Kansas ranked 5th
A magazine that looks at where businesses should locate has ranked Kansas fifth in terms of biotechnology strength.
Business Facilities, a national site selection magazine, placed Kansas ninth in the category in 2009.
The rankings are based on more than two dozen criteria, including a state’s financial support for biotech research and programs, interaction with universities and the announcement of major projects in the past year.
According to a press release from the magazine, efforts of the Kansas Bioscience Authority and the selection of Manhattan as the new home of the $650 million National Bio and Agro-Defense Facility were among the reasons for the state’s higher ranking.
Kansas University wants to hire top-level researchers in clusters as the school works to earn designation as a National Cancer Institute.
In little more than a year, the KU Cancer Center will submit an application in hopes of becoming one of the more than 60 NCI cancer centers in the country. Key to that application is demonstrating that KU has top-tier faculty members who can bring in millions of dollars in federal grants for cancer research.
“As I think about the work of the NCI designation, it is very clear that a major part of what has been accomplished and what has to be accomplished in the next year is hiring, hiring, hiring,” Chancellor Bernadette Gray-Little said.
As that hiring takes place, Gray-Little said, the faculty must be recruited in clusters.
“(Hiring) groups of people whose combination of talents synergize one another — that will be the approach we want to take,” Gray-Little said.
Gray-Little’s comments came during the Kansas Bioscience Authority board of director’s annual meeting. Her remarks followed the board’s approval to spend more than $1.6 million to bring two top-notch bioscholars to the KU Cancer Center.
The board of directors agreed to spend $780,000 over three years to bring to KU Liang Xu, an assistant professor of radiation oncology at the University of Michigan Health System. Currently Xu has a $700,000 grant for NCI research and is expected to bring in an additional $4.7 million in federal funding for research in the next 10 years.
Xu is studying ways to make cancer cells more receptive to radiation and chemotherapy through molecular cell signaling. He is also researching ways to use nanotechnology to change molecules so cancer cells die. A third area of his work looks at methods to deliver drugs that kill cancer stem cells, which start the growth of cancer tumors.
The board also agreed to spend $850,000 over five years to bring to KU Daotai Nie, an associate professor in the medical microbiology, immunology and cell biology department at Southern Illinois University School of Medicine. Nie’s research focuses on the molecular mechanisms of breast and prostate cancer cell growth that are important in developing drugs.
Nie’s research comes with an annual $506,000 grant through the NCI and he is expected to bring in $3.5 million in federal funding over the next 10 years.
Ray Smilor, chair of the KBA’s investment committee, said that hiring high-quality researchers such as Nie have others across the country taking note.
“He is a talented young person that could go anywhere, and he is wanting to come to us,” Smilor said.