State bioscience authority setting aside funds for NBAF legal fees

Kansas Bioscience Authority commits funding to fight Texas lawsuit

bioscience growth fund

Among the goals the Kansas Bioscience Authority has set for next year is launching the Bioscience Growth Fund.

According to KBA’s annual operating plan, the fund would have a third party evaluate and make recommendations on what venture capital firms the KBA should invest in. Those recommendations would be passed to the KBA’s investment committee and then to the entire board.

The KBA plans to commit $50 million to the fund during the next five to seven years and to spend $3 million in the next year.

The hope is for the fund to attract private venture capital to give budding companies an advantage as they make the move from research to commercial enterprises.

“One of the challenges in all of this is finding the venture capital to make some of these great ideas and early starts really work,” said KBA chairman and former Kansas Gov. John Carlin. “(We hope) we can play a role in that. It’s not just looking for and trying to attract others to participate but that we participate ourselves in this process.”

Beyond that description, Carlin said it was premature to talk about the details of the growth fund. The fund is expected to be up and running by the end of the fiscal year.

The agency responsible for nourishing the state’s bioscience industry is picking up the tab to defend Kansas’ claim as the new home for the National Bio- and Agro-Defense Facility.

In its 2010 operating plan, the Kansas Bioscience Authority listed NBAF among its top priorities. To make sure NBAF lands in Kansas, the KBA set aside $1 million in its $75.5 million budget.

A Texas consortium of researchers filed a lawsuit last spring, alleging the U.S. Department of Homeland Security improperly picked Manhattan, Kan., over San Antonio for the NBAF site.

A federal judge last week dismissed that lawsuit, ruling it premature. But the judge’s decision would allow for the Texas Bio- and Agro-Defense Consortium to file another lawsuit later, which members said it planned to do, according to an Associated Press report.

With the state legislature out of session and money not easy to come by from the governor’s office, it made sense for the KBA to pick up legal expenses, KBA Chairman and former Kansas Gov. John Carlin said.

“We are in the position to move, make decisions and take action. Nobody else is sitting with a pool of money where they can move instantly,” Carlin said. “It’s our mission. Delivering on this is a high priority of us.”

State officials have said the $650 million federal facility would bring in 1,500 construction jobs and employ 300 people with an annual payroll of $25 million to $30 million.

The Texas site was one of six in the final running for NBAF, a federal lab that would study deadly diseases that could be a threat to the food supply and public health. It will replace an aging laboratory on Plum Island, N.Y., on Long Island Sound.

The consortium’s federal filing said Kansans unfairly lobbied federal officials and that the state’s high frequency of tornadoes could be a safety risk for the facility.

The Homeland Security Department’s decision was unanimous and came after a three-year process. Kansas leaders said the site was picked for its animal-health research and concentration of animal-health companies.

So far, the KBA has spent more than $50,000 on the lawsuit. Along with defending Texas’ protest bid, the money from the 2010 budget will be used to help secure $36 million in federal appropriations and negotiate the state’s share of the costs in the facility.