Although Oklahoma's investment in biotechnology has grown in
recent years, the pace of growth has not kept up with increases in
surrounding states, leaving Oklahoma at a disadvantage when
competing for biotechnology investment, according to Dr. J. Donald
Capra, president of the Oklahoma Medical Research Foundation.
Speaking to attendees at the Oklahoma Biomedical Research Summit
2002, Capra noted that the per capita National Institutes of Health
funding for Oklahoma in 2000 was $12.86. That trailed every state
bordering Oklahoma, including Arkansas, which received per capita
funding of $14.98. Other regional states fared far better: Texas
received $36.33, New Mexico received $34.94, Colorado received
$56.22, Kansas received $19.28, and Missouri received $64.63.
The national average was $51.19. The difference between
Oklahoma's per capita National Institutes of Health funding and the
national average equals more than $130 million that does not flow to
the state creating high-paying jobs, Capra said.
National Institutes of Health funding for biomedical research
brought $44 million to Oklahoma last year.
While Oklahoma's per capita average for NIH funding has increased
46.2 percent, growing from $10.57 in 1998 to an expected $15.45 in
2001, that growth rate still leaves the state trailing its regional
competitors, Capra noted.
"Other states are simply doing better," he said. "Other states
are simply investing more."
To become competitive, Oklahoma must invest in both human capital
and new facilities, Capra said.
"What we don't have is more people," he said. "So as long as we
don't have more people, we can never hope to really get to the
really big dollars."
The addition of lab space in the state is a "critical" element
needed to attract researchers to the state, Capra said. The low cost
of housing and construction in Oklahoma, and the available room for
expansion, give the state a competitive edge nationally.
"If you don't have buildings, you can't get scientists," Capra
said. "The advantage that we have in Oklahoma when we're trying to
recruit a scientist out of Boston or Stanford is we can show them a
laboratory that's five-times the size of anything they can ever hope
to have in an Eastern- or Western-coast city. If we don't have
space, we can't attract them. We don't have an ocean. We don't have
mountains. We don't have a lot of the amenities that people who live
on the coasts like. But scientists don't necessarily groove on those
things. They groove on space, and when I take them into a lab and
show them 200,000 square feet of laboratory space, they'll take the
job or at least we've got a shot at them."
Capra noted that other states with a foot in the biotech door
used state bond financing to construct new research facilities. …