By: Beth Silvy, KCALSI Marketing Intern
The Kansas City Area Life Sciences Institute (KCALSI) hosted its 2012 Annual Dinner, April 10, 2012, at the Sheraton Kansas City Hotel at Crown Center with a theme of “Better, Smarter, Faster: The Need for Translational Research.”
The dinner was attended by more than 600 business executives and community members from all industries who acknowledged the importance of the life sciences, and in particular, translational research, to our region. Attendees had the opportunity to network during the opening reception, including the chance of meeting keynote speaker, David M. Livingston, MD, Deputy Director of the Dana-Farber/Harvard Cancer Center, Chief of the Charles A. Dana Division of Human Cancer Genetics at the Dana- Farber Cancer Institute and Emil Frei Professor of Genetics and Medicine at Harvard Medical School.
As the evening progressed into dinner, guests heard from a number of community leaders about the successes in our region’s life sciences. The speakers included; L. Patrick James, MD, Chairman of KCALSI and Senior Managing Director at Quest Diagnostics, Inc.; Daniel P. Getman, PhD, President of KCALSI; Benno C. Schmidt, Jr., Interim President and Chief Executive Officer of the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation; and keynote speaker David M. Livingston, MD, a champion for the importance of translational research.
Dr. Getman commenced the speaker presentations with his final regional update as president. In February, KCALSI announced that he will retire in June 2012. He chose to focus on what the regional life sciences community is trying to accomplish and the status of several big initiatives, rather than focus solely on the accomplishments of KCALSI’s individual stakeholders. He emphasized that this is all made possible by collaboration within the community.
“The region decided a decade ago to do this together across institutions. What we’ve really emphasized is to grow and leverage the strengths and assets that exist in the region,” said Getman.
This collaborative spirit has had a major impact on the people of the region and the economy. Institutions have prospered from increased funding and prestige, leading to the recruitment of great investigators and further funding. Getman believes there are three major platforms of existing and emerging strength in the region: the Animal Health Corridor, human health – with an emphasis on translational research – and commercialization.
The animal health industry has brought 23 new companies and associations to the region with 1,301 new jobs and $862 million in capital investments. The human health sector recently benefitted from a major development; the formation of Frontiers: The Heartland Institute for Clinical and Translational Research, consisting of three academic centers, 10 health systems and 15 community organizations. It received a $20 million grant over five years from the National Institutes of Health.
According to Getman, commercialization has flourished in the region over the last three to four years. He believes this is due to the strength in the area’s institutions along with the decision to pass the Kansas Economic Growth Act and establish the Kansas Bioscience Authority. Another contributing factor is the increase in the number of angel investors, venture capital firms and the addition of seven incubators, and the services they provide, to the region.
“I honestly believe the best is yet to come, probably in the next two to five years,” said Getman.“ In addition to the visible progress with the Animal Health Corridor and National Bio and Agro-Defense Facility (NBAF), efforts in human health and commercialization are beginning to accelerate.”
Benno Schmidt of the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation elaborated on the importance of collaboration in the life sciences community.
“Working together you can make Kansas City a world leader in life sciences research, innovation and commercial outcomes,” said Schmidt.
Schmidt reflected on his efforts towards the Time to Get It Right Report, when he was asked to put together a group of experts to identify which areas Kansas City should invest in to become a leader in innovation in the global knowledge economy. It was concluded that Kansas City was in the strongest position to prosper in life sciences innovation and this was mainly due to the strength in the region’s institutions and collaboration amongst them.
“Your success in Kansas City will only be possible if your civic and institutional leaders support cross-institutional collaborations,” said Schmidt.
KCALSI Chairman, Dr. James focused on the theme of the night, the need for translational research. With attendees from all different backgrounds; James hoped to clarify the efforts around translational research amongst people outside of the immediate life sciences community.
In his presentation, James changed the term “translational” to Kansas City 4 Cures, emphasizing the end result of translational research. He believes community participation in Kansas City 4 Cures will bring jobs, investments and well-being to the region.
“What if those first cures were actually available to us, our children and grandchildren? How great would that be?” said James. By Kansas City being a leader in translational research, our community will ultimately be the first to benefit from new discoveries in medicine.
According to James, there are four different areas that need to be focused on when searching for cures.
“We have four “C’s” we are thinking about: Children, Chronic Diseases, Cancer Research and Consequences.” Kansas City has an abundance of institutions specializing in each of these areas with nationally-recognized expertise.
Before the evening could come to a close, keynote speaker, Dr. Livingston took the stage. As a part of the KCALSI scientific advisory board, he shared the admiration he and the committee have for Kansas City’s community leaders, the life science effort and the broad collaborations within it.
“The facts are, we have never seen a culture, any collective group of citizens of this country or any other, with the community spirit built into everything you do,” said Livingston. “Kansas City is a place where innovation is fostered left, right and sideways, daily in fact.”
As a biomedical research center of excellence, Kansas City is comprised of institutions with a willingness to collaborate. For this reason, Livingston stressed the evening’s topic, translational research, and why it is so important to this community.
“The biggest blockade, the single biggest block to bringing new methodologies to human care is called translational research,” said Livingston. “Translational research stands between understanding how a disease develops and figuring out how to try and do something about it.”
By the close of the evening it was clear that Kansas City has a unique life sciences community and is an ideal location for the execution of translational research. The collaboration amongst institutions is unparalleled to other parts of the country, aiding in the continued growth of Kansas City as a biomedical research center of excellence. With new human and animal health companies moving to the area each year the future of translational research in Kansas City is bright.