 54 TMC institutions) ID’d innovation and commercialization as the top priority over the next few years. The TMC is already second in the nation for research grants ($3.7B in the last five years), and has a second-to-none healthcare ecosystem primed to test new products and innovations. Bobby considers translating that to commercialization “the single greatest opportunity” for the TMC. Bill adds that building up the industry in Houston will benefit both public health and our economy.
Gensler lead designer John Haba tells us the office itself is a WWII-era cookie factory with great bones (including 20’ ceilings surrounded by windows). It had layers of accretion to peel away before they could finalize plans and yet design and construction took six months. The 100k SF facility includes 12 conference rooms, two kitchens, a classroom, and a game room. It can house 100 companies at once; it expects to welcome its first class in January. Besides spelling out the building’s two goals (disruptive innovation and collaboration), the walls have patents and blueprints of some of science’s greatest innovations (from Edison’s light bulb to the buckyball, which brought the Nobel Prize to Rice U.)
TMCx has a funky office that many tenants would pay good money for, but Bill says the TMC won’t take a dime from the companies it invites into the accelerator program. (No rent, no equity stake, no costs for business classes—which is very different than other accelerator programs around the country.) He says this isn’t about making money for the TMC; it’s about creating life-saving products and making Houston the life sciences/biotech powerhouse we should be.