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Region’s first biomedical symposium - El Paso Inc.: Local News

Region’s first biomedical symposium

Aims to kick start medical innovation, economic growth

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Posted: Sunday, October 13, 2013 6:00 pm

When you get doctors, who have to deal with medical problems every day, together with researchers, whose job it is to create solutions, big things can happen.

Conversations spark ideas, ideas become new medical innovations and innovations become start-up companies that grow the El Paso economy.

At least that’s the idea behind a biomedical research symposium, the region’s first, organized by El Paso’s new Biomedical Institute of the Americas, temporarily located in the Chase Bank Building in Downtown while its new high-tech building is built in south-central El Paso.

“You have doctors who are constantly working with whatever the status quo in medicine is right now, and they are clearly able to see the problems on a daily basis. What is missing is the link with researchers who can create solutions,” said Stephen Voglewede, the Biomedical Institute’s assistant director of business development.

The symposium, called Biomed, takes place from 8 a.m.-4:30 p.m. Oct. 26 at the Camino Real Hotel in Downtown. The goal, organizers said, is to bring together the region’s scientists together with doctors, nurses and other medical professionals.

The event will feature a series of roundtable discussion about health care issues important to the region, including diabetes, obesity, post-traumatic stress disorder, traumatic brain injury and infectious disease. At least one grant of $10,000 could be awarded to help jumpstart promising projects.

“Really the purpose of the symposium is to have academia and practitioners come together to learn from one another and have the opportunity to network about ways to solve some of these tough problems,” said Albert Di Rienzo, the Biomedical Institute’s executive director.

The keynote speaker is Stanford University professor Gregory T. A. Kovacs, one of the founding faculty of Stanford’s new Bioengineering Department, and described as a serial entrepreneur.

Kovacs is also the director of medical device technologies for the astrobionics program at the NASA Ames Research Center.

The Biomedical Institute of the Americas is a subsidiary of the El Paso-based Medical Center of the Americas Foundation, which is guiding the development of a 440-acre medical park encompassing the Paul L. Foster School of Medicine and University Medical Center.

It is a decades-long project to grow the economy and personal income in the El Paso region by building a local medical hub that could include biotech companies, medical device manufacturers and research labs.

But the focus of development right now is a 12-acre tech park where the Biomedical Institute would be located in the park’s first building, set to open August 2015.

The biomedical sector here is small and El Paso isn’t the only city that wants to grow one to create high-paying jobs and economic development.

But, Voglewede said, this region has some unique features that give it an advantage, including the manufacturing base just south of the border in Juárez, the private research space being built in El Paso and the willingness of local universities to collaborate.

“At some point in the future we have an ambition to turn this into a global event, but we always want a strong focus on finding solutions for problems in our region,” he said.

There are a handful of promising biomedical startups in the region including TeVido BioDevices, which is developing technology to print living human tissue.

And last week, UTEP professor Homer Nazeran announced he is developing a low-cost biomedical device to help individuals monitor their sleep and doctors diagnose sleep apnea.

The symposium is supported by local hospitals, universities, laboratories and medical device companies. Its lead sponsor, Las Palmas Del Sol Healthcare, will award up to two continuing medical education credit hours to physicians and nurses who complete the event.

Del Sol Medical Center’s trauma director, Dr. John Aucar, is the symposium’s morning speaker.

“This event is an exciting opportunity for me and my colleagues to discuss issues of importance in our community and to share best practices,” he said in a statement.

“Our goal is to spur new collaborations that will benefit our community and directly address some of the unique issues we face as a border region.”


Email El Paso Inc. reporter Robert Gray at or call (915) 534-4422 ext. 105.

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