This past week several BIMS faculty met with other area scientists and representatives from local biotech firm Receptor Logic to discuss research collaboration and opportunities for our students.
Receptor Logic is a company led by Dr. Jon Weidanz, whose “day job” is as a professor at the TTU School of Pharmacy here in Abilene. Their work involves development and production of specific antibodies called T-cell receptor mimics (TCRm) of value immunologically. They have promise therapeutically and also open the possibility for diagnostic and environmental sensing applications. If all goes according to plan, Abilene will become a major player in the fight against contagious diseases, advances in cancer diagnosis and treatment, and development of biosensors to monitor environmental quality. McMurry plans on being the major supplier of quality employees.
The emerging biotech presence in Abilene is supported by the Abilene Life Science Foundation and the Development Corporation of Abilene. Under construction is the biotech research accelerator facility – a research center expected to house up to six biotech companies and support their research and development efforts. The community has rallied around the effort by providing tax incentives. McMurry responded with creation of the BIMS degree and is moving toward articulation with a biotech certificate program being developed by a local junior college.
The subject of this meeting was how our faculty might join in the work underway at Receptor Logic, a collaboration that would enable McMurry faculty to contribute to cutting edge research and that would add some capable minds and hands to the resources available to Receptor Logic. Most exciting to us were the opportunities discussed for our students – internships, advanced courses involving commercial biotech research, job opportunities upon graduation. The degree of cooperation between groups represented is unprecedented. We have heard in the past that a BIMS graduate would have the skills desired for biotech or forensic science jobs, jobs that oftentimes have starting salaries in excess of $50,000.
We believe it would be irresponsible of us to see a quality biotech education as beginning and ending with McMurry faculty when so many resources are available in town – a quality faculty at the TTU Pharmacy School, invitations from biotech companies engaged in research & development, a supportive community that invests in biotech resources to support schools and industry. It would also be irresponsible for us to have resources on our campus that are not contributed to the effort. Joining together to become more than the sum of our parts is what will make Abilene’s emerging biotech presence flourish. McMurry is committed to giving our very best effort for the sake of our students, our faculty, our community, and our local biotech industry. Stay tuned for the excitement to come!