Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Kansas Bioscience Authority committee supports funding for research project at Kansas State

By ANDY HYLAND, The Lawrence Journal-World

OLATHE — The Kansas Bioscience Authority's Investment Committee on Monday supported an effort that would provide more than $868,000 to help support new research at Kansas State University's National Bio and Agro-Defense Facility.

The funds would support a project studying Schmallenberg virus, said Tony Simpson, the KBA's director of commercialization for bioenergy.

"I think (the project) really fits in and I think it makes a real selling point for the need for NBAF in Kansas," said Dan Watkins, a Lawrence attorney and investment committee member.

The virus is now only found in Europe, having been first discovered in September 2011, Simpson said. It infects sheep, goats and cattle, and leads to decreased milk production, fever, general malaise and malformation and stillbirth of a mother's young.

Biting insects are believed to spread the disease from animal to animal, and it is not known to spread to humans, Simpson said. There is no known treatment and current diagnostic tools don't differentiate among animals infected with the disease and animals who have been effectively vaccinated from the disease, Simpson said.

The research project, which would involve a collaboration among Kansas State, the federal agriculture department and other agencies, would focus on finding a faster diagnosis and rapid development of a better vaccine.

The funds would come out of a previous $35 million commitment that the state-supported KBA made to NBAF to help expedite the movement of research projects to Manhattan from the federal government's Plum Island Animal Disease Center.

All the committee's actions are still subject to approval from the KBA's full Board of Directors, which meets July 23-24. The committee voted to recommend approval for two other grants:

• A $400,000 grant to Parnell, an Australian veterinary pharmaceutical company, contingent on the company locating its North American headquarters in Kansas, in the Kansas City metropolitan area. The grant would help support the company's hiring of 14 new employees at an average wage of nearly $170,000.

• A $750,000 grant to Bayer Health Care, of Shawnee. The grant would support the expansion of the company's existing North American headquarters in Shawnee and would support the hiring of 58 new people over three years at an average salary of $83,000.