Tuesday, October 13, 2009

The Life Sciences in Kansas

Welcome back to Installment 7 in our entrepreneurship series. Today, as promised, a discussion of free money, Democrats and Republicans who actually agree with each other, and flying cows. Where does this all happen??

Kansas—The Sunflower States. Or, as some would like you to believe, the bioscience state.

Kansas isn’t traditionally thought of as a home to outstanding bioscience. However, the state does have an established publicly-funded research infrastructure with the University of Kansas and Kansas State University. In 2004, Kansas put an end to the naysayers who’d say the state wasn’t interested in the life sciences. The republican-controlled state house and senate passed the Kansas Economic Growth Act of 2004, called KEGA for short by state insiders. KEGA passed with an overwhelming majority of both Republicans and Democrats. KEGA was then signed into law by then-governor Kathleen Sebelius, a Democrat (and now the Secretary of Health and Human Services).

Democrats and Republicans who overwhelmingly agree with each other—CHECK!
So what, exactly, did KEGA do? In short, a lot! KEGA was an overwhelming piece of legislation designed to spur economic development through entrepreneurship. Here are some of the notable programs created by KEGA:

• The Kansas Bioscience Authority (KBA), an independent entity of the state charged with guiding future life sciences development, was created.
• Financing resources for start-ups are provided.
• Tax incentives for investors and start-ups encourage private investment.
• Matching funds to promote research are provided by the state to encourage researchers to apply for federal grants and to recruit researchers from other states.

Free money—CHECK!
In 2007, Kansas launched a state-led effort to attract the National Bio and Agro Defense Facility (NBAF)—a Department of Homeland Security (DHS) research facility—to Kansas. The NBAF conducts research into biological threats against livestock and the food supply, namely nasty things like Foot and Mouth disease.

DHS was looking to relocate the facility from an island off the coast of New York, and Kansas wanted that facility. Why? DHS estimates that the NBAF would create 450 to 510 total jobs!

To show their determination to win the research facility, Kansas donated nearly 60 acres of land to DHS to build the NBAF. The state also authorized $150 million of revenue bonds to build infrastructure around the proposed NBAF site. Kansas' efforts paid off. This year, DHS announced that the NBAF would be built in Kansas—a major boost to the state’s life sciences industry.

So what about flying cows?? (Ok, I’ll admit I’m taking a little extra creative liberty here.) Recently, the Government Accountability Office (GAO) raised concerns about building a research facility for biological hazards in the middle of tornado alley. The GAO is concerned that the possibility of severe weather spreading biological hazards (like Foot and Mouth disease) was overlooked when studying Kansas as a potential site for the NBAF. The possibility of “flying sick cows” has caused lawmakers to look twice at the NBAF site in Kansas. (See the Kansas delegation's response here.) It’s yet to be seen if the NBAF—and the 500 jobs in brings—will actually be located in Kansas.

So, flying cows—(half) CHECK!

This is Part 7 of 8 in our Entrepreneurship series.
Part 1 - Science and Entrepreneurship: An Introduction
Part 2 - It's All About the Ideas (and Money)
Part 3 - Financing a New Business in the Life Sciences
Part 4 - Leading Life Science States
Part 5 - Life Sciences in North Carolina
Part 6 - Life Sciences in Minnesota
Part 7 - Life Sciences in Kansas
Part 8 - Life Science Industry Overall


  1. And Kansas just announced eight venture funds...big names...were opening up offices there

  2. Great to see positive action on the NBAF. Manhattan, KS is a great site choice.