With precision therapeutics initiative, San Antonio is skating to where the puck is going to be

William L. Henrich, M.D., MACP, president of UT Health San Antonio, joined three fellow presidents on Oct. 15 to discuss the newly announced San Antonio Partnership for Precision Therapeutics. Dr. Henrich participated in a panel with Dr. Taylor Eighmy, president of The University of Texas at San Antonio; Dr. Larry Schlesinger, president of Texas Biomedical Research Institute; Adam Hamilton, president of Southwest Research Institute; and moderator Bob Rivard. The event, hosted by the Rivard Report, was the “Medical Forum II: The Growing Impact and Importance of San Antonio’s Billion-Dollar Collaborative.”

“Our institutions have had very strong and very active partnerships in the past, and I said to each of my colleagues, if we collaborated and brought our unique programs to bear and built new bridges to each other, then what could happen would be a puff of wind in San Antonio’s sails,” President Henrich said.

“This city has way more to offer the world than we’ve been telling the world,” Dr. Eighmy said.

“It is time that we in San Antonio recognize what we have. We have excellence in areas that is not in Austin, Houston, Dallas or College Station.” Dr. Schlesinger said.

“We have all the different capabilities to do what we need to do, to form a very powerful aggregate that will make us competitive in the global marketplace,” Hamilton said.

Dr. Henrich provided a word picture of what the San Antonio Partnership for Precision Therapeutics means:

“Think of seasonal allergies as an example. We all develop cedar fever or spring fever or something like that. We go to the store and buy Zyrtec or Claritin to treat our allergies, and if 10 of us do that, then what will happen is two or three of us will get complete relief, two or three of us will get moderate relief and a couple of us will get almost no relief. What’s at the heart of precision therapeutics is to understand the biology behind those varied results. Why is it that the same medicine, with the same distribution in the body from person to person, works well in one, moderately in another and not at all in a third person?

“This becomes very important in serious, life-threatening illnesses like cancer. Giving a universal drug to treat a cancer will work to varying degrees in different people with the same cancer. It turns out that their cancers are not the same, the people are not the same and the distribution isn’t the same. So what precision medicine has as its overarching goal is to dig into the why of that. Why does variation happen from person to person and what are all the variables that go into it, such as the age of a person or the medicines they are taking? Each of these factors is really important. People can benefit from precise aim — a ‘ready, aim, shoot’ strategy rather than ‘ready, shoot, aim.’ If we can do this in exactly the right sequence, then the toxic side effects of the medicine will be reduced because we are aiming at the particular issue that we want to affect, and the efficacy will dramatically rise.”

Twelve proposals have already been submitted by scientific teams from the institutions for consideration to receive funding from the partnership, the leaders said.

Precision therapeutics is the future, Dr. Henrich said. “(Hockey star) Wayne Gretsky’s father was asked once why his son was so successful, and he said, ‘Well, he skates to where the puck is going to be.” This is where the puck is going to be.”

Related: A special insert in the San Antonio Business Journal as well as its sister newspapers in Austin, Dallas and Houston highlights the recently announced San Antonio Partnership for Precision Therapeutics.

View and read the insert

Related: San Antonio research institutions announce partnership in precision therapeutics

San Antonio Partnership for Precision Therapeutics website

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