The current wrap-up session gives Kansas legislators one more opportunity to approve an important investment in the state’s efforts to further its status as a leader in bioscience research and development.
Last week, Gov. Sam Brownback reiterated his support for $2 million in state funding to provide a facility for the Kansas Institute of Translational Chemical Biology at Kansas University. We hope the governor and his staff will roll up their sleeves and provide the needed leadership to gain approval of this proposal.
Some legislators reportedly have had difficulty grasping the importance of this facility. That’s understandable, given the fact that it has a name that’s fairly inscrutable to anyone who isn’t a scientist, but here’s the crux of the program, as outlined by KU. The proposed institute would promote research and early drug development that can be used to foster collaborations with pharmaceutical firms. Those collaborations could attract new companies to Kansas or foster new startup companies in the state.
KU has a proven record of success in this area. Ten drug discovery/development or pharmaceutical companies already are located in the KU Bioscience and Technology Business Center, and 24 active startup companies have been created based on KU research.
The institute is an important addition to KU’s drive to further its reputation as a national power in pharmaceutical science, which was a key component in the KU Cancer Center’s designation as a National Cancer Institute. As Brownback said last week, the institute is needed for “important research on the next generation of cancer drugs.”
For legislators, and anyone else, who want to see evidence of the concrete benefits the state realizes from its major universities, this is a prime example. The new institute makes the connection to the state’s economic well-being while working on life-saving drugs that will benefit not only Kansans but people around the world.
This institute is a top priority for KU officials. Without it, the university’s drug development program will lose momentum and likely some top researchers.
It is an important investment that will provide a key payoff for the state. Brownback and state legislators need to revisit this proposal and find a way to include this project in their final budget plan.