Skip to main content

Bill McKeon: Investing in Education Key to Advancing Houston's Life Sciences Ecosystem

Published Jun 09, 2022 by Brina Morales

TMC3 Aerial July 2022

Aerial rendering of TMC3

Rendering of TMC3 campus

As industry leaders work to advance Houston’s life sciences ecosystem, investing in education will be critical to its success, according to Bill McKeon, President and CEO of the Texas Medical Center.

McKeon discussed how Houston has positioned itself as the “Third Coast” for life sciences and how leaders are working to strengthen the region’s ecosystem during the latest installment of the Partnership’s Why Houston webinar series.

“It took Boston 20 years to establish what they have today,” McKeon said as he discussed the progress on the construction of TMC3. The transformational research hub will serve as a life sciences cluster for leading researchers and industry experts.

McKeon said TMC3 project leaders have spent time in Boston to learn about its life sciences hub and learn from their initial mistakes. One of the takeaways was to invest in retail and green space from inception, McKeon said. 

“We’re putting hundreds and millions of dollars into those parks, into our retail where anyone in economics would say, ‘Don’t do that. You’re not going to see the return. You’re going to lose it.’ It’s about investing in the community just like city has made such great investments in our parks through our great philanthropy,” McKeon said.

Houston is considered one of the top destinations for medical research and clinical trials. In fact, the Houston region accounts for 20% of all clinical trials in the U.S. But one of the areas where we have an opportunity is education and talent, McKeon said. He pointed to Raleigh-Durham, N.C., which has invested in life sciences education as early as 5th grade. High schoolers can graduate with two-year certificates and enter the workforce upon graduation.    

“Nothing excites me more than to know that we could have the largest number of students coming out of our high school with jobs waiting for them,” McKeon said as he pitched the idea of piloting a program with the Houston Independent School District.

Another opportunity lies in building on discoveries in the Houston region instead of forcing companies or researchers to send their products for development to either coast, McKeon said. He spotlighted MD Anderson’s recent announcement about a joint venture with National Resilience, Inc., to launch the Cell Therapy Manufacturing Center. The partnership will accelerate the development and manufacturing of innovative cell therapies for patients with cancer. 

“We want those jobs here. We want those companies created here,” McKeon said. The Cell Therapy Manufacturing Center will be located on the TMC campus.

Suburban districts like Pearland and The Woodlands are also growing their life sciences industry, which should attract even more companies and talent to our region, McKeon said.

“We don’t see ourselves as the be-all, end-all. So, if something’s not a fit for TMC, then we want them to go to other parts of the city. A win for Houston is a win for us,” he said.

Discover why companies choose Houston and learn more about our life sciences & biotech industries.

Related News

Life Sciences

Houston Ranks Among Leading Life Sciences Markets: CBRE Report

Aided by a high percentage of PhDs and a low cost of living, Houston ranks No. 13 in a new analysis of the nation’s top 25 life sciences markets from real estate firm CBRE.  The report sheds light on the growth of life sciences hubs beyond the traditional coastal markets such as Boston and San Diego. Houston is getting a boost from the growing Texas Medical Center and an influx of venture capital earmarked for life sciences research.  Job growth in life sciences professions – from bioengineers and biochemists to microbiologists and data scientists – expanded by 79% over the last two decades to roughly 500,000. In comparison, the overall U.S. job growth rate in that span was 8%, according to CBRE. That surge in life sciences jobs boosted mainstay markets such as Boston and San Francisco as well as emerging hubs including Nashville, Salt Lake City and Houston.  The report suggests that Houston’s life sciences labor market offers an attractive combination of affordability and a particularly strong PhD talent pool. Major research universities and medical institutions such as the UT School of Public Health and Baylor College of Medicine boosted the city’s ranking ahead of other Texas markets in CBRE’s analysis.  “Houston’s favorable business climate and cost of living, combined with the size of its scientific talent pool and medical institutions, make it an attractive market for life sciences industry expansion,” said Scott Carter, Senior Vice President, Life Sciences & Healthcare at CBRE in Houston. “Houston is projected to lead the nation in population growth over the next five years, which will only strengthen the appeal of its labor market.”  Houston ranks No. 1 in the nation when it comes to life sciences wages relative to the cost of living, making it more attractive for life sciences professionals to enjoy a high quality of life. PhDs account for 18.5% of the 1,300 Biological and Biomedical Sciences degrees issued from the Houston MSA annually – the highest concentration nationwide. And Houston produces 4.2% of such PhDs in the U.S. – more than all but a few major life sciences markets do.  “Millions of square feet and billions of dollars of life sciences development is underway or planned in Houston to break down longtime silos between commercial, academic, and medical sectors,” Carter said. “Leveraging the unmatched scale of the Texas Medical Center, these new moon-shot investments are building a launchpad to rocket Space City into a new era as a global hub for scientific and human progress.”  Highlighting the rapid investment in the city’s innovation ecosystem, Houston has one of the country’s fastest-growing pipelines for life sciences venture capital funding, which increased by 937% in the last five years – nearly three times the nationwide increase of 345%.  Click to expand Source: CBRE To develop the ranking, CBRE assessed each market against multiple criteria, including its number of life sciences jobs and graduates, life sciences’ share of each market’s overall job and graduate pool, number of doctorate degree holders in life sciences, and its concentration of jobs in the broader professional, scientific and technical services professions.  A number of large-scale life sciences developments are currently in the works that will add significant amounts of new research, lab and office space to the existing market, including Levit Green and TMC3. Learn more about some of those projects. Click here to see the full CBRE report.  
Read More
Life Sciences

