Ground broken on bioscience incubator

KU facility has ‘secret sauce’ for growing state’s industry

From left, LaVerne Epp, president and chairman of the Lawrence Douglas County Bioscience Authority board of directors, and U.S. Rep. Dennis Moore, D-Kan., visit at the groundbreaking of the Bioscience and Technology Business Center on Kansas University’s West Campus. The center will be home to startup technology companies from KU. Second from right is Lt. Governor Troy Findley.

A new $7.25 million bioscience incubator on Kansas University’s West Campus will include all of the latest equipment, high-tech features and innovative partnerships demanded by a growing industry.

To top it all off, the 20,000-square-foot Bioscience and Technology Business Center also is being built with a communal spirit typical of a barn-raising event, said LaVerne Epp, president and chairman of the Lawrence-Douglas County Bioscience Authority.

With one major exception.

“Unlike an old-fashioned Midwestern barn raising,” Epp said with a smile during groundbreaking ceremonies Monday, “what we start this morning we will not finish by sundown.”

Instead, the new building — financed by partnerships involving KU, the city of Lawrence, Douglas County and the Kansas Bioscience Authority — should be ready to welcome its first occupants in May, said Matt McClorey, president and CEO of the Lawrence Regional Technology Center, which will manage the new center.

Early on, the center will be expected to accommodate six to 10 bioscience operations and their accompanying 70 to 100 jobs, McClorey said. Each of the ventures will fall into one of three categories:

l Startup companies grown out of KU research.

l Early-stage biotechnology and pharmaceutical companies recruited to Lawrence from elsewhere.

l Collaborative research efforts between KU scientists and large pharmaceutical and biotechnology companies.

Tom Thornton, president and CEO of the Kansas Bioscience Authority, described the center and its collaborative spirit as the “secret sauce” for growing the state’s bioscience industry, by enabling the translation of “world-class, cutting-edge” research into promising commercial ventures.

“Our goal is nothing short of undisputed national leadership,” Thornton said.

The authority is investing $3.25 million in the project, while the city of Lawrence and Douglas County each are adding $750,000 over 10 years. Also contributing: the Lawrence-Douglas County Bioscience Authority, KU and KU Endowment Association.

Dozens of officials attended Monday’s event, including KU Chancellor Bernadette Gray-Little, former Chancellor Robert Hemenway, Lt. Gov. Troy Findley, Mayor Rob Chestnut and U.S. Reps. Lynn Jenkins, R-Kan., and Dennis Moore, D-Kan.