FRANCISCO G. CIGARROA, M.D., PRESIDENT
THE UNIVERSITY OF TEXAS
HEALTH SCIENCE CENTER AT SAN ANTONIO
HEALTH & LIFE SCIENCE
CONFERENCE AND EXPO
September 5, 2001
I am delighted to be with you today, and I´m pleased to be a part of this important conference. I want to thank the Chamber for sponsoring this outstanding event. It´s essential that business leaders are knowledgeable about the latest advances in biotechnology and the newest innovations in the health care industry - right here in San Antonio. And even for those of us in the field, we, too, always learn something new about what our city has to offer at a conference like this.
I hope you were on hand for Senator Van de Putte´s breakfast talk today. We have a real champion of the biosciences in her and we are so grateful to the Senator for her leadership on this - and many other important issues.
And, Joe, this afternoon's program also looks great. You have two top-level panel leaders in Kay Peck and Bill Rasco. Kay is bringing outstanding leadership to the Bexar County Medical Society and Bill probably knows more about the challenges hospitals face today than anyone else you could find.
I´d also like to thank all of the members of the Health Science Center who participated in this morning's session. I think you can see why I am so proud of the talent we have right here at my own institution. Thank you for all you do for our Health Science Center and our community. We have some of the best and brightest minds right here in San Antonio, and I´m very fortunate to work with such an outstanding group of professionals.
This conference has given us the opportunity to learn more about the advances in the extensive field of the health and life sciences. It´s a field that changes rapidly. It´s a field that has many different components and many players. And it´s a field that impacts not only our community - but our state and nation as well.
Just a couple of weeks ago, the Chamber released the results of the Biomedical Economic Impact Study for the year 2000. I´m sure you all know that the Biomedical industry in San Antonio is stronger now than it has ever been in the past: Providing over 96,000 jobs in San Antonio and over $8 billion to our economy.
It also includes some of the very best jobs in this city. And as we continue to grow and succeed...and the influence of the biomedical industry grows in San Antonio...and we continue to recruit more and more scientists...what does it mean for this city?
It means better businesses. Our success changes that landscape of the economy of our city. These teams of researchers who come in, bring families who are committed to getting involved in their community, who buy houses and cars and all the other consumer goods, who will volunteer in the schools and nonprofit agencies, who will support our arts and our libraries. In short, they help build that proverbial `rising tide´ which takes all boats with it. It means a better overall lifestyle for the citizens of San Antonio.
It also means a healthier future for our generation, for our parents´ generation...and for our children...as we continue to focus our research efforts on those diseases and conditions, which are prevalent in this region.
We are committed to growing this segment of the economy and the Chamber is a partner with us - helping us pave the way as the Chamber has always done for more than a hundred years.
Just last month, the Chamber led a delegation to San Diego on a Civic Leaders Tour. San Diego was selected as the site because of its similarities to San Antonio - its geography, demographics, and economy. San Diego also has a 15 - year lead on San Antonio in developing the biosciences and technology sector of the economy.
Fifteen years ago, San Diego determined they would change from an economy based on tourism and the military to a high tech economy. Now, San Diego has more than 600 high tech and biotech firms in their region.
The key items we learned were that a city must have four basic elements to succeed as a high tech city: a preeminent research university with an entrepreneurial emphasis, significant venture capital, an attractive city where scientists and research professionals want to live, and solid community support. We wrote the book on three of these: a preeminent research and medical university, a city where people want to live, and solid community support. And the fourth element: significant venture capital, is something that some of our finest minds are working on. We have some venture capital. We need more. And what we do have needs to be invested here - because there are plenty of outstanding opportunities right here.
So I believe we can - and I believe we will - move forward as one of the nation's foremost leaders in the biosciences and technology field. Just as Austin has build a reputation for being a center in the computer technology industry, we are building a reputation for being a center in the biomedical and biotechnology industries. We have the scientists, we have the clinicians, we have the technology...and we have the community support.
There is one more thing we need to add to our mix. San Diego did it. Austin did it. That final factor we need to cultivate is the belief - the belief that we are a preeminent center for the biosciences.
That belief will enable us to expand the realm of possibilities in this great city. Think back to what you told your son or daughter when they were about six years old. You said, "If you believe in yourself you can be anything you choose: an astronaut, an attorney, a physician." Well, maybe it's time we give that talk to ourselves as a city. We need to really convince ourselves that we can be - and in fact, already are - a leader in this field. And don't let anyone tell you differently, because the figures tell the story. $8 billion a year from the biomedical sector. And that's with no multipliers!
