Russ: Welcome back to The BusinessMakers Show, brought to you by Comcast Business, built for business. My guest today, Bill McKeon, the Chief Strategy and Operations Officer at The Medical Center and also an Executive Vice President; Bill, welcome to The BusinessMakers Show.
Bill: Thank you Russ, delighted to be here.
Russ: You bet. Well as you know I want to come out here and talk about this leading edge accelerator TMCX, but before we get there the whole Medical Center, what’s happening out here is very exciting, here you are Executive Vice President, Chief Strategy Officer, COO; tell us what you do here.
Bill: Yeah, that’s a great question; some days I ask myself the same question. I came here when Dr. Bobby Robbins came to The Texas Medical Center with a very bold, audacious vision that fortunately he shares with many of the leaders of The Texas Medical Center. And he needed someone to really come work with him to help formulate the strategy, but then execute on the strategy; we’re all about execution because talk is cheap and what do they say in Texas – is all hat and no cattle doesn’t fly here.
Bill: So my role is to obviously have oversight to the operating mechanism The Texas Medical Center Corporation, but also to work with him on these bold visions that have come out of this strategic planning process. We have five institutes that we’re planning; it’s been a year-long plan and now we’re planning to build five institutes – The Innovation Institute, Health Policy, Genomics, Stem Cell or Regenerative Medicine and Clinical Research.
Russ: And none of that existed before you guys got here?
Bill: Never. As a matter of fact, if you look at the history of The Texas Medical Center and Texas Medical Center Corporation we were largely known for physical infrastructure. This is the largest medical city in the world, it would be the sixth largest financial district in the world – bigger than Denver or Miami – and so to build that and to maintain that – the roads, the emergency preparedness, way-finding is a huge job; we’re still very proud of that and want to take that to the next level but we really want to focus on the programmatic infrastructure. How these great organizations like MD Anderson and University of Texas, Texas A&M, Baylor College of Medicine – how do we come together and really on a programmatic basis around Genomics or Innovation and drive that as a collective synergy between those member institutions?
Russ: Well it seems to make so much sense it’s almost kind of hard to believe that there wasn’t that much cooperation beforehand.
Bill: Well, I think the natural things when each of those young – remember 70 years ago this was a plot of land with a great vision – and that was a vision but it really – first you have to build up the infrastructure. So it started with Methodist and Memorial Hermann and Baylor College of Medicine, so those – each of those institutions grew on their own and they really just shared geography. I think over time they realized on the physical infrastructure they could share chilled water facilities or laundries or streets and way-finding just so they could focus most of their assets on providing outstanding, world class care.
Bill: Now it’s really come that you’re seeing around the world that great institutions are coming together around Genomics realizing that no single institution can be a global leader in any of these areas. These whole new toolsets didn’t exist before; Genomics 15 years ago didn’t exist, stem cell therapy, regenerative medicine, so these are the new tools of the next century and we’re really coming together as one united front to really kind of lead the world in this area.
Russ: Well okay I know that before, and I think perhaps still, they competed against each other out here in The Medical Center some, correct?
Bill: Yes they did and I think a good, healthy competition, that’s largely on the clinical front. Each of them – many institutions when they grow up believe they have to have a world class Cardiovascular program so we have several of them on this campus a stone’s throw away from each other. So they obviously want to do the heart cases and another institution may want to do those same heart cases, so that’s a healthy competition because you’re constantly pushing each other to be better and better, DeBakey and Cooley, some of the giants in this industry. Now as we look at genomics and stem cell, that’s not a competing front because you’re really competing with the unknown. You’re competing with what is keeping us from advancing clinical research or the next cancer drug and those are where we all benefit together by sharing those resources.
Russ: Okay, will there still be a competition in some categories but collaboration in others?
Bill: Oh absolutely. I think they’ll forever compete on the clinical front, although there are discussions about combining some of those programs, so again we can compete on a global basis around some of those larger areas; neurological, cancer research, cardiovascular – those are natural areas where we may see them come together. But clearly on the research side that’s something where there has been collaboration for years, but we’ve never centralized it and put raw power and resources behind that in a collective manner.
Russ: Okay, well as you know, about a month ago we interviewed Dr. Robbins and I don’t think we asked him this question, but when the plan was laid out did you get complete cooperation in these formerly competing entities?
Bill: Well I remember when we were originally – it was January 10th that we held together a meeting. We had never actually ran a strategic plan across the whole Texas Medical Center; we may have for the corporation but never for all entities and at that time I think we were around 54 member institutions – today we’re 56. So in January we sent an invitation out to the leaders of all the great member institutions but also the leaders in the city and the state. We didn’t want it to just be The Medical Center and they all came together, 188 of them came together at the Museum of Fine Arts.
Bill: It was a land where we could all share and we spent two days in a room really thinking about a bold vision and at that time the leaders committed to this year long process where they met every month and we worked through a plan and came up with these five institutes.
