The late Steve Allen, creator of TV's Tonight Show, song writer and musician, wrote the popular song "This Could Be The Start Of Something Big."
Today's news story reporting Eli Lilly has entered into a collaboration with Lawrence-based Deciphera Pharmaceuticals could indeed be "the start of something big!"
In fact, it is perhaps the biggest thing that has happened to Lawrence since Kansas legislators decided it would be the home of Kansas University.
Lilly, with headquarters in Indianapolis, is one of the world's leading pharmaceutical companies, known for its research and development of pharmaceutical products.
Deciphera was started in 2003 as a drug discovery and development company and has come up with discoveries that have the potential to be great successes in the fight against cancer.
Now, these two companies have joined forces, with Lilly committing up to $130 million for each of four different project areas for potential development of Deciphera, along with a payment for continued research over the next two years.
Although not mentioned in the Lilly press release, there is a strong possibility this collaboration could result in a far greater fiscal payoff for Deciphera.
The big winner, however, could be Lawrence.
From all indications, Deciphera will need more space to expand its research efforts. The company currently is near Bob Billings Parkway and Wakarusa Drive, and arrangements have been made to allow the operation to move into space provided by KU for up to 18 months.
If the collaboration results in the continued growth of Deciphera, some of those associated with the company have talked about the possibility of the Deciphera/Lilly operation moving to a large campus-like site where it could serve as an anchor to attract other sophisticated research companies.
This is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for Lawrence, an opportunity that must not slip away by allowing the company to leave Lawrence for some other Kansas location or, worse yet, a site outside the state.
There is no reason or justification to lose Deciphera! All governmental bodies in Lawrence and Douglas County must work together to develop a package that is so attractive and practical for all parties that Deciphera/Lilly will remain and grow in Lawrence.
This writer believes the vacated Farmland plant site on the east side of Lawrence along Kansas Highway 10 offers the ideal location for a research campus. There is a lot of talk about the problems of contamination at the Farmland site, but there are more than 200 acres that could be developed now. The rolling countryside offers enough acreage for development of a large research campus. Development of this site does not take rich farmland out of production, and it would be good for Lawrence, the university and the entire area.
The eventual development of the Deciphera/Lilly relationship could end up being in the neighborhood of $500 million to $1 billion. It is a giant opportunity that merits, and demands, the utmost attention of city, county and state officials.
Few projects in Kansas have offered so much potential.
Right now, one of the few serious stumbling blocks is that the future of the Farmland site is tied up in bankruptcy court. Why this has lingered so long without resolution is a mystery, although the lawyers handling this case certainly are being compensated for their less-than-sterling efforts.
There is no reason this prime piece of real estate cannot be freed for development. Local leaders should use every means to force the lawyers to clear up this stagnant mess.
Using the Farmland site also eliminates any suggestion that any local landowner is benefiting from this development.
University leaders should be excited about the Deciphera/Lilly collaboration, which would be a major asset in attracting world-class researchers and, in turn, top-flight students to KU.
Right now, university leaders are enthused about the project because Deciphera will move into currently empty KU facilities, which will provide sizable dollars for the school.
It's a win-win-win possibility, and there is no time for game playing. No excuses and no delays to accommodate special or selfish interests.
Dan Flynn, president and CEO of Deciphera, deserves great credit and appreciation for the development of this project to this point. It is known he would like to keep Deciphera/Lilly in Lawrence, which would be so beneficial to Lawrence and KU. Also there are several non-Lawrence investors who have committed large sums of money to keep Deciphera research efforts moving ahead.
Once again, this is a tremendous opportunity for Lawrence, one that deserves the commitment and best efforts of local leaders. They must think big, have the vision to realize what this could mean for Lawrence, the university and the state of Kansas and push aside any selfish interests.
Congratulations to all those at Deciphera who have brought the company to this level of national prominence. Now, Lawrence leaders must do what they can to help Deciphera/Lilly reach even higher levels of research excellence.