San Antonio: Life science entrepreneurs on the rise

If you live more than 500 yards outside San Antonio’s Loop410, you probably have no idea that America’s seventh largest city is home to a substantial and thriving life sciences industry.  You probably think San Antonio’s biggest industry is tourism, followed closely by bronco busting and dirt farming. 

OK, I admit, I have a bit of a chip on my shoulder.  After 24 years in San Antonio, I’m a diehard cheerleader. 

But that doesn’t change the reality that my adopted home town is a serious, if unrecognized, player in the life sciences arena.  Companies like Bayer, Genzyme, Sanofi, and ArthroCare, plus European private equity firms, have found life sciences assets here worth spending billions of dollars to acquire in recent years.  That’s ample proof that there must be something more to San Antonio than margaritas and rodeos.  Study after study for at least the past decade shows healthcare and life sciences to be the biggest industry in the city by a wide margin. 

More evidence of San Antonio’s life sciences emergence was on full display this week.  For the umpteenth time, a hotel ballroom was filled to capacity with hundreds of local cognoscenti for the latest San Antonio Emerging Venture Pipeline luncheon.  And once again, presentations by several early-stage entrepreneurial companies which launched in San Antonio had the room buzzing with anticipation about the future. 

Serial entrepreneur Fred Dinger’s summary of how his latest venture, ENTrigue Surgical, went from scratch to a recent $45 million sale to ArthroCare reminded everyone that San Antonio is a fertile breeding ground for entrepreneurial success.   The University of Texas at San Antonio’s new Center for Innovation and Technology Entrepreneurship also raised excited eyebrows with its announced goal to launch 50 new tech companies in the next five years.   

I’m privileged to have worked with numerous healthcare, biotech and life sciences companies and institutions in San Antonio.  They are tireless warriors in countless battles to solve medical problems and enhance the health and well being of people around the world.  They are also job creators and wealth enhancers who make San Antonio a much more prosperous city than it would be without them. It’s an honor to occasionally play a small role in their successes. 

And speaking of margaritas….cheers to the city of science and health.  Yes, I’m talking about San Antonio! 

-        Eric Whittington