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Biosciences recommendation for Iowa


Iowa has a solid foundation in the biosciences from which to launch new initiatives for growth, according to a study released last week by the Iowa Department of Economic Development.

The study, conducted by Columbus, Ohio-based Battelle Memorial Institute Technology Partnership Practice, was commissioned by Gov. Tom Vilsack in cooperation with the state’s Regents universities and the IDED.

“This report shows us how to capitalize on Iowa’s research and development investments at the Regents universities in order to turn that knowledge into high-skill, high-pay jobs now and in the future,” IDED Director Michael Blouin said in a release. “The report not only tells us where our strengths lie currently, but it also gives us a sense of the great potential that lies ahead.”

According to Battelle’s report, bioscience industries are already a significant part of Iowa’s economy, accounting for 7 percent of the state’s overall employment.

Compared with other major Iowa industries, bioscience is one of the highest-paying industries in the state. According to the report, the average wage of a bioscience worker in 2002 was more than $10,000 higher than the statewide average annual wage, surpassing other sectors that included manufacturing, information technology, construction, finance, insurance and real estate.

“Because bioscience is a diversified industry, comprises a substantial share of state economic activity, and is a source of high-paying jobs, it is reasonable to support initiatives that focus on this industry,” the report said.   The state current bioscience industry is “strong and diversified in its bioscience R&D base and has a small but growing commercial base in certain related disciplines (most notably related to BioEconomy initiatives),” the report said. “The R&D basics are in place across ag-bioscience, animal science and human/medical bioscience and the leading universities are already working on collaborations to help advance their bioscience work.”

The report identified six short-term strategies, each of which have large-scale market potential and draw upon expertise in the state:

* BioEconomy Platform – Using plant and animal biomass and waste streams to generate chemicals, energy, fuels and materials for industrial and commercial applications.

* Advanced Food Products Platform – Using Iowa’s established strengths in plant and animal sciences … to develop and produce functional foods and nutraceuticals.

* Animal Systems Platform – Using Iowa’s bioscience expertise to establish a leadership position in the modeling of animal systems and in the development of technologies and applications for transgenic animals, chimeric animals and cloning.

* Integrated Biosecurity Platform – Deploying the strengths of Iowa’s institutions in human, animal and plant disease prevention, protection and treatment to establish an integrated approach to securing the environment, food-production systems, human health and safety.

* Integrated Drug Discovery, Development, Piloting and Production Platform – Leveraging Iowa’s strengths in basic biomedical research, drug development and production into an integrated pipeline of new drugs and therapeutics.

* Integrated Post-Genomic Medicine Platform – Using Iowa’s genomics expertise and specific disease/disorder skills … to produce rapid advances in post-genomic medicine and associated discoveries.      Walt Plosila, Battelle’s vice president of public technology management, will present the report’s findings to a biosciences steering committee that is scheduled to meet March 31. That committee is expected to begin formulating a plan to implement the report’s recommendations.

Battelle and the national labs it manages conduct more than $2.7 billion in annual research and development.

The full Battelle report can be downloaded www.iowasmartidea.com.  

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