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Archive for Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Bioscience efforts increased focus in the community

April 21, 2009

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With Kansas University’s quest to attain National Cancer Institute designation, bioscience efforts have been an increased focus in the community during recent months.

But the efforts in bioscience research and development don’t stop there.

At KU and beyond, there’s an increased focus on bioscience efforts to improve bioenergy efforts, with the expanded use of renewable energy.

In early March, the Kansas Bioscience Authority, meeting in Washington, paved the way for $40.1 million in funding, nearly all of it touching local bioscience efforts in some way.

The KBA approved $3.25 million over three years in matching funds for a Lawrence-Douglas County Bioscience Authority business incubator at KU.

LaVerne Epp, president and chairman of the Lawrence-Douglas County Bioscience Authority, said the new incubator would provide space for KU faculty to turn research into start-up business ideas.

It would mean a new building on KU’s West Campus in Lawrence. Plans called for construction to begin on the building by early summer, with completion in summer 2010.

“We’ll try to move basic research at KU that will obviously produce economic development” for the surrounding area, Epp said.

Steve Warren, vice provost for research and graduate studies at KU, said the incubator would serve as an effective recruitment and retention tool for faculty members.

“It’s a win-win for everybody,” he said.

Epp said that the incubator would likely be aided by funding from the National Science Foundation and the National Institutes of Health, both of which fund a large portion of research on the KU campus.

“These are all different parts that help create the opportunity for the commercialization of new technology,” Epp said. “I think this is a significant development for Lawrence and the region.”

Also coming soon will be a renovated Wall Hall Hixon complex at the KU Medical Center campus in Kansas City, Kan. That space will provide new areas for drug and cancer research.

A newly approved Kansas Bioscience Innovation Center in Drug Delivery will bring together academics and industrial players to help facilitate the movement of drugs from discovery into commercialization.

Collaborators on the project include the Kauffman Foundation, Medimmune, Leukemia and Lymphoma Society, the Mayo Clinic Comprehensive Cancer Center and industry partners, according to the KBA.

KU and Kansas State University will be working together on the center. The KBA has committed $5 million in funding for the project.

Moving beyond the cancer research ongoing at KU, which has been identified as the university’s No. 1 research priority, there are other bioscience efforts, as well, Warren said.

This includes a new Kansas Bioenergy and Biorefining Center of Innovation, which will also unite industry players such as Archer Daniels Midland with KU and KSU researchers.

The innovation center would include research topics such as development of alternative fuels and chemicals, commercialization of efficient biomass resources and improved carbon capture, according to the KBA.

KBA estimates that the new center of innovation could add 1,800 jobs and revenue of $3.6 billion to the state’s economy.

Warren said the new bioenergy program could be running by the summer, after a $4.1 million contribution from the KBA.

“There’s a real opportunity to create a world-class research program,” Warren said.

KU also will continue to assist with BIO, the state Biotechnology Innovation and Optimization Center, Warren said.

That organization helps to recruit experts to the region, Warren said, an effort that KU occasionally can contribute to by doing things such as sending people to national meetings and helping to lure bioscience experts to Kansas and the region.

“I think we’re moving along very well,” Warren said, of the ongoing bioscience efforts at KU and outside.

He praised the Kansas Bioscience Authority for helping to fund some of the initiatives.

Area bioscience leaders agree, and note that the collaboration that is ongoing among many different players in the local bioscience world to create better research opportunities will likely pay dividends for the state and the university for years to come.

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