Kansas Life Sciences Gains International Attention
If Kansas isn’t on the tip of your tongue every time you think of the word bioscience, you might not be getting the full picture.
The state is earning a reputation around the country and the world as a hub of research, innovation and development in the biosciences, ranging from animal health – where it is an undisputed global powerhouse – to prescription drug production to medical device manufacturing.
Kansas had nearly 1,100 private bioscience-related enterprises in 2006 employing more than 16,000 people, according to a Kansas Bioscience Authority report. Bioscience venture capital investment in Kansas totaled more than $101 million from 2004 to 2007 and universities spent more than $220 million on bioscience research in 2006 alone.
Kansas has successfully leveraged its long history of innovation in crop sciences, animal health and agriculture to create a booming bioscience cluster. The legacy of pharmaceutical giant Marion Laboratories in Kansas City, which was partially acquired by Dow Chemical and renamed Marion Merrell Dow in 1989, along with renowned research excellence at the University of Kansas and Kansas State University, have helped propel aggressive industry growth.
Since 2005, more than a dozen bioscience companies have chosen Kansas as a place to land or expand.
“There is really no limit to the amount of opportunity this region will see over the next decade based on the stars aligning and Kansas getting there first,” says Angela Kreps, president of the nonprofit KansasBio, which serves as an advocate for the bioscience community in Kansas.
In 2004, the state created the Kansas Bioscience Authority, a $581 million initiative focused on building research space, expanding the state’s growing bioscience industry cluster, attracting bioscience innovators and fostering the growth of homegrown bioscience startups.
At any given time, 2,000 clinical trials are in progress in Kansas, involving twice as many physicians as any other place in the country.
“Time equals money. If you are in San Diego or San Francisco or Boston trying to get your bioscience company off the ground, you need to take a look at Kansas, because we are in the business of making this happen faster,” Kreps says. “That’s the secret sauce. Come here, get it done faster, make your money work for you.”
Today, nationally recognized names such as Quintiles, Bayer and Merck fill the state’s corporate roster, and companies new and old are lining up to invest in Kansas.
“People are now starting to look at Kansas as the place where bioscience is buzzing,” Kreps says. “Everybody is looking at what’s happening in Kansas and bringing their checkbooks to the table.”
The U.S. Department of Homeland Security announced in December 2008 that it will build the $450 million National Bio and Agro-Defense Facility, or NBAF, in Manhattan, Kan. Construction on the lab, which will be dedicated to protecting the United States from bioterror attacks and disease outbreaks, could start as early as 2010.
Roughly 32 percent of the $19 billion animal health industry is based in the Kansas City area. The state is known, in fact, as the animal health capital of the world.
The early part of 2006 saw the establishment of the Kansas City Animal Health Corridor, which runs from Manhattan, Kan., to Columbia, Mo.
“One of the advantages we saw early on goes beyond just attracting companies or allowing companies here to grow. This really is an opportunity to use the collaboration of the industry to change the face of veterinary medicine,” says Bob Walker, director of communications for Bayer Animal Health, a company that was instrumental in the development of the corridor. “We at Bayer are committed to this region, we’re committed to the Animal Health Corridor. We see the tremendous benefit that will come, that has already touched us. And as the corridor grows and thrives, the companies that are associated with it will follow suit.”