Summit at KU plans bioscience effort

Lawrence,KS (10-05-2004)

From Lawrence Journal-World
By Terry Robeck

It's still unclear exactly what Kansas needs to do to be a major player in the life sciences industry.

But everyone who attended a Bioscience and Innovation Summit Monday at Kansas University seemed to agree -- the state must act fast.

"I'm not interested in another report," said Richard Seline, a consultant hired to create a road map for the state's life science initiative. "I want implementation."

About 60 people -- predominantly researchers, business officials and politicians -- gathered at the Dole Institute of Politics for the second of six summits organized by the Kansas Technology Enterprise Corp. The first was earlier Monday in Overland Park; the remainder will be today, Wednesday and Thursday elsewhere in the state.

Those in attendance focused their attention on philosophical qualities needed to help Kansas capitalize on the biotechnology industry, which is expected to be a driving force in the 21st-century economy. Such characteristics included choosing areas of specialization, forming partnerships with industry and marketing the state to outside companies.

Seline, founder of New Economy Strategies Inc. in Washington, D.C., said the timeline for creating a road map for Kansas' strategies would move quickly. After this week's kick-off summits, "action teams" from across the state will convene from November to January to form goals in specific areas. A final road map is expected in mid-February.

The summits are occurring as the state's Bioscience Authority is beginning its work in distributing tax funds generated by the Kansas Economic Growth Act. The act, approved during this year's legislative session, is expected to generate more than $500 million over the next 10 years for faculty research positions, research facilities, technology transfer and other economic development benefits.

Seline said he thought northeast Kansas stood to gain the most from the act.

"You can spread the peanut butter evenly throughout the state, so no critical mass is formed," he said. "It's a harsh reality, but we've got to be honest."

Charles Decedue, executive director of the Higuchi Biosciences Center at KU, was among the participants in Monday's summit. He ranked partnerships between industry and universities as the top priority for the life science effort.

He said he agreed that Kansas needed to have a strategic plan in place as quickly as possible, so money generated by the act could be spent as effectively as possible.

"Everybody else is trying to move as fast as they can," Decedue said. "The windows of opportunity won't stay open very long."

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