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Archive for Thursday, December 19, 2013

KU, K-State leaders bemoan loss of funding to Kansas Bioscience Authority

December 19, 2013

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— The leaders of the state's two largest universities say the downsized version of the Kansas Bioscience Authority isn't good for the state.

Kansas University Chancellor Bernadette Gray-Little said the KBA, which invests tax dollars to advance the bioscience sector, was instrumental in helping the KU Cancer Center attain the coveted National Cancer Institute designation.

But she lamented that its current funding was nowhere near that of previous years, which will hurt KU's effort to achieve comprehensive cancer center designation to expand the center's focus.

"That is a huge loss," Gray-Little said.

Kansas State University President Kirk Schulz said the lack of funding for the KBA will hurt efforts to recruit top-ranked professors.

"I don't think that's positive for the state of higher education in Kansas. I'm hopeful to see funding turn around," Schulz said. The KBA also helped the state land the National Bio and Agro-Defense Facility, which is proposed to be built in Manhattan.

Their comments were made this week after a KBA report to the Kansas Board of Regents.

The KBA was established in 2004 and charged with investing tax funds to help grow the bioscience sector in Kansas.

It had been operating on a budget of more than $35 million per year in some years. But state funding support has been cut the past several years, falling to about $4 million this year.

KBA board member Jarold "Jerry" Boettcher said the agency faces funding challenges, but will continue to work hard. "The task is obviously daunting," he said.

In 2011 and last year, the KBA came under scrutiny from Gov. Sam Brownback and other conservative Republicans over management and investments under former CEO Tom Thornton, who resigned in 2011 for a job in Ohio.

A $1 million audit of the KBA found that the KBA board had handled investments in an acceptable manner, but alleged some questionable expenditures by Thornton.

Democrats and some moderate Republicans had accused Brownback of a power grab in trying to take over the KBA. Brownback denied the assertion.

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