Archive for Wednesday, November 5, 2003

Task force aims to spur life sciences

31-member group to promote industry’s potential in Lawrence

November 5, 2003


A new task force has been formed to study how Lawrence can better attract high-paying, high tech jobs in the life sciences industry.

Lawrence Chamber of Commerce officials announced on Tuesday the creation of the Lawrence Life Sciences Task Force. The 31-member group of scientists, business leaders and public officials will meet Friday. The meeting is not open to the public.

"The at-large question for this group is what assets do we possess and how do we advance the life sciences movement in this area?" Lavern Squier, president of the chamber and a member of the task force, said.

Among the group's goals is the creation of a strategic plan to guide growth in the area's life sciences industry, said Lynn Parman, the chamber's vice president of economic development and a task force member.

The Lawrence task force seeks to dovetail with an initiative launched in 2000 by civic leaders in Kansas City that is aimed at making the metropolitan area a national center for life sciences research.

The initiative, in which Kansas University is a major partner, has three major goals:

  • To bring to the area state-of-the-art research facilities staffed by established scientists and top graduate students.
  • Universities and hospitals working in partnership to discover new treatments.

  • These are the members of the Lawrence Life Sciences Task Force:Bennett Griffin, Lawrence Technology Assn.; Bill Duncan, Kansas City Area Life Sciences Institute; Bob Johnson, Douglas County Commission; Bob Marcusse, Kansas City Area Development Council; Craig Weinaug, Douglas County; Dolph C. Simons Jr., The World Company; David Dunfield, City of Lawrence; David Shulenburger, Kansas University; Eli Michaelis, Higuchi Biosciences Center; Gene Meyer, Lawrence Memorial Hospital; Jim Baxendale, KU; Jim Martin, M-Pact.Also, Jim Roberts, KU Center for Research; Kelvin Heck, Grubb & Ellis; Larry McElwain, chamber of commerce; Lavern Squier, chamber of commerce; Lynn Parman, chamber of commerce; Mark Buhler, state senator; Matt McClorey, Lawrence Regional Technology Center; Mike Maddox, chamber of commerce; Mike Wildgen, City of Lawrence; Randy Weseman, USD 497; Robert Hemenway, KU; Roger Pine, Pine Family Farms; Sam Campbell, Lawrence Life Sciences; Steve Kelly, Kansas Department of Commerce; Steve Warren, KU Center of Life Span Studies; Ted Haggart, Douglas County Bank; Tracy Taylor, Kansas Technology Enterprise Corp.; and Victor Frost, KU Information and Telecommunication Technology Center.An official from Serologicals Corp. also will serve on the task force. The company hasn't appointed a representative yet.
  • World-class science curriculums on the elementary, secondary and university levels.

The strategic plan for Lawrence, expected to be completed in a year, will look at a variety of issues, including:

  • Specific areas of the life sciences industry should the community focus on.
  • The best way to market the area as a life sciences hotbed.
  • New strategies to help life sciences entrepreneurs start businesses in the Lawrence area.
  • Ideas to better train the area's work force to fill existing and future life sciences jobs.

"You have to prepare yourself to succeed, and that's what this is about," Squier said.

At stake, Squier said, is the community's ability to attract high-paying jobs like the ones being created at Serologicals Corp., an Atlanta-based company that will open a $28 million life sciences facility in the East Hills Business Park. The company, which produces products used by drug development companies, is expected to hire 40 people and pay an average salary of $47,000 per year. The Lawrence facility is expected to open during the first half of 2004.

In addition to the strategic plan, Parman said the task force also would join KU and other groups that lobby state and federal officials for more research funding to spur life sciences activities. Parman said she hoped the group also would help residents understand the importance of the life sciences movement.

"This group of people definitely has the power to create a voice for the life sciences industry in Lawrence," Parman said.

In addition to KU Chancellor Robert Hemenway, Lawrence Mayor David Dunfield and business executives, the group also includes leaders from several Kansas City area organizations involved in the life sciences effort.

Sam Campbell, who is creating a life sciences park on the former Oread Labs campus at 15th Street and Wakarusa Drive, said he hoped the group would figure out ways to make it easier for scientists to take research and turn it into viable companies.

"There are a lot of resources here, but it is not always easy for a new company to know how to access them," said Campbell, who is also a member of the group. "We don't have a good coordinated effort yet, but we're working on it, and this will help."

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