Russ: Really cool, it sounds like the future is definitely going to be exciting here but as you know you got on our radar in a very solid way when we started hearing about TMCX, this kind of leading edge accelerator focused on life sciences, health and medicine; so tell us about TMCX.
Bill: Sure. TMCX is our obviously the accelerator not just for the member institutions but really for the city and the state of Texas. If you look at pockets of innovation and how that was being created in the past there were small efforts by various member institutions and but there was never really the raw power put behind it – space, dedicated resources, money – and we knew we had great ideas, we had great innovations. As a matter of fact, many of our innovations in the past started here; 10X is a perfect example, disappeared to the West Coast as soon as it became viable. So we really wanted to create an environment that everyone felt safe in, that they didn’t have any brand dilution as a result, so we created the TMCX and that accelerator now is the largest in the country. It’s over 100,000 square feet as we do in Texas – 100,000 square feet of space dedicated to our accelerator TMCX – and what’s unique about it is unlike other accelerators around the world that take a percentage of your company, if you were to come into my accelerator we take zero dilution of the companies we bring in. And you may ask why, that’s not a very good business model; we’re really trying to get back and have the lowest barrier to entry to take these great innovations – and it’s really – cuts back to really our founding – the convenience of The Texas Medical Center around advancing research, education and the health of Texas. So we think that we’re actually moving back even closer to our mission. So we don’t dilute the companies at all, they come into the program for 6 months, and they can stay on if they’re continuing to grow and prosper, and we have a dedicated team whose only job is to help them be successful.
Russ: Well it’s very impressive. I’ve had a couple of tours, attended a Village Capital event about two weeks ago and you can just feel it over there. I mean it’s a make it happen type place. Now right now you’re having your first companies move in, correct?
Bill: Yes, our first 22 inaugural class of 2015 of TMC – we call them TMCX companies.
Bill: And what’s really exciting – and they come from as far away as Germany, Israel, several from Palo Alto, from Boston, Wisconsin and half of them are from the state of Texas.
Russ: Wow. Your earlier comment about having some efforts here before, I think it was frustrating for Houstonians to see the incredible brain power and research and development that took place but we just didn’t seem to have what it took to keep them here. Now it seems like we’ve got what it takes to keep them here but attracting them from the other cities is very impressive.
Bill: It is. We could have taken an insular approach and said let’s just focus on Texas; we certainly have a lot of the technology and the minds here. But really we wanted to best of the best to be here and we wanted our brand of TMCX to say hey, if we’re really thinking about the best interests of patients and advancing technology let’s bring the very best drugs, medical devices and digital health technologies from anywhere in the world and we have the largest platform to really validate those technologies.
Russ: Well it’s impressive. Okay, so I plan to do quite a few interviews out there, I hope it’s okay with you because I think they’re all impressive.
Bill: Well you are welcome; we’re delighted to have you Russ.
Russ: Okay, so before I let you go Bill though I to know you can just feel it around here, the excitement, the passion is incredible – give us a picture of what this place might be like five years from now.
Bill: Oh it’s interesting, we were looking at a study recently and people were thinking that when they look at this great medical center that it’s pretty much done and I would say that the number of projects – there’s seven major projects going on that almost are doubling in size some of the institutional space here. So The Medical Center now, where the core campus is now is being thought of as the North Campus. And we are developed with MD Anderson and University of Texas a South Campus with a huge amount of research, cutting edge research, and in the middle we plan to develop a research collaboration campus that really drive innovation even further. So we’ve got a project underway planned, it’s massive; it’s 30 acres – the Texas way – and it involves many anchor institutions as well as participation from other members. And it will be an icon I believe for the next century of where cutting edge research will take place.
Russ: Wow, that’s incredible. I did a little bit of background checking on you, you’ve kind of been in this space several places on the planet right?
Bill: Yes, yes. So I started my career in health at Stanford University Medical Center where Bobby Robbins and I worked together, became great friends. I then went on to do several IPOs, one in Raytel Medical, came to Texas for the first time for U.S. Oncology where we grew that and took that company to exit. And then I went to Medtronic in Minneapolis and then I went to Shanghai and London where I ran the largest medical device company there and then to London to a company that I built from 4 to 180 and it’s going public actually in the next few weeks.
Russ: My goodness, congratulations.
Bill: So I’ve traveled around the world but it’s great to be home in Texas.
Russ: Well I hope we can keep you here for a while to.
Bill: Oh I’m – this I think is an opportunity that all the leadership here see as one of the greatest opportunities we have to transform Texas as the icon for life sciences. So I’m not – I have no plans to go anywhere, this is such a large, incredibly important vision that I plan to dedicate the rest of my life to it.
Russ: Well great. Well congratulations on what you already accomplished and I really appreciate you sharing your perspective with us.
Bill: Thank you Russ, pleasure to have you.
Russ: You bet. And that wraps up my discussion with Bill McKeon, the Chief Strategy and Operations Officer and Executive VP here at The Texas Medical Center. And this is The BusinessMakers Show, brought to you by Comcast Business, built for business.
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