by the numbers

Report: Houston is primed for a boom in these life science subsectors

According to a new report, Houston has potential to lead three life science subsectors: cell and gene therapy manufacturing, molecular diagnostics, and biologics drug development and manufacturing. Photo via Getty Images

A new report found that Houston has great potential across a handful of life science subsectors.

The study by Newmark Consulting Group was commissioned by the Greater Houston Partnership and sponsored by San Jacinto College, Lone Star College, Houston Community College, and McCord Development. It looked at the region's existing resources and value proposition in the life sciences sector.

According to the report, Houston is home to industry-leading expertise in three subsectors: cell and gene therapy manufacturing, molecular diagnostics, and biologics drug development and manufacturing.

From a workforce perspective, the city has a steady flow of new talent from regional universities and "an emerging and robust commitment by community colleges to support two-year degree pathways to meet industry demands and the ability for life science companies to grow and thrive in the market," per the report. The findings led to identifying the next steps for the Houston region to capitalize on these advantages.

“The Newmark study confirms what we knew to be true about the potential for life sciences growth in Houston,” says Susan Davenport, GHP's chief economic development officer, in a news release. “The study will help us coalesce our regional partners around a cohesive strategy to grow and expand the industry in Houston.”

The report's other key findings included:

  • Houston consistently ranks as a top-15 market for life sciences employment nationwide and first in Texas with nearly 700 life science companies operating in town.
  • The Bayou City has the densest patient population in the world, which allows for transformational clinical applications.
  • The city's diverse workforce, extensive university ecosystem, education infrastructure, and research institutions sets a scene for Houston to capture extensive subsector gains.
  • Houston ranks second in the nation in clinical trial volume with more than 4,600 currently active clinical trials, which is representing 15 percent of all active U.S. trials.
  • In 2021, Houston-area institutions attracted $864.1 million in grant funding from the National Institutes of Health, which is up 16.3 percent from 2020. On average over the past five years, the region received $740.7 million per year in NIH funding for a total of $3.9 billion.
  • Houston is home to more than 26,000 non-healthcare life science employees.
  • The region's life sciences workforce ranks No. 12 in the nation, on par with numbers reported for Research Triangle Park.
In light of the report, the GHP is recommending a few action items, including "accelerating workforce development programs to produce new graduates in key life sciences occupations, refining Houston’s marketing messages to highlight the region’s existing life science assets and activities within life science R&D and manufacturing," per the report. Additionally, the GHP identified the need to develop a shared regional strategy to attract and retain leading life sciences companies.
To lead these initiatives, the GHP has assembled task forces, which will be led by the organization’s Life Sciences Committee, chaired by Ferran Prat, senior vice president of Industry Relations and Research at MD Anderson Cancer Center.

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Here's what Houston research news dominated this year on InnovationMap. Photo via Getty Images

Editor's note: As 2022 comes to a close, InnovationMap is looking back at the year's top stories in Houston innovation. In many cases, innovative startups originate from meticulous research deep within institutions. This past year, InnovationMap featured stories on these research institutions — from their breakthrough innovations to funding fueling it all. Here are five Houston research-focused articles that stood out to readers this year — be sure to click through to read the full story.


Texas nonprofit cancer research funder doles out millions to health professionals moving to Houston

These cancer research professionals just got fresh funding from a statewide organization. Photo by Dwight C. Andrews/Greater Houston Convention and Visitors Bureau

Thanks in part to multimillion-dollar grants from the Cancer Prevention and Research Institute of Texas, two top-flight cancer researchers are taking key positions at Houston’s Baylor College of Medicine.

Dr. Pavan Reddy and Dr. Michael Taylor each recently received a grant of $6 million from the Cancer Prevention and Research Institute of Texas.

Reddy is leaving his position as chief of hematology-oncology and deputy director at the University of Michigan’s Rogel Cancer Center to become director of the Baylor College of Medicine’s Dan L. Duncan Comprehensive Cancer Center. Dr. C. Kent Osborne stepped down as the center’s director in 2020; Dr. Helen Heslop has been the interim director. Continue reading.

Rice University deploys grant funding to 9 innovative Houston research projects

Nine research projects at Rice University have been granted $25,000 to advance their innovative solutions. Photo courtesy of Rice

Over a dozen Houston researchers wrapped up 2021 with the news of fresh funding thanks to an initiative and investment fund from Rice University.

The Technology Development Fund is a part of the university’s Creative Ventures initiative, which has awarded more than $4 million in grants since its inception in 2016. Rice's Office of Technology Transfer orchestrated the $25,000 grants across nine projects. Submissions were accepted through October and the winners were announced a few weeks ago. Continue reading.

Houston researchers create unprecedented solar energy technology that improves on efficiency

Two researchers out of the University of Houston have ideated a way to efficiently harvest carbon-free energy 24 hours a day. Photo via Getty Images

Two Houstonians have developed a new system of harvesting solar energy more efficiently.

Bo Zhao, the Kalsi Assistant Professor of mechanical engineering at the University of Houston, along with his doctoral student Sina Jafari Ghalekohneh, have created a technology that theoretically allows solar energy to be harvested to the thermodynamic limit, which is the absolute maximum rate sunlight can be converted into electricity, as reported in a September article for Physical Review Applied.

Traditional solar thermophotovoltaics (STPVs), or the engines used to extract electrical power from thermal radiation, run at an efficiency limit of 85.4 percent, according to a statement from UH. Zhao and Ghalekohneh's system was able to reach a rate of 93.3 percent, also known as the Landsberg Limit. Continue reading.

Texas A&M receives $10M to create cybersecurity research program

Texas A&M University has announced a new cybersecurity-focused initiative. Photo via tamu.edu

Texas A&M University has launched an institute for research and education regarding cybersecurity.

The Texas A&M Global Cyber Research Institute is a collaboration between the university and a Texas A&M University System engineering research agency, the Texas A&M Engineering Experiment Station. The research agency and Texas A&M are also home to the Texas A&M Cybersecurity Center.

The institute is funded by $10 million in gifts from former Texas A&M student Ray Rothrock, a venture capitalist and cybersecurity expert, and other donors. Continue reading.

Houston research organization doles out $28M in grants to innovators across Texas

Houston-based Welch Foundation has awarded almost $28 million in chemical research grants throughout Texas this year. Photo via Getty Images

Chemical researchers at seven institutions in the Houston area are receiving nearly $12.9 million grants from the Houston-based Welch Foundation.

In the Houston area, 43 grants are going to seven institutions:

  • Baylor College of Medicine
  • Rice University
  • Texas A&M University
  • Texas A&M University Health Science Center
  • University of Houston
  • University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston
  • University of Texas Medical Branch in Galveston

The Welch Foundation is awarding almost $28 million in chemical research grants throughout Texas this year. The money will be allocated over a three-year period. Continue reading.

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