Newspaper article Roll Call

Innovation Deficit Threatens America's Health and Prosperity

Newspaper article Roll Call

Innovation Deficit Threatens America's Health and Prosperity

Article excerpt

In the center of the country there's a quiet revolution taking place that holds great promise for our nation, though only if we address the growing innovation deficit facing America.

Kansas' economy has been traditionally based on agriculture, energy and aerospace. But we're quickly becoming a national destination for cutting-edge biomedical research at our universities and businesses, with 13 thousand Kansans working in the life sciences today. Their work may soon unlock cures for diseases ranging from cancer to Alzheimer's, thanks to federal research funding and a deliberate strategy of investing in Kansas' bioscience industry.

In a move that's now a model for partnerships around the country, the Johnson County Education and Research Triangle was created by voters in suburban Kansas City. This partnership between the citizens of Johnson County, the University of Kansas and Kansas State University has expanded teaching in science, technology, engineering and mathematics fields and is helping bring clinical trials to patients. In addition to support from the triangle and from private philanthropists, funding from the Kansas Bioscience Authority was vital to the KU Cancer Center earning National Cancer Institute designation.

These efforts have benefitted from support in Washington. Sen. Jerry Moran, R-Kan., has championed investments to make Kansas a national hub for biotech business and innovation, and Rep. Kevin Yoder, R-Kan., says investments in scientific research should be a bipartisan priority.

Investments in bioscience research receive this support because they're already paying dividends. Researchers at KU identified a gene associated with several breast cancers, which could allow doctors to better assess, treat and prevent the disease. A KU scientist discovered the building blocks for a potential new treatment for sickle cell disease, delivering hope to 100 thousand Americans suffering from this genetic blood disorder. And our scientists are studying a range of treatments for Alzheimer's disease, which is crucial because Kansas has one of the highest rates of Alzheimer's in the country. …

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