Gaining Momentum: BioCenter cited by Dallas Chamber

By Amanda Siegfried


BioCenter at Southwestern Medical District was one of nine Dallas-area companies and organizations to receive Momentum Awards recently from the Dallas Regional Chamber.

Located on the East Campus at Inwood and Forest Park roads, BioCenter received the Technology Catalyst Award, which is presented to a company or organization working to develop and encourage new technology that yields economic growth.

BioCenter is a biotech park established this year to develop UT Southwestern technologies to the point of commercialization and to provide commercial space for existing or start-up life-science companies.

Dr. Dennis Stone

The facility is being developed in stages, said Dr. Dennis Stone, vice president for technology development. The first of four planned buildings on the 13-acre site opened its doors in October, welcoming about 25 personnel from Dr. Stone’s office, who moved into the building from their previous locations throughout campus.

The facility will open to commercial tenants in early 2010.

“We’re in an active recruitment mode for bringing in companies,” Dr. Stone said. “In particular, we’re seeking companies that are complementary to research and clinical activities at UT Southwestern. That is the main driver for why a company would want to locate in this facility — to be able to collaborate with the top-tier scientists that we have here.”

Dr. Stone said his group is in discussions with a number of companies, including local businesses with interests in medical device technologies, West Coast groups interested in establishing a drug development consortium, and companies based in Hong Kong and Israel.

“The fact that most of these companies are from elsewhere is the norm for units such as ours,” Dr. Stone said. “If you look nationwide and in Canada and Asia, about 85 percent of the occupants of a university-associated commercialization center come from elsewhere to draw on university intellectual and technical resources.”

Within BioCenter, on the second floor, is a bioinstrumentation unit that is responsible for custom fabrication of instruments and devices for faculty and companies using the facility.

“This is a key component for us, because increasingly we are interested in medical devices,” Dr. Stone said. “New ideas often come from our surgeons, who have extraordinarily busy schedules and don’t have the time to advance their technologies. Having an in-house development unit is a very important resource.”

The third floor of the facility currently is a shell that can be custom configured by one or more future tenants.

Also located within BioCenter is a small incubator unit called Pipeline, a resource center that can house early-stage spinoff companies headed by faculty members. Companies that use Pipeline have access to common laboratory equipment, outfitted labs and the bioinstrumentation unit, as well as office space and cubicles. Experts also are on hand to assist with financing issues and business plans.

BioCenter received a five-year, $750,000 grant from Dallas-based AT&T in 2008 to foster development of Pipeline, which includes supporting entrepreneurship and faculty education about business issues. As part of this program, the BioCenter has hired its first entrepreneur-in-residence to help facilitate these efforts.

“If UT Southwestern faculty members have ideas they want to develop or are ready to spin off a company based on their work, BioCenter should be their first stop,” Dr. Stone said.

One UT Southwestern-based start-up company is already on its way to transfer into Pipeline. Spectral MD, established by Dr. Michael DiMaio, associate professor of cardiovascular and thoracic surgery at UT Southwestern, has been incubated on campus for the past few years. Based on UT Southwestern innovations, the company has developed unique imaging systems that use light to see beneath the skin. Dr. DiMaio said the technology could be used to detect lesions that cannot yet be seen with the eye or with other imaging techniques, allowing physicians to discover a patient’s propensity for developing bed sores, detect hidden signs of infection and identify regions of reduced blood flow.

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Dr. DiMaio holds the Laurence and Susan Hirsch/Centex Distinguished Chair in Heart Disease.
Dr. Stone holds the NCH Corporation Chair in Molecular Transport.