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San Antonio Scientists Team Up For Bioscience Breakthroughs

Southwest Research Institute
Microbes in a petri dish

San Antonio researchers are teaming up to tackle problems that can affect the way we take medicine and the safety of metal implants.

Southwest Research Institute and the University of Texas at San Antonioare partners in a shared research venture called Connect. Since the inception of Connect six years ago, they’ve launched 11 collaborative projects.


Dr. Kennedy Gauger is principal scientist at the Institute’s Pharmaceuticals and Bioengineering Department. His group will be tackling the threat of biofilm, groups of cells that stick together and adhere to a surface.  They’re slimy or crusty.

"In the petroleum industry, for example, it will weaken pipelines and eventually cause them to fracture," Gauger said. "In implants, such as are used in dentistry or joints, metal implants, it can cause infections."

UTSA’s Dr. Heather Shipley of the civil and environmental engineering department explained what the study is designed to find.

"How do the microbes talk to each other, in essence, and how do they communicate? And then using that to try to figure out ways in which we can stop the biofilms from growing to help prevent corrosion," Shipley said.

A second newly-funded research project will focus on an ultrasound drug delivery method. Bioengineer Jian Ling of the Institute says the goal is to develop tiny capsules that can be release medicine inside the body at the right time in the right dose, triggered by ultrasound.

"We are developing encapsulation," Ling explained. "They have a certain property so that the ultrasound can trigger it. We can control it."

Both research projects are slated to begin Sept. 1, 2016.


Wendy Rigby is a San Antonio native who has worked as a journalist for more than 25 years. She spent two decades at KENS-TV covering health and medical news. Now, she brings her considerable background, experience and passion to Texas Public Radio.