Texas Medical Center plans a 500-acre biosynthetic manufacturing and distribution center in Houston

Texas Medical Center plans to build a 500-acre biomanufacturing and medical supply distribution center in Houston, a project that represents the latest push to establish the city as a major life sciences center.

The new campus, called TMC BioPort, is still in the early stages of development. Once complete, TMC President and CEO Bill McKeown said it is expected to double the overall size of the medical center and create 100,000 jobs for residents of Greater Houston.

The medical center has focused on expanding its presence in the life sciences ecosystem in recent years through projects such as TMC Innovation and TMC Helix Park. McKeown sees TMC BioPort as a natural progression of that strategy; The campus can be home to the manufacture and distribution of cellular and genetic therapies, drugs, and medical supplies.

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“We really think this is the last missing piece in the largest life sciences ecosystem in the country,” McKeown said in an interview on Wednesday.

The COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted the danger of dependence on manufacturing from abroad, as many hospitals have struggled to secure personal protective equipment and other vital supplies. McKeown said having manufacturing and distribution in Houston would help the area, as well as other areas of the country, avoid similar problems in the future.

“We need to get these things in the United States, and being the largest medical city in the world, we’re the biggest recipient of supplies,” McKeown said. “It becomes more important for us to solve it.”

The TMC BioPort Campus is located on a plot near the intersection of Buffalo Speedway and Holmes Road, west of Wildcat Golf Club, a few miles southwest of the medical center’s main campus.

McKeown said the medical center is under a contract to purchase land that is currently owned by several owners. He declined to identify owners or discuss a potential sale price while negotiations continued.

While development is still in its early stages, McKeown expected the TMC BioPort buildings to be under construction within two years. The medical center first needs to invest in the property’s infrastructure, which McKeown has estimated could cost $100 million.

Elkus Manfredi Architects, the Boston-based firm that designed TMC Helix Park, is developing the master plan for the TMC BioPort.

McKeown said the estimated 100,000 new jobs on campus by the economic consultancy and planning firm wouldn’t be just for people with a Ph.D. The new campus will include a workforce training center with the aim of offering jobs to students who have graduated from high school.

“These are really great jobs you can have for the rest of your life,” McKeown said.

McKeon revealed the plans for the TMC BioPort Medical Center during the annual State of TMC event on Tuesday afternoon, hosted by the Greater Houston Partnership.

The city of Houston has been identified as a rising market for life sciences in recent years; Commercial real estate and investment services firm CBRE identified the city as the second cluster of life sciences emerging in the United States in its 2020 report. Bob Harvey, president and CEO of the Greater Houston Partnership, said projects like TMC BioPort add to the city’s growth in the market, and help diversify The Regional Economy of Houston.

“It’s really an exciting opportunity for Houston,” Harvey said.

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The medical center was established in 1945 and since then has grown to be the largest in the world. It is now home to 61 member institutions serving 10 million patients annually.

Its expansion into the life sciences ecosystem began in earnest with TMC Innovation, which opened in 2015 in the space of a former Nabisco cookie factory on the corner of Holcombe and Alameda. TMC Innovation is home to accelerator programs designed to help emerging healthcare companies bring their products to market.

Next came TMC Helix Park, a 37-acre biomedical research campus formerly known as TMC3. The campus, located between Brays Bayou and the Old Spanish Trail, is designed to encourage partnerships between researchers, scholars, and businesses. TMC Helix Park was launched in 2020; The multi-institution cooperative building TMC3 is scheduled for completion in 2023.

TMC BioPort aims to complement Houston’s life sciences ecosystem. In the past, therapies and other healthcare products had to be manufactured on the medical center’s main campus or at TMC Innovation and TMC Helix Park elsewhere in the U.S. TMC BioPort could help maintain that manufacturing in Houston, McKeown said.

“We are creating new treatments, and you don’t want to have to send them to other parts of the country [when] We should be able to develop it, McKeown said. “…It was really important for us to really build all the key pieces that would further advance and accelerate this life science ecosystem.”

evan.macdonald@chron.com

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