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Submitted/Research and Graduate Studies An artist's rendering shows what the wet lab incubator on KU's west campus will look like. Construction is set to begin soon.

Construction set to begin on wet lab incubator

West campus facility will help turn inventions into new companies

Bioscience researchers at KU soon will have a place where they can turn their inventions into start-up companies. And the best part is they won’t have to leave the campus to make it happen.

After more than three years of planning, and having secured nearly $8 million in financial commitments, the Lawrence-Douglas County Bioscience Authority is about to start construction of a wet-lab business incubator on KU’s west campus. The 20,000-square-foot facility will be ready in 2010 and marks a milestone in economic development cooperation between the university and the community.

The incubator also will provide space for existing companies to work in collaboration with KU faculty. A pharmaceutical company, for example, could rent space for a year and fund a special project that utilizes KU expertise.

“KU researchers come up with great ideas,” said Steve Warren, vice provost for research and graduate studies. “Some of those ideas become inventions, and some inventions have commercial potential. An incubator is a place where this process can play out with a higher likelihood of success. The goal is to work out the kinks and get a company started so it can grow, hire people and, eventually, stand on its own.”

KU is providing $1.5 million in support of the project over five years. KU Endowment is leasing the land, valued at $500,000, at no charge. Together, Douglas County, the city of Lawrence and LDCBA are providing $2 million. The final piece of the puzzle fell into place in March, when the Kansas Bioscience Authority committed $3.25 million over three years. When operational, the incubator will be owned by LDCBA and managed by the Lawrence Regional Technology Center.

“It’s a tremendous coalition of local, university, private and state resources,” said LaVerne Epp, president and chairman of the LDCBA Board of Directors. “All of us see this as a smart, long-term investment with benefits for KU researchers, the local economy and the biosciences industry in Kansas.”

The incubator will be built directly across the street from KU’s Multidisciplinary Research Building, Structural Biology Center and the site of the School of Pharmacy building. The Higuchi Biosciences Center and other research groups also are nearby, giving the incubator a unique location that encourages close collaboration.

“The facility is more than just a building,” said Carey Novak, KU’s director of business and industry outreach. “It will offer business development assistance designed to give small companies the best possible start. Another feature is the ability to easily expand to 40,000 square feet as the demand for space increases.”

Selection of an architect and contractor are now under way. Site clearance and preparation should begin in July. Marketing of the incubator has already begun, says Novak, with a Web site www.ldcba.org and plans to participate in next month’s international BIO convention in Atlanta.


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