From the Office of State Senator Leticia Van De Putte, District 26

For Immediate Release
February 15, 2001
Contact: David Romo
Legislative Asst.


(Austin)--Texas Sen. Leticia Van de Putte and Rep. Robert Puente today (Feb. 15) introduced legislation that would create a San Antonio Joint Life Sciences Institute linking the biological and biomedical resources of the UT Health Science Center and the University of Texas at San Antonio.

The institute would provide a structure through which the institutions could develop and offer advanced academic degrees in emerging life sciences disciplines and conduct collaborative research with greater competitiveness in attracting outside funding.

"In its report "Closing the Gaps," the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board recommends that we increase the number and diversity of Texans engaged in higher education programs particularly in the sciences," said Van de Putte.

"A collaborative institute such as we are proposing would afford a logical, dynamic and cost-effective way for achieving this goal and meeting other critical needs in the region and beyond," said Puente.

"In order to attract and support economic growth in the biotechnology industry and related emerging fields, Texas--particularly SouthTexas--must offer all the right ingredients for success. This includes acredible, professional 'in-house' workforce said Van de Putte.

"Texas should not have to bring in an outside workforce for industries that are or will be based here," said Puente.

As a pilot project, the proposed life sciences institute would bring together in joint appointments the top biology, biosciences and other faculty from both the UTHSCSA and UTSA. Many academic and research facilities also would be shared. A new organizational structure to administer the institute's activities would also be developed.

"The Health Science Center and UTSA have a rich history of collaboration to benefit students," said UTSA President Ricardo Romo. "We are grateful that Sen. Van de Putte and Rep. Puente are taking this important step to strengthen our relationship with our sister institution."

Added Health Science Center President Francisco Cigarroa, "Life sciences education impacts not only the workforce, but also the health and well-being of society. Creation of the Joint Life Sciences Institute would benefit not only faculty students at UTSA and the UT Health Science Center, but also the citizens of South Texas."

UTSA and the UTHSCSA began to examine expanded opportunities for collaborative degree programs and research ventures in the life sciences just over one year ago. The UT System Board of Regents is expected to approve a package of related degree programs offered by the two institutions later this week.

The legislation introduced by Van de Putte and Puente will now go to the Education Committee. If approved, the institute and related joint degree programs would be implemented over a four-year period, beginning this fall.