Overland Park Kansas entrepreneurs, startups, researchers and various commercial enterprises will be able to tap into the world’s most prolific agricultural research operation for knowledge, under a partnership announced Monday with the Kansas Bioscience Authority.
The authority is among nine partners in the new Agriculture Technology Intermediary Partnership (ATIP), a USDA network designed to connect the department’s $2 billion of annual research and development with others who can use the information to create commercial products designed to help the nation’s food supply and more.
“We are an agricultural state,” said Tom Thornton, president of the bioscience authority, during a break in the authority’s annual meeting today in Overland Park. “It makes sense for us to partner.”
The connection will help Kansas build upon its existing bioscience strengths, Thornton said: animal science, bioenergy and plant science.
The state already is preparing to welcome construction of the new National Bio and Agro-Defense Facility, a $650 million project to accommodate research designed to protect the nation’s food supply. Work is expected to begin next year in Manhattan, home to Kansas State University and two other federal labs that already have agreed to locate at Kansas State, following the NBAF decision.
The 470 staffers at NBAF — the bulk of them researchers and other scientists — will be part of the ATIP networks, just as such scientists are who now work at the existing NBAF lab in Plum Island, N.Y. Plans call for that lab to be phased out.
Adding the authority to the network will help Kansas get a head start on NBAF’s important work and promising economic benefits, Thornton said, even before NBAF construction begins.
“Let’s form those relationships now,” he said.
Kirk Schulz, president of Kansas State, said arrival of NBAF would pay dividends for the campus, the state and the nation for years to come, both in terms of safety and economically.
Kansas University also will benefit, he said, as the school pursues National Cancer Institute designation.
“This is the state everybody flies over,” Schulz said. “These will help put a big star right here in the middle of the country.”
Thornton said that NBAF would have a $3.65 billion economic impact during the next 20 years, a total he would expect to jump beyond $7 billion when factoring in private investment and other endeavors that bioscience leaders should be able to generate as a result. The cancer institute designation could add another $1 billion per year.
The key will be to continue to focus on the core areas of bioscience that Kansas already thrives within, he said. Among them: animal health, bioenergy and drug delivery.
U.S. Sen. Sam Brownback, R-Kan., addressed a crowd of more than 300 bioscience stakeholders during a luncheon preceding the annual meeting, telling attendees that bioscience efforts are key to the state’s ongoing economy.
“I’ve got a one word message for you: Grow,” Brownback said, continuing the theme after lunch. “This is a key area, where we can grow, in terms of jobs and economic opportunities. We need you to grow, grow, grow.”
The bioscience authority is a $581 million initiative, created in 2004 by the Kansas Legislature, to support research efforts, boost start-ups and attract companies to the state and encourage existing operations to expand.