As Houston Life Sciences Sector Heats Up, Developers Delivering On Needed Space

A life sciences real estate building boom is sweeping the nation, driven by sharp increases in health-related VC funding, promising new therapies from pharmaceutical companies and a shortage of available space, particularly in emerging markets.  Investment in U.S. life sciences real estate increased 62% in 2021, according to a report from commercial real estate firm CBRE. Investment in the sector has grown by 111% since 2018 and another 10% increase is forecast for 2022, with much of that new investment going to ground-up development.  Industry watchers are pointing to Houston as one rapidly evolving market where proximity to the world’s largest medical center and a diverse and educated population are fueling interest from established life sciences and biotech companies aiming to grow, just as new startups hatched out of local research institutions look to scale.  Life sciences/health care led among the local sectors in venture capital funding for four of the last five years and accounted for 26% of all VC funding in the market in 2021. Promising startups and new technology are adding to an already robust market with more than 1,700 life sciences firms, hospitals and research institutions currently operating in the region. Big players such as Abbott, Bayer, Merck and Novartis already have a strong local presence.  Commercial space for life sciences companies, including lab space, offices and more, has been scarce, but a series of projects near Houston’s core are underway to satisfy growing demand. At the same time, a mounting cohort of companies are looking outside the urban center for affordable space in promising suburban districts like The Woodlands, Pearland, Sugar Land and League City.   Here’s an updated look at several major projects:  TMC3 Texas Medical Center is slated to deliver the first phase of its ambitious 37-acre TMC3 collaborative research campus in 2023. The 250,000-square-foot Collaborative Building will include a large-scale research lab, office space, 7,000-square-foot atrium and more. A hotel and conference center, residential and retail space, as well as six additional industry and research buildings are included in the project’s master plan. TMC is working in collaboration with other founding institutions to create the campus centered around a series of parks in the shape of a double helix. The partners include the University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center, Texas A&M University Health Sciences Center and the University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston. Learn more.  Levit Green  Hines is slated to complete the first phase of its 53-acre Levit Green life sciences campus this year. The initial five-story building will create 294,000 square feet of space overlooking a plaza and a manmade lake. In time, Hines and its project partners 2ML Real Estate and Harrison Street hope to create roughly 4 million square feet of development on the site located between Hermann Park and Texas 288. Learn more.  Texas A&M Innovation Plaza  Texas A&M University and its development partners Medistar Corp. and Healthcare Trust of America are well underway on Texas A&M Innovation Plaza, a new five-acre campus within the Texas Medical Center and adjacent to the TMC Transition Station. The project is centered around a common green space will include three towers: EnMed Tower, an 18-story, 280,000-square-foot academic building anchored by the university’s Engineering-Medicine (EnMed) program; Life Tower, a 19-story, student housing building; and the 30-story Horizon Tower, which will include 17 floors of life sciences, dry and wet labs, restaurants, retail, and medical office space atop a 2,600-space parking garage. Horizon Tower is slated for completion in Q1 2024. Learn more.    Learn more about the life sciences industry in Houston.
Read More

Related Events

Life Sciences

State of the Texas Medical Center

From the world-renowned Texas Medical Center south of downtown to fine community hospitals in outlying areas, Houston boasts medical facilities and expertise second to none. The TMC is a top destination in the world…

Learn More
Learn More