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7-Business: Biotech research cash fails to spawn new business



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TITLE:  Research cash fails to spawn new business
SOURCE: Associated Press / Colombia Daily Tribune, USA
        http://archive.columbiatribune.com/2006/jan/20060128news021.asp
DATE:   28 Jan 2006

------------------ archive:  http://www.genet-info.org/ ------------------


Research cash fails to spawn new business
Blunt's biotech panel lays blame on UM

ST. LOUIS (AP) - A lot of money goes into biotechnology research in
Missouri, but not much comes out.

That's what Gov. Matt Blunt heard yesterday during a daylong meeting
with his advisory council on plant biotechnology. Blunt appointed the
council last spring to help Missouri foster more high-tech companies in
the state, and he said yesterday that the group already helped lay the
groundwork for a $300 million spending proposal he announced Thursday.

But money alone isn't the answer, Blunt was told as he sat with the
council of academics, businessmen and state officials during a meeting
at the Donald Danforth Plant Science Center.

Missouri does a worse job than most states at turning research dollars
into new businesses or patented products, said Mike Mills, deputy
director of the Missouri Department of Economic Development.

The problem isn't a lack of talented scientists but of a process to turn
basic research into new companies or marketable products, council
members said.

"We have an abysmal record of translating that research into jobs," said
Roger Beachy, chairman of the council and president of the plant science
center.

The council looked at a number of ways to change that fact, from state
tax breaks to forming a special arm of the University of Missouri that
would move research into the private sector.

The governor's proposal to spend $300 million on research facilities was
part of a broader plan called the Lewis and Clark Discovery Initiative.
The money could go toward laboratories or business incubators, which the
council told him Missouri needed during its first meeting in September.

Blunt said Missouri is a world leader in plant sciences that needs to
exploit its competitive advantage to draw new companies here while
encouraging homegrown upstarts. Along with the Danforth research center,
Missouri is home to Monsanto, the world's biggest genetically engineered
seed company.

Blunt said his initiative would make sure that Missouri regulations
don't interfere with bringing new biotechnology companies to the state.

The proposal would make sure that any laws governing genetically
engineered seed would be statewide and not different from federal laws,
he said.

That was music to the ears of council member Jerry Caulder. As former
chairman of the biotech seed company Mycogen Corp., Caulder said
business owners avoid states where the regulatory environment is uncertain.

"I can deal with the most asinine law in the world. I just can't deal
with uncertainty," Caulder said.

"We're your state if you can deal with asinine laws," Blunt joked.

Caulder and others had harsh words for the UM system, which they said is
inefficient at moving research out of the lab and into the private sector.

He contrasted that with Stanford University, where the student founders
of Google easily found support from university officials who incubated
their young company.

"You have to deal with so many people" at UM "that you ask yourself:
'Why am I wasting my time?' " Caulder said.

Nicholas Kalaitzandonakes, a University of Missouri-Columbia professor,
said the problem also lies in the lack of entrepreneurs statewide.

"I don't think we have those people waiting on the other side of the
university gate," Kalaitzandonakes said.

Mills, with the department of economic development, said the state was
considering a plan to offer $8 million to $10 million in tax breaks to
start-up companies.

Blunt said after the meeting he expects broad support for biotechnology
funding in his Lewis and Clark initiative because it will bring good
jobs to the state.


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