Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Biotech efforts praised by Governor at BIO

CHICAGO-- Kentucky Governor Steve Beshear celebrated Kentucky's success attracting high tech and life science companies to the Commonwealth at a reception at the annual gathering in the biotechnology industry. Kentucky jumped from 44th to 26th in state rankings of National Institute of Health funding that support life science and biotech companies. Significant progress has been made in Owensboro in the last three years to supporting high tech businesses. The infrastructure has already attracted small biotech companies and significant partnerships with big-pharma when Bayer AG signed an agreement with Kentucky BioProcessing and the most recent investment by the Department of Defense supporting plant biotech efforts.

This week EDC officials took their efforts to the Biotechnology Industry Organization (BIO) Convention in Chicago. The BIO international convention is the largest gathering of biotech leaders, public officials, and companies in the world. With over 25,000 attendees from over 70 countries, 1,700 exhibitors will participate. Over 300 public officials, including Kentucky Governor Steve Beshear, will attend.

In 2006 the Greater Owensboro Economic Development Corporation (GO-EDC) released A Strategic Plan for the Development of the Life Sciences in Greater Owensboro. The report offered recommendations focusing on high technology developments in the life sciences as a new economic development approach.

The competitive advantage driving the development of the emerging plant made pharmaceutical industry in Owensboro is Kentucky BioProcessing. KBP is the world’s only full scale facility designed and built for the commercial production of plant made pharmaceuticals. The company uses tobacco as a bioreactor to produce disease curing proteins. Farmers are also getting involved in producing crops for use in biotechnology products through the Owensboro Biotech Alliance. OBA has a database of regional farmers that enjoy a national reputation for compliance with USDA regulations and a willingness to grow crops for use by plant biotech companies.

“Make no mistake; we are not trying to become a biotech cluster to compete with the likes of San Diego or Boston,” said EDC President/CEO Nick Brake. “But we can succeed in creating a cluster of companies focusing on the utilization of our strengths, plant pharmaceuticals and plant-based natural products. In this area between KBP, the Owensboro Cancer Research Program and the partnership with the University of Louisville, and our regional agriculture community, we have a competitive advantage not found anywhere else.”

The latest investment in the high tech infrastructure in Owensboro to support KBP and the growth of plant biotech companies is a new business and research accelerator. The City of Owensboro with support from the Daviess County Fiscal Court are converting an 85-year-old former tobacco warehouse near downtown Owensboro into high-tech lab space for the use of tobacco to search for cures for cancer and other diseases. The Centre for Business and Research, set to open this year, will be equipped with life science labs suitable for the incubation of many of the small biotech companies working with KBP.

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