TMC plans to build massive biomanufacturing, distribution center

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

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

The medical center has been focused on expanding its presence in the life science ecosystem in recent years through projects like TMC Innovation and TMC Helix Park. McKeon sees TMC BioPort as a natural evolution of that strategy; the campus could be home to manufacturing and distribution for cell and gene therapies, pharmaceuticals and medical supplies.

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“We really think that this is the last missing piece to this largest life science ecosystem in the country,” McKeon said in an interview Wednesday.

The COVID-19 pandemic highlighted the risk of depending on manufacturing from overseas, as many hospitals struggled to secure personal protective equipment and other critical supplies. Having manufacturing and distribution in Houston would help the region, as well as other areas of the country, avoid similar problems in the future, McKeon said.

“We need to have these things in the US And being the largest medical city in the world, we are the largest user of supplies,” McKeon said. “It becomes even more of a critical thing for us to solve.”

The TMC BioPort campus would be located on a piece of land near the intersection of Buffalo Speedway and Holmes Road, just west of Wildcat Golf Club, just a few miles southwest of the medical center’s main campus.

The medical center is under contract to buy the land, which is currently held by multiple owners, McKeon said. He declined to identify the owners or discuss the potential sale price while negotiations are ongoing.

While development is in the early stages, McKeon predicted that TMC BioPort buildings could be under construction within two years. The medical center first needs to invest in infrastructure for the property, which McKeon estimated could cost $100 million.

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

The 100,000 new jobs estimated to be created by the campus by the consulting firm Economic & Planning Systems wouldn’t just be for people with PhDs, McKeon said. The new campus will include a workforce training center with the intention of offering jobs for students coming out of high school.

“These are really great careers that you could have for the rest of your life,” McKeon said.

McKeon revealed the medical center’s plans for TMC BioPort during the annual State of the TMC event on Tuesday afternoon, hosted by The Greater Houston Partnership.

Houston has been identified as an up-and-coming life science market in recent years; the commercial real estate and investment services firm CBRE identified the city as the No. 2 emerging life science cluster in the US in a 2020 report. Projects like TMC BioPort add to the city’s growth in the market, and help to diversify Houston’s regional economy, Greater Houston Partnership President and CEO Bob Harvey said during Tuesday’s event.

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

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The medical center was established in 1945 and has since grown to become the largest in the world. It is now home to 61 member institutions that serve a combined 10 million patients per year.

Its expansion into the life sciences ecosystem began in earnest with TMC Innovation, which opened in 2015 in the space of the former Nabisco Cookie Factory at the corner of Holcombe and Alameda. TMC Innovation is home to accelerator programs designed to help health care startups bring their products to the market.

Next came TMC Helix Park, a 37-acre biomedical research campus formerly known as TMC3. The campus, located between Brays Bayou and Old Spanish Trail, is designed to encourage partnerships among researchers, scientists and businesses. TMC Helix Park broke ground in 2020; its multi-institutional TMC3 collaborative building is slated to be completed in 2023.

TMC BioPort is intended to round out the life science ecosystem in Houston. In the past, the therapeutics and other health care products being created at the medical center’s main campus or at TMC Innovation and TMC Helix Park would have to be manufactured elsewhere in the US TMC BioPort could help keep that manufacturing in Houston, McKeon said.

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

evan.macdonald@chron.com

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