The biomedical sciences...and the patient care...and all the research conducted here...are fundamental to the success and the future of our community. I think we all know that.
But on a larger scale...this community and the research that emanates from here are also vital to all of humanity. I can say this with confidence because of the tremendous impact our own research - coming from this city - has made on our world in the past - and the incredible influence it will make on our future. We have the opportunity to see future generations benefit in more ways than we can probable even imagine today.
Let me brag just a bit - as any proud president would!
The Palmaz Stent, invented by one of our own faculty members, Dr. Julio Palmaz, is now used in 2 million stent procedures every year and it is saving millions of lives all around the world.
Our own Dr. Robert Campbell invented something called the Titanium Rib and now babies who were destined never to breathe properly - and therefore, could not live for more than a few years - are living full, rich lives.
Dr. Susan Naylor, professor of cellular and structural biology, has had a leading role in the Human Genome Project and when they write the book about people who helped unravel that great mystery, Sue Naylor´s name will be in it.
One of our great cardiologists, Dr. Steve Bailey, is studying ways to help the heart regenerate itself by growing new vessels and new muscles after a heart attack.
Dr. Peter Fox is known all over the world for his mapping of the human brain. His work shows parts of the brain are working correctly - and which are not - and that leads researchers to the next step: determining how to fix the parts of the brain that don't work properly!
Dr. John Calhoon is discovering less invasive ways to perform the most complicated surgery through the smallest of incisions. What used to require your entire chest being opened can now be done through an incision the width of your index finger.
Dr. Bankole Johnson, whom you met earlier, is leading the nation in addiction research and his breakthrough work has been published all over the world.
Dr. Mary MacDougall and her team in our dental school are growing new teeth, which will revolutionize dental care.
Dr. Mauli Agrawal is studying tissue engineering. Scientists have known how to implant something artificial to repair a defective part in the body, but Dr. Agrawal is investigating how your body can grow its own part and repair itself!
Great strides in medical research have been made, not only by the Health Science Center, but by our partners, as well. Our San Antonio Cancer Institute, which is a joint program of the Health Science Center and the Cancer Therapy and Research Center, is one of only two centers in Texas that has achieved the prestigious status of an NCI - designated Comprehensive Cancer Center. You met Dr. Geoff Weiss earlier; he's a fine oncologist on our faculty and one of the reasons San Antonio has such an outstanding cancer program. The Cancer Therapy and Research, led by my good friend Dr. Chuck Coltman, is a principal leader in the research of cancer treatment, and in the last ten years, its Institute for Drug Development has placed a key role in the development of 9 cancer drugs approved by the Food and Drug Administration.
I care more about cancer research than many people know. I am a cancer survivor. And if you sense that I am passionate about research, perhaps you understand why.
None of these advancements would be possible without the support from this community and from this Chamber - which is a central player in the overall health and economy of our great city. Just as scientists need state-of-the art technology, they also need the backing of their community. And I believe they will continue to receive it. We have seen the evidence of that today...through this outstanding conference.
Joe, I want you to know that we will continue to push the frontiers of knowledge...of treatment...of discovery...back a little farther year by year.
And we'll continue to concentrate the focus of our research on the challenges right in our own back yard: newly emerging and reemerging diseases. Multi-drug-resistant tuberculosis, dengue fever, and hepatitis -- those things that give urgency to the need for biomedical research throughout this region. Or...the more common diseases like cancer, diabetes, and heart disease - that have not been conquered - yet.
Just a few minutes ago, I mentioned a few of the exciting research breakthroughs, which have emerged from the Health Science Center and from this community. So in San Antonio, I see hope. Hope for new cures to age-old diseases. Hope for the accurate diagnosis for unexplained conditions. Hope for unraveling the mysteries of genetic disorders.
In 1937, the Nobel Prize winner in Physiology and Medicine, Dr. Albert Szent-Gyorgi said, "Discovery consists in seeing what everyone else has seen and thinking what no one else thought."
That's what our scientist do every day.
And we will continue to see the extensive realm of possibilities that lies just ahead of us. And we will continue to expand our horizons beyond yesterday's limitations. And when we do, we will add to the body of knowledge the world so desperately needs, and in so doing, we will make this community and this world a healthier, better, and safer place for us all.