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Archive for Monday, May 15, 2006

Manhattan project gets $1 million grant

Partnership is first in state to tap into incubator aid

May 15, 2006

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A Manhattan project designed to accommodate promising biotechnology ventures will be getting a $1 million injection from the Kansas Bioscience Authority.

And Lawrence and other communities soon could be next in line.

Clay Blair, chairman of the authority, will be in Manhattan today to announce the $1 million grant, the first from the authority's Community Biosciences Facilities Matching Funds Program.

The center, already under construction on land provided by Kansas State University and supported by $5.65 million in financing from the city of Manhattan, will make 30,000 square feet available to biotech start-ups and support operations. It represents the largest economic development project ever financed by the city of Manhattan.

The building's focus will be 10 so-called "wet" labs, which are rooms set up with proper plumbing, ventilation and other systems designed to allow technicians and scientists to work with food products, microorganisms and other biosubstances that require specialized equipment and precisely controlled conditions.

The bioscience authority's goal: provide a fertile home for scientists to test their theories, create their products and build their businesses.

Right here in Kansas.

"It's the difference between being able to test your idea and not being able to test your idea," said Blair, who leads the authority charged with investing proceeds from a $580 million bioscience stimulus fund during the next 10 to 15 years. "If Kansas is to be successful in bioscience, we have to assist these communities in the creation of infrastructure to serve scientists.

"This is the first step."

The center will be managed by the National Institute for Strategic Technology Acquisition and Commercialization, or NISTAC, a not-for-profit corporation organized by Kansas State University and the state through the Kansas Technology Enterprise Corp., or KTEC.

Several of the center's tenants will work in technologies associated with animal sciences, said Trevor McKeeman, NISTAC's business development manager. The center is scheduled to open in the spring, and the authority's grant will be added to the city's contribution.

"The (additional) funds will be used to enhance the facility, for filling out lab space they didn't have the funds to do in the past," McKeeman said.

Lawrence and Douglas County could be eligible for receiving a grant from the bioscience authority in the future. Lawrence and Douglas County commissioners already have approved setting aside a total of $400,000 a year, for 10 years, to finance construction of wet labs for use as a business incubator for biotechnology start-ups.

While the money is committed, at least for this year, no specific plans for such wet labs in Lawrence have yet emerged. The Lawrence Chamber of Commerce is assembling a group of business and government leaders to develop a plan.

"The bottom line is that the KBA recognizes the importance of community facilities, and we are pleased that Manhattan has presented a specific project," Blair said. "We are hopeful that other communities will come forward to capture the bioscience opportunities for the future."

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