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7-Business: Ventria Bioscience and Northwest Missouri State University build Center of Excellence for Plant Biologics

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TITLE:  Ground broken for building to house controversial biologics center
SOURCE: Associated Press / Jefferson City News Tribune, USA
DATE:   26 Sep 2005

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Ground broken for building to house controversial biologics center

MARYVILLE, Mo. (AP) - Construction of a building that will house a
controversial biopharming company on the campus of Northwest Missouri
State University is scheduled to begin this week.

Groundbreaking for the Missouri Center of Excellence for Plant Biologics
was held Saturday, with Gov. Matt Blunt wielding a golden spade and
pledging unwavering support for biotechnology.

The $23 million, 60,000-square-foot building will house Ventria
Bioscience, a California-based company specializing in plant-made
pharmaceuticals, and Northwest academic offices. State funds will pay $10
million of the construction costs.

The building will house a plant biologics incubator, the graduate applied
research center, two greenhouses, protein extraction and processing
facilities and testing laboratories.

"This is the only major capital project going on in this state and it's
going on for one reason," said Rep. Brad Lager, R-Mo. "Because everyone
came together to do some great things."

Ventria has been trying for months to win approval to grow genetically
modified rice in Missouri.

The rice is enhanced with synthetic human genes that produce the proteins
lactoferrin and lysozyme. Those proteins, normally found in human milk,
saliva and tears, could be harvested and refined for use in medicines to
fight diarrhea, dehydration and other illnesses.

Ventria first planned to grow test patches of the rice in Missouri's
Bootheel, where most of the state's rice crop is grown. But that plan met
with fierce resistance in the Bootheel from farmers who feared cross-
pollination with their food crops, and a resulting loss of markets for
their rice.

Anheuser-Busch, maker of Budweiser beer products, also threatened to
boycott Missouri rice if Ventria grew its rice in the state.

That prompted the company to change plans and test its rice crops in
northern Missouri, despite concerns that the crop couldn't be grown in
that part of the state.

Scott Deeter, president of Ventria, said the tests have been successful
so far.

"We've actually had four trials in northwest and northeast Missouri,"
Deeter said Saturday. "All four were successful. What we're excited about
is that we proved that we can grow rice effectively in this part of the

Jason Garst, a farmer from Watson, is one of the farmers testing the
varieties of rice and its ability to grow in northern areas. He said
Saturday that about 50 percent of the varieties he planted were successful.

The rice will eventually be processed in the new facility at Northwest
Missouri State. The first phase of the building is expected to be
completed by November 2006.


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