July 14, 2024

The Texas Research and Technology Foundation is converting a building at the Merchant’s Ice site into shared labs.
SAN ANTONIO — The Texas Research and Technology Foundation has begun converting a building at the Merchants Ice complex on the East Side into bioscience laboratories for research and development that TRTF hopes will attract business and talent.
It’s part of the nonprofit’s conversion of the industrial buildings along East Houston Street and other land it has amassed in the area into a hub for life sciences startups and established companies.
TRTF received $4 million in federal funding last summer through the CARES Act Recovery Assistance program to build and operate six shared labs to work on vaccines, drugs and other treatments.
The nonprofit will put in $1 million of its money, raised through selling land in its Texas Research Park campus on the far West Side.
On ExpressNews.com: VelocityTX bioscience hub working to grow an Innovation District on the East Side
A committee has been set up to help recruit companies, which will have access to technical support, mentoring and other services through VelocityTX, a subsidiary of TRTF.
The Texas Research and Technology Foundation is converting a building at the Merchant’s Ice site into shared labs.
Conversion of the roughly 5,000-square-foot building to labs is expected to be finished in third quarter 2023.
The facility is meant to alleviate the reality that research and development, specialized labs and bioscience infrastructure are expensive, said Rene Dominguez, TRTF’s president and chief operating officer.
“This allows the researcher or the entrepreneur to focus on commercializing their product and for us to provide the shared space so it reduces that burden for them,” Dominguez said.
Will Haskins, CEO and co-founder of Gryphon Bio, hopes to be one of the lab’s first tenants.
His biotechnology company, which has offices in San Francisco and San Antonio, is developing blood tests and therapeutics for brain diseases, including traumatic brain injuries and Alzheimer’s.
Haskins, who lives in San Antonio, said lab space is “critical” and that the necessary equipment can cost millions of dollars.
Entrepreneurs launching biotechnology companies typically go to Boston, San Diego or San Francisco, where facilities, land and labor are pricey, Haskins said. San Antonio is much less expensive.
“I think it’s going to be great for the community and students, knowing they have jobs without having to move,” he said of TRTF’s efforts.
TRTF bought the 120,000-square-foot Merchants Ice complex in 2017 and has been renovating it as lab and office space for bioscience businesses.
The nonprofit has received millions of dollars in grants, tax increment reinvestment zone reimbursements and tax abatements from the federal government, Bexar County and city of San Antonio to redevelop the site and recruit companies.
Tenants include gene-therapy company Scorpion Biological Services and therapeutics firm GenCure.
VelocityTX funds startups and hosts incubator and accelerator programs. In its 17,000-square-foot Innovation Center, it offers office space, wet labs and other amenities for startups.
Other TRTF subsidiaries include Alamo Angels, an investor group ; and Community House, which focuses on buying family-owned businesses .
The nonprofit’s leaders are developing what they have called the Innovation District and aim to recruit more companies and military medical research organizations.
On ExpressNews.com: Nonprofit buys G.J. Sutton property on near East Side as it builds out bioscience hub
In April, TRTF bought the former site of the G.J. Sutton building on Center Street from the state, which demolished the structure in 2019.
Sutton was the first Black state legislator from Bexar County and the first Black person elected to what was then the Alamo Community College District’s board.
TRTF plans to build about 650,000 square feet of primarily office and lab space at the Sutton property, with about 40,000 square feet for retail and an amphitheater.
The foundation will keep Sutton’s name there, which was a condition of the sale. The Merchants Ice and Sutton properties encompass about 12 acres combined.
Madison Iszler covers real estate, retail, economic development, and other business topics for the San Antonio Express-News.
Reach Madison at 210-250-3242, ma************@ex**********.net and @madisoniszler.


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