The first BioFest Invest pitch competition was won by a San Antonio business.
Businesses from throughout the state participated today in the premiere of a pitch competition for bioscience startups, signaling sustained expansion for San Antonio’s emerging biotech sector. At the inaugural in-person BioFest Invest event, which organizers intend to hold every year, Novo The lium, a San Antonio-based start up creating artificial nipple regeneration for women after a mastectomy, earned the $10,000 top prize.
Bianca Cerqueira and Lauren Cornell, the co-founders, claim that their technology modernizes a procedure that hasn’t undergone significant changes since 1940 and can help people feel “complete” after overcoming breast cancer. Numerous San Antonio-based organizations, including Launch SA, Velocity TX, UT Health San Antonio, and many more, supported the roughly seven-year-old business. She added the $10,000 would probably go toward animal testing and technology packing.
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Local bioscience industry professionals from the area served as judges for the pitch competition, including Osman Zturgut, a business professor and dean of the School of Professional Studies at the University of the Incarnate Word. Brian Kieser, a partner at the San Antonio-based investment firm Fountainhead and the creator of the regional biologics manufacturer Nvision Biomedical Technologies, also participated in the judging.
Walter Downing, the chief operating officer of Southwest Research Institute, who has actively promoted San Antonio’s bioscience industry, served as another judge. Vascular Perfusion Solutions, a San Antonio-based company that creates medical devices to preserve and resuscitate organs, came in second to NovoThelium.
Representatives from the biggest research organizations in San Antonio, including Texas Biomed, the Southwest Research Institute, UT Health San Antonio, and UTSA, were present.
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The San Antonio Chamber of Commerce and former mayor Henry Cisneros established BioMedSA in 2005 to foster development and ties among the city’s bioscience community. The organization has adopted an aggressive stance toward this purpose during the administration of Hanson, who took over as president in 2020. According to Hanson, membership doubled between about 2020 and 2021, reaching 180 members (subsidiaries included), and is on pace to triple by the end of this year.
To make it simpler for sponsors to conduct clinical studies in this area, the organization has established a task group for clinical trials. It relocated to a larger office at the San Antonio Technology Center last summer, leaving rented space at the Southwest Research Institute.
It also hosted the inaugural BioFest Invest last year, but it was entirely online. According to Hanson, the number of registrations for the event this year more than doubled to 250. Along with BioMedSA’s growth, the biotech industry in San Antonio is showing additional signals of progress. Shortly after, a New Jersey company paid $80 million to purchase Intrinsic Imaging, a biotech startup headquartered in San Antonio.
According to a 2020 estimate from the San Antonio Chamber of Commerce impact assessment, about one in five San Antonians work in the health care and bioscience business, a group that encompasses hospitals and the conventional medical sector. According to the research, the sector contributed $42 billion to the economy in 2019.
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