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Archive for Wednesday, January 27, 2010

KBA invests $4.3M to bring top researchers to KU

January 27, 2010

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Other investments

The Kansas Bioscience Authority approved four other investments on Tuesday.

• The Lawrence-based ReLive for Kids will receive $50,000. The company has developed a computer-based system for teens to better manage their headaches.

• A project headed by Kansas State University to find a vaccine for a costly swine disease was granted $500,000 in funding.

• The international farm machinery company AGCO received $1.5 million for a project that will build square bales to better compress plants for the use of biofuels. The square bales could be a key part in making cellulosic biofuels more efficient and economical. The project also received $5 million from the U.S. Department of Energy.

• The Lenexa-based TVAX Biomedical company was awarded a $600,000 convertible note to support a phase 1 safety study for a patented brain cancer treatment that uses a patient’s immune cells to fight the disease.

More than $4.3 million in funds from the Kansas Bioscience Authority helped to land two top-tier researchers at Kansas University.

And, in turn, KU hopes those researchers will aid in the school’s quest to gain National Cancer Institute designation for the KU Cancer Center.

On Tuesday, the KBA board approved spending $1.8 million over five years to fund the position of Rakesh Srivastava at KU. Srivastava, who came to KU in the fall from the University of Texas, is working on developing novel cancer-fighting drugs. He is bringing to the university $3 million in research money from the NCI.

In November the board agreed to give KU $2.5 million over five years in order to hire David Volkin, a pharmaceutical scientist and research and development manager. Volkin, who came from the private sector as a researcher for a subsidiary of Johnson & Johnson, will expand the school’s Laboratory for Macromolecule and Vaccine Stabilization.

The two researchers were officially introduced at the Capitol on Tuesday as part of a ceremony highlighting the KBA’s achievements in the past year.

“These are among the best and brightest researchers among their respected disciplines in the nation,” said Tom Thornton, the authority’s CEO and president. “They could go anywhere and they chose to come to Kansas. I think that speaks volumes.”

In a speech, KU Chancellor Bernadette Gray-Little reminded the gathering that KU’s work toward NCI designation and the fight against cancer was a top priority for the university and state.

“We know that good science translates into new discoveries, leading to healthier communities and a growing economy,” she said.

Earlier Tuesday, two consultants from the Washington, D.C.-based B&D Consulting discussed where KU’s strengths and weaknesses were in its pursuit of NCI designation.

Consultant Frank Swain said the cancer center’s biggest goal would be to recruit scientists in cancer research who have a proven track record of receiving NCI money. The cancer center has a goal to bring in $11 million in NCI grants before applying for the designation.

“That is what the cancer center has to do to get that critical mass,” Swain said.

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