A pharmaceutical giant is considering making Austin home to a new Information Technology hub, which could open doors for UT alumni. Merck & Co, worth $39.5 billion, already has three other hubs in Branchburg, New Jersey; Prague, Czech Republic and Singapore.
The company’s proposal to the city estimates that the hub will create 600 new jobs. By the time all available positions are filled in 2024, Merck’s Business Information Form predicts that the average annual wage for the Austin-based employees would be $84,637.
“Within the city, places under consideration include the Dell Medical School along with other sites within the Innovation Zone,” the form states.
This could have significant implications for the city as a whole, but would specifically benefit UT and UT’s Dell Medical School, according to Dean Clay Johnston of Dell Medical School.
“We hope that we can draw companies… that will help to transform the health system,” Johnston said. “Once here, we hope those entities will partner with Dell Med but also with the many other schools and areas of expertise at UT.”
A potential Merck-Dell partnership could result in more efficient pharmaceutical tools and models to that would better align with the city’s population needs, Johnston said.
“We hope we can show that there are more efficient and cheap ways to get the right drugs and vaccines to the right people,” Johnston said.
He said one application could be decreasing the rate of cervical cancer. Austin’s rates of cervical cancer are higher than the national average, Johnston said, and new models could increase access to existing vaccines at a lower cost.
Although the move could result in such a collaboration, it probably would not have a huge impact on Austin’s economic landscape, which provides about one million jobs, according to UT Assistant Economics Professor Michael Geruso.
“The city itself is a great tool for recruiting talent,” Geruso said. “Merck’s decision is probably a signal of what’s to come.”
Merck has partnered with other universities in the past, most recently with the Regenstrief Institute, a nonprofit healthcare think tank at the Indiana University School of Medicine, Johnston said.
Established in 2012, the Merck-Regenstrief collaboration uses real-world data to research interactions between patients and healthcare systems, according to their website.
Johnston said digital health, which ranges from large-scale data to personal phone applications, is a particularly attractive area for partnerships with many prospective organizations.
“The tech expertise at UT and in Austin, combined with the new approaches to health and investments we’re making in scientific expertise and resources, create a fabulous platform for digital health,” he said. “Merck sees that and will add fuel.”