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KBA official wants to put controversies behind
The Kansas Bioscience Authority is trying to regain its footing after a controversial period, officials said Wednesday.
"We have to reaffirm and lobby and make the case that this is indeed extremely important," said KBA board member Jerry Boettcher to the Kansas Board of Regents.
Regents members praised Boettcher and said the KBA served a key role in moving the state forward.
Kansas University Chancellor Bernadette Gray-Little said the KBA was instrumental in helping the KU Cancer Center earn designation this year as a National Cancer Institute cancer center.
Without funds from the authority for hiring and facilities "it would have not been possible to do all the things that were necessary for that successful application," Gray-Little said.
Kansas State President Kirk Schulz agreed, saying the KBA helped the state land the National Bio and Agro-Defense Facility, which is proposed to be built near K-State, and continues to provide the school with funding to attract top faculty.
Reducing the influence of the KBA "would really be a tragic missed opportunity," Schulz said. Regent Kenny Wilk, who when a legislator helped found the KBA, said, "The KBA plays a really big role in funding major research."
The KBA was established in 2004 and charged with investing tax funds in bioscience initiatives. In 2011 and this year it came under scrutiny from Gov. Sam Brownback and other Republicans over its 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 of Thornton.
In addition last year, Republicans in the Legislature blocked the transfer of $23 million dedicated to the KBA. Through conservative management, KBA was able to handle the loss of those funds, Boettcher said, but he said he wouldn't the Legislature to do that again.
In a presentation to the regents, he said one of the major goals of the KBA is to "rebuild confidence and trust" with Brownback and the Legislature.
Dr. Steven Stites, interim executive vice chancellor of the KU Medical Center, said the KBA "is one of the most important job factories in the state."