I recently had the privilege of traveling to Junction City, KS, to participate in a groundbreaking ceremony for a facility expansion for Ventria Biosciences. This new expansion, being led by BioKansas member KBS Constructors, will double the manufacturing capabilities Ventria has in Junction City and bring more jobs to central Kansas. Ventria, a longtime member of BioKansas, uses rice to express human and animal proteins for therapeutic and biotechnological applications. It’s an amazing technology, one with tremendous potential to impact human health, animal health and agriculture. Ventria’s success is a remarkable story for Kansas and the region, and a testament that game-changing technologies can be developed anywhere in the world, even right here in the heartland.
My wife and I are both from the heartland: her from the Lawrence/Topeka area and me from a small town outside of Omaha, NE. We met in Boston, where we met after taking jobs right out of school. After getting married while living in Boston, we decided to move back to the Midwest to be closer to our respective families and to start one of our own. We began to look into the various cities in the Midwest that were within a short (read: half day) drive of both of our families. We looked at Chicago, St. Louis, Omaha, Denver, Oklahoma City, but ultimately chose Kansas City and this region for the wealth and range of opportunities available within the life sciences. While conditions in Kansas have changed considerably since we moved here in 2008, the region is still in a strong position to leverage its life science and healthcare assets. There are numerous world class basic research institutions, such as the University of Kansas, Stowers Institute for Medical Research and Kansas State University, as well as facilities for some of the largest animal health, agricultural, clinical research, food science and pharmaceutical companies in the world. If you’re a scientist or researcher, a student or job seeker, an executive running a life science, pharmaceutical or biotech company, or an entrepreneur working in a STEM industry, there are countless reasons to locate you or your facility in Kansas. These reasons range from the lifestyle-motivated – cost of living, a wonderful place to raise a family, the way of life, etc., to those that are more professionally related – a thriving industry with numerous opportunities for scientists of all levels, the low cost of running a business, the spirit of collaboration and the spirit of innovation.
At BioKansas, we’re involved with programs across the state, and it’s through these programs that we get to see this innovation first hand. We get to see students in Liberal, Kansas, working together with local industry partners and mentors to optimize the production of biodiesel and ethanol. We get to work in Shawnee with an internationally-recognized high school entrepreneur who is developing a digital health application to more effectively diagnose patients with Parkinson’s Disease. And we get to work with folks like Scott Deeter and his team of innovators at Ventria as they continue to harness the power of plant biology to change the world. As a state and a region, it’s important that we come together to do all that we can to encourage these innovators and keep groups like Ventria Bioscience in Kansas. This will mean working to develop innovative incentives for high growth, capital intensive companies in the life science and technology fields, and working with our educational partners to make sure there is enough talent to provide an adequate workforce all across the state. We are proud of the success that Ventria has had to date, and we look forward to working with all of you to make sure we can report on more success stories like Ventria’s.