Texas Biomedical Research Institute

By: Stacy Maloney and Joseph Carey

Type: General Entry

Published: September 24, 2012

exas Biomedical Research Institute (Texas Biomed), formerly the Southwest Foundation for Biomedical Research, was established in 1941 by Thomas Baker Slick, Jr. Around that time he envisioned a facility devoted to scientific research. With an inheritance, he had purchased 1,600 acres west of San Antonio, which he named the Essar Ranch. On December 16, 1941, he established the Foundation of Applied Research to be operated by a board of trustees. In 1948 Harold Vagtborg became the first president of the foundation. During the early years the institution's headquarters were located at a large estate known as the Cable House, which Slick purchased and restored. Originally, work centered on military-oriented inventions, cloud-seeding experiments, and improvements for on-site construction. Slick and Vagtborg soon focused their energies on recruiting notable scientists for biomedical research. Prominent researchers included Henry C. McGill, Jr., specializing in the field of heart research and the study of baboons as animal models, Joseph Goldzieher pioneering in safe birth-control pills, and Nicholas Werthessen studying atherosclerosis, among others. In 1952 the name of the organization was changed to Southwest Foundation for Research and Education. In the mid-1950s the foundation bought the Argyle Hotel and converted the facility into a private club. Members of the Argyle Club, a prestigious private group in San Antonio society, began a long tradition of financial support to the Southwest Foundation. In 1958 the facility established the world's largest baboon colony for the purpose of medical research. Charles F. and Berenice Urschel (mother of Thomas Slick) provided the Urschel Memorial Laboratory in 1969.

In 1982 the organization's name was changed to the Southwest Foundation for Biomedical Research. Throughout the 1980s and into the 2000s the foundation continued to play a vital role in promoting pioneer research. Studies of heart disease covered a wide range of genetic research, population studies, and primate testing. In 1993 the AT&T Genetics Computing Center opened; in 2011 it contained 8,000 computer processors working in parallel to find disease-influencing genes. Scientists also conducted tests for the study of cancer, viral diseases, and disorders in newborn babies. The foundation increasingly focused on hepatitis C research and the development of possible vaccines and new therapies through testing with chimpanzees. In 1999 it completed construction of the only privately-owned biosafety level 4 laboratory offering a safe environment for scientists to study deadly pathogens for which there are no treatments or vaccines. The institution produced ongoing staff publications of research findings and participated with a network of worldwide scientific organizations to share information. As part of the Southwest Research Consortium it also cooperated with area groups including the UT Health Science Center, Southwest Research Institute, and Brooke Army Medical Center.

In 2011 the Southwest Foundation for Biomedical Research became the Texas Biomedical Research Institute and operated on a 200-acre campus with 275,000 square feet of laboratory space, as well as offices, a library, an animal hospital, and facilities housing 2,000 baboons and more than 3,000 other animals. Plans were underway to undertake a major campus enhancement program including 70,000 square feet of new laboratory and office space. Texas Biomed had an operating budget of $50 million, with a majority of funds supplied by donations and grants. As of 2012 the staff consisted of 370 employees. Kenneth P. Trevett was president of Texas Biomed, and John R. Hurd was chair of the board of trustees.

Progress in Biomedical Research, March 1991. Southwest Foundation for Biomedical Research: The First Half Century (Brochure, San Antonio, 1991). Texas Biomedical Research Institute (http://txbiomed.org/), accessed September 13, 2012.

  • Health and Medicine
  • Organizations
  • Foundations

The following, adapted from the Chicago Manual of Style, 15th edition, is the preferred citation for this entry.

Stacy Maloney and Joseph Carey, “Texas Biomedical Research Institute,” Handbook of Texas Online, accessed August 09, 2022, https://www.tshaonline.org/handbook/entries/texas-biomedical-research-institute.

Published by the Texas State Historical Association.

September 24, 2012

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