Wednesday, August 27, 2008

HPV Vaccine Deal Huge for KBP, Regional Economy

from Keith Lawrence at the Owensboro Messenger-Inquirer

Owensboro's Kentucky BioProcessing LLC has signed a deal that could have a huge impact on the region's economy -- if a new human papillomavirus vaccine is successful. Louisville-based Advanced Cancer Therapeutics has signed a deal with the University of Louisville's James Graham Brown Cancer Center to license its technology for a second-generation HPVvaccine.

And a second deal with Kentucky BioProcessing will allow ACT to use the Owensboro company's patented GENEWARE technology to grow the vaccine inside tobacco plants and to use the Owensboro facilities for commercial production if the new product is approved for the U.S. and world markets. If that happens, "a very, very significant capital investment would be needed" to Kentucky BioProcessing's facilities, Hugh Haydon, KBP chairman, said Wednesday. "But the business would be there to support it."

Haydon said some countries have a shorter window for testing new drugs than the United States. It's possible that ACT could begin production in Owensboro for the world market before it receives FDA approval to sell the product in this country, he said.

KBP, a world leader in the expression, extraction, purification and commercial scale production of proteins and other products from plants, operates a 30,000-square-foot biomanufacturing facility with an adjacent 22,000-square-foot greenhouse at 3700 Airpark Drive. It's not large enough for the type of production that would be once," Haydon said. "We would have time to ramp up for production if we get there. And we hope we get there."

ACT isn't the company's only customer. Last year, two start-up companies -- Mapp Biopharmaceuticals and Intrucept Biomedicine -- established a local presence at KBP. Haydon said earlier this summer that KBP is working with a dozen biotech companies on products at its bioprocessing facility. "And we're in discussions with upwards of 20 others," he said. Haydon expects at least one and maybe two more announcements this summer. Pharmaceutical production, he said, isn't subject to boom-and-bust cycles. The demand for medicine never slacks, Haydon said.

The intellectual property to develop the HPV vaccine, licensed to ACT through University of Louisville's Office of Technology Transfer, is based on research by Jenson, Kenneth Palmer and their colleagues. Palmer conducts research at the Owensboro Cancer Research Program, a joint venture between Owensboro Medical Health System and U of L at the Mitchell Memorial Cancer Center. "We hope that the technology we are using to manufacture this vaccine will yield a product at a cost that will facilitate its use in resource-poor areas of the world where vaccines against HPV are most needed," he said in a news release. "Our research to date indicates that the technology we are using to produce the vaccine protein in plants will be very cost-effective."

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

Emerging Ventures Year One

By Madison Silvert, EDC Executive Vice President

The Greater Owensboro Economic Development Corporation began its entrepreneur and high-tech initiatives in earnest in October of 2007. We opened the Emerging Ventures Center for Innovation in February 2008, providing small business support, conference rooms, free wi-fi, and work areas for entrepreneurs. Importantly, we also began work in this region with the state's innovation and commercialization center network, of which we are a proud part.

When we began, it was hoped that this office would work with two clients, fund one company, and help create two high-tech jobs in 2008. Since February, we have worked with ten client companies seeking funding and assistance for their ideas. When our actual numbers came in a few weeks ago, it was clear to us at the EDC that supporting entrepreneurs and small, high-tech businesses was a good use of our time and resources. Our numbers showed that, not only did we work with five times as many companies as we expected, but those client companies created 18 high-tech jobs, another 5 support jobs, and the average salary of those high-tech jobs was about twice Owensboro's median income.

Additionally, one of our client companies, Dewater Rite, received a grant award from the Kentucky Science and Technology Corporation. The grant will help refine Dewater Rite's concept for an agricultural waste treatment and processing machine that, hopefully, will lead to manufacturing of the machine right here in Owensboro. We hope to announce another company receiving KSTC funding before the end of the year.

It is through the cultivation of these small high tech businesses that will help grow our local and regional economy for years to come.

Saturday, August 2, 2008

Why the city and county should buy the Executive Inn property

By Darrell Higginbotham, President, Independence Bank, EDC Board Chair and Rod Kuegel, Farmer, EDC Board Chair-Elect

Much has been said recently about the fate of the Executive Inn property. Some of the talk concentrates on methods being used to secure the 16.5 acre riverfront site, but very little is said about why it is so important that the property be acquired by the city and county governments.

We do not think the city or county governments should be in the business of re-opening or operating the hotel. The current hotel structure is not in serviceable condition and it should be razed. However, it is a rare opportunity for any community to gain control of 16.5 acres, nearly one-third of a mile, of river frontage. Fortunately, the infrastructure is in place to make the most of this opportunity. Recently, the Greater Owensboro Economic Development Corporation in partnership with the Downtown Development Corporation, engaged the services of the Gateway Planning Group, a nationally recognized firm based in Ft. Worth, Texas, that will create a long-term implementation strategy for the rebirth of our downtown.

The urban planners and economists from Gateway Planning refer to the 16.5-acre site as “the cornerstone of downtown redevelopment.” The Board of Directors of the EDC, a group representing major employers and key private sector partners in the region, wholeheartedly agree, and urge the community to rally behind the city and county governments’ efforts to acquire the property.

What our governments recognize is that communities with thriving downtowns are able to attract the talent and workforce necessary to excel in today’s economy. Simply put, downtown redevelopment, including redevelopment of the Executive Inn site, is crucial to our region’s economic vitality.

Development of the property as a public/private partnership will attract private investment that would not otherwise invest without certain public amenities. Once in control of the property it would be in the community’s best interests for the governments to act swiftly, decisively, and prudently on how to best develop such public amenities, while welcoming all private investment that could add to the endeavor. The city and county would then be able to retain the few acres they need for public projects while selling the rest to private developers.

By the fall, our community will have a site plan for the 16.5 acres and adjacent properties that may include a convention-caliber hotel, multi-purpose indoor event center, potential office, retail and other mixed-use space. The professionals from Gateway Planning will work with city, county, and economic development officials to evaluate and analyze the qualifications for developers interested in developing amenities on the property.

Given this opportunity, we are concerned at what might happen if we do not gain control of the property. Some may say that the community should just wait for a private investor to purchase the property. Yet we cannot be assured that a private investor will support the objective of downtown redevelopment or even redevelop the property at all. Without public involvement, the regional market will be diluted with smaller, limited service hotels that will further deter the development of a convention-quality facility. However, if acquired, the convention and visitor business combined with other potential amenities offered through the site plan will lead to a solid return on investment, not unlike that of a large employer for which public dollars are routinely leveraged.

This is a classic example of where it is prudent and, in fact, highly appropriate for local governments to leverage public funds to attract high quality private investment to meet the goals of the region. The importance of this issue goes beyond downtown and the Owensboro city limits; it is an investment in the future of the entire region that will no doubt pay dividends for decades to come.