His voice hoarse from his personal "refereeing" of Monday night's Kansas-Kansas State basketball game, Sen. Pat Roberts addressed a meeting of scientists and researchers at Kansas University fully convinced that the Jayhawks were in position to make a run at the national championship.
Afterward, in a meeting room at the Adams Alumni Center, Roberts acknowledged liking the chances for Kansas - the state, this time - to score well in an even more high-stakes competition: the U.S. Department of Homeland Security's plans for a new $451 million National Bio and Agro-Defense Facility.
To the victor: up to 500 research positions, an estimated 1,500 construction jobs and an ongoing flow of federal research dollars, spin-off operations and related advantages that have elected officials united, community supporters excited and university leaders looking forward to the opportunities that undoubtedly would be provided.
The way Roberts sees it, Kansas has got game.
"There are 11 states in the running," Roberts said Tuesday, in town for the 10th anniversary meeting of his Advisory Committee on Science, Technology and the Future. "That's a lot of states. But these states do not have the advantages that Kansas does, so I think that it's a lot like a Final Four: I think we'll make the cut, and I think we're very well-suited.
"I'm not trying to say we're going to get this, but it is certainly possible and we're working very hard to see that happen."
Two Kansas sites - Leavenworth, home to the Army's Fort Leavenworth, and Manhattan, home to Kansas State University - remain among 18 sites being considered by the Department of Homeland Security for the project, which will be designed to develop vaccines and research diseases that affect plants, animals and humans. It will replace a center in Plum Island, N.Y.
States submitted additional information last week, and site visits will be conducted from March until May. The department anticipates whittling the list in June, after receiving final recommendations.
On Tuesday, Roberts told about 50 members of his advisory committee that he had spoken this week with Jay Cohen, undersecretary for science and technology in the Department of Homeland Security. Cohen accepted Roberts' invitation to come to Kansas in May.
"We'll let the man who will be making the decision know what we have," Roberts said, "and he's excited to do it."
Such efforts came as no surprise to many in the room. KU Chancellor Robert Hemenway lauded Roberts for convening the advisory committee, keeping a focus on the group's efforts and spending some of his "valuable political capital" in Washington and elsewhere to see that KU and other research institutions fared well in competitions for federal investments.
Hemenway said the biodefense facility, commonly referred to as NBAF, represented another major step in the state's ongoing pursuit of valuable research projects.
"We're just happy to be associated with the project, no matter where it goes (in Kansas)," Hemenway said. "It really is something that spans the entire Kansas economy, and it's something that all research organizations in Kansas will be able to contribute to."
Bio-defense in Kansas
- 6News video: Roberts visits KU for bio-defense ideas (02-20-07)
- Biodefenseproposals face deadline today (02-16-07)
- Textof Sen. Pat Roberts' speech to joint session of Kansas Legislature(02-06-07)
- Robertsto push lab effort at Legislature (02-05-07)
- Robertsto rally support for lab effort (01-31-07)
- Sebelius''all-stars' hope to lure lab (01-31-07)
- Taskforce named to lure biodefense lab to Kansas (01-31-07)
- Leadersshow bioscience support (01-31-07)
- BioscienceCEO goes before Kansas Senate committee (01-31-07)