Read about how Fort Bend County, TX's life science companies are leveraging the region's science talent and contributing to new discoveries.
When hospital pharmacy directors from across the country come to Sugar Land in Fort Bend County to tour PharMEDium’s drug compounding facility, they expect to be impressed.
“Most of our visitors have spent their careers working in clean, sterile environments, so when they tour our facility, they want to see a similar atmosphere,” says Bruce Bagley, general manager of PharMEDium’s Sugar Land site. They find that and more at the company’s state-of-the-art facility located in an attractive, secure area of one of Fort Bend County’s most successful business parks. The location puts the site near quality hotels, restaurants and attractions – an added bonus for dozens of current and potential customers who visit each month. “When they come here, they are always impressed – with the city, the facility, the team and the way we operate,” Bagley says.
That welcoming atmosphere is one of many assets that drew the Illinois-based pharmacy compounding company to the Fort Bend area nine years ago and has kept the company expanding there.
“This community is one of the fastest-growing, best-planned communities around – and that helps ensure we attract the right people and business partners to come along with us,” Bagley says.
Center for Logistics, Innovation
Other advantages for life sciences and biotech investment in Fort Bend County include access to a highly skilled, dependable workforce, easy access major interstates and two international airports, and proximity to numerous hospitals and labs including the Texas Medical Center, the world’s largest medical complex, located nearby in Houston. As the leading provider of pharmacy compounding services for nearly half of all hospitals nationwide, PharMEDium mixes thousands of intravenous drug solutions a day that must be shipped to hospitals all over the country for immediate use.
“Being centrally located allows us to hit both coasts easily by next day,” Bagley says. Fort Bend County’s proximity to Texas Medical Center, as well as top research labs, nearly 200 hospitals and health clinics, and more than 190 biotech and life sciences firms in the region, also make it a magnet for life sciences investment.
Fort Bend County also supports many innovative startups with roots in the region. Missouri City-based Epoch Life Science launched out of the Texas Medical Center, and the biotech startup has grown into a leading pharmaceutical contract research lab for public and private institutions. Another innovator, Rosenberg-based OCuSOFT, began as the brainchild of two former Akron Pharmaceuticals professionals nearly 30 years ago and has evolved into a leading ophthalmic pharmaceutical research, development, and supply firm with global partners and distribution.
The company introduced the first commercially available eyelid cleanser to the market, along with the first leave-on antibacterial eyelid cleanser, the first topical anesthetic gel and first supplement proven to enhance botulinum toxin injections. Its eyelid cleansers remain the No. 1 doctor recommended brand, representing 80 percent of the market share and topping sales in eye accessories across retail stores. Along with its ever-growing line of eyelid hygiene products, OCuSOFT also develops and distributes cosmetics and skin care products.
“We are very focused on being innovative and are always looking for ways to improve the quality of care and quality of life for patients,” says Stacy Foster, OCuSOFT’s executive vice president. Close relationships with ophthalmologists, optometrists and oscular plastic surgeons have helped the company achieve this, with their input and ideas providing the foundation for OCuSOFT’s product rollouts.
The firm has also drawn expertise and resources from Houston Methodist Hospital, the University of Houston College of Optometry and other regional institutions when conducting clinical trials and other research projects.
“One of the big contributing factors to being located here is access to the finest medical talent and medical minds in the world,” Foster says.
Fort Bend County’s atmosphere of low taxes and fewer regulations has also made growth easier for the company, which expanded into a 72,000-square-foot corporate campus in 2013, while proximity to multimodal transportation channels, including the Port of Freeport and Port of Houston, helps with shipping far and wide. “The free trade zone that operates here is important to us in terms of our international sales, and it helps us tremendously with being competitive on a global basis,” Foster says. Not only does the location have the right assets, but the community shares a forward-thinking, tech-focused perspective that extends across industries. “We have been able to hire people who are very knowledgeable, very eager and who are innovative thinkers,” Foster says. “The culture has been a good fit for us.”