Forbes: If random Americans were surveyed about what they thought was the nation’s–and world’s–largest medical center, they might have predictable answers. Among the guesses would be the Cleveland Clinic or the Mayo Clinic, or something out of America’s most culturally-notable cities, like New York-Presbyterian Hospital. But they would be wrong. The answer lies in a lesser-known center that sits within a city of underrated economic importance: the Texas Medical Center.
This facility–really a city within a city–sits about 3 miles south of downtown Houston, carving out its own skyline. TMC is the world’s largest life sciences destination, with 44 member institutions, 106,000 employees, and 7.2 million annual visitors, on a 1,345-acre campus.
TMC was founded in 1945, through a combination of private donations, namely from banker M.D. Anderson, and after the city designated 134 acres for a campus. The mission of the institution, which is run by the Texas Medical Center Corporation, was to cluster non-profit health facilities on behalf of advancing medical knowledge and care. It has stayed true to this, by leasing land to various institutions for 99 years at $1 annually. For these institutions, it acts as an umbrella organization, providing infrastructure and organizational support, but otherwise letting them function autonomously.
Included among the center’s facilities are hospitals, research and academic institutions, nursing programs, pharmacy schools, and a dental school. Some of the major ones include the M.D. Anderson Cancer Center and the Texas Children’s Hospital. Several major Texas universities have medical apparatuses within TMC, including UT, Texas A&M, Baylor, and Rice. The facilities sit densely together on a campus that includes privately-run streets, transit, and parking, and that mixes uses, giving it the feel of a big city downtown. The parking garages generate a large chunk of the revenue, with much of the rest coming from private philanthropy, including large donations by Ross Perot, T. Boone Pickens, and Clear Channel co-founder Lowry Mays. The corporation’s CEO is Robert Robbins, and the executive VP is Bill McKeon.
Recently, I sat down with McKeon, who was particularly interested in showing me TMC’s new ”Innovation Institute: Startup Accelerator.” On the eastern edge of campus, this facility provides space for private medical-based start-up companies to nurture their product, obtain financing, and look for markets to sell in. The Institute has an intense vetting process, but once it accepts a company, they get free office space without having to relinquish equity in return.