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Merck Animal Health pulls building permit to create laboratory in Lawrence

For a man who now owns two pigs (technically, my 4-H children own them but I have yet to be paid), this is news of note: The large pharmaceutical company Merck Animal Health is setting up a Lawrence laboratory.

Details are slim right now, but the company has pulled a building permit to do about $110,000 worth of work in a small industrial building at 2415 Ponderosa. The permit indicates the company is adding laboratory space to the building, which is about two blocks south of 23rd Street.

Merck has a fairly significant operation just off Kansas Highway 10 at De Soto, but a Lawrence presence is something new. I haven’t yet found a good contact at Merck, but I’ll put in a few phone calls and see what I can find out. Based on the size of the building, it doesn’t appear that this facility will employ lots and lots of people. Nonetheless, the project will create excitement among economic development leaders in Lawrence because it is in the community’s wheelhouse of bioscience development. In that arena, any new company is a benefit because it helps to build what economic development leaders call a critical mass. In other words, bioscience companies like to locate where other bioscience companies are located.

The area of animal health doesn’t immediately pop to mind as an area of research strength for Kansas University. But LaVerne Epp, executive chairman for the Bioscience and Technology Business Center, told me KU’s strength in human pharmacueticals can translate over to animal health companies as well.

And this part of the country is a target for animal health development. Leaders in both Kansas and Missouri are working to brand the area from Columbia, Mo., to Manhattan as the Animal Health Corridor.

Lawrence has at least two significant players in the animal health arena currently: Argenta, a New Zealand-based animal health company has a laboratory in the Bioscience and Technology Business Center; and IdentiGen, a company that provides DNA tracing products for meat producers, has its U.S. headquarters in Lawrence.

“I think we do have good potential in the animal health arena,” Epp said. “We’ve had other inquiries from companies that you would recognize as animal health firms. They like the location and the potential for collaboration with KU.”

Epp said Merck has expressed some interest in Lawrence in the past, but he doesn’t have information about its current project.

I’ll let you know when I hear more. Who knows, maybe there is a beautiful relationship that can be had between my pigs and Merck. I’m willing to do about anything to get my money back on these. A little extra meat at the 4-H fair wouldn’t hurt. I would even name one Barry and the other Bonds, if you know what I mean. Wink, wink.

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