Medical Research Results in Economic Boom
May, Bill, THE JOURNAL RECORD
At least that's the opinion of two people involved in the medical strides now being taken throughout the state.
"We have come so far in five years that I can't believe just what has been done," said Dr. David Albert, a medical doctor who heads Corazonix Corp., a five-year-old company which specializes in medical electronics. "It's amazing what adversity can cause people to do.
"Out of our economic adversity, and we've had our share the past five years, has come the most dramatic form of public-private partnership I've ever seen.
"Our institutions, colleges, universities and foundations, have worked with government and the private sector to create a basis for health research in this state that's going strong.
"It will continue for years to come and the state will reap the benefits of that."
Medical and health-related research began seriously in Oklahoma about 10 years but received a strong emphasis five years ago when the Oklahoma Legislature created several funding mechanisms. This, in turn, lead to development of the Oklahoma Center for the Advancement of Science and Technology (OCAST), which has five programs dealing with medical research.
"Our charter is to assist private enterprise which is of special importance to the Oklahoma economy," said Lari Leaver Murry, director of OCAST's research and development programs. "We feel that these programs have been good for the state. We have made enormous improvements in the last decade, both in the (research) talent in this state and in the amount of state, federal and private money that has been invested in research here.
"And in the past two to three years we've seen a lot of biomedical companies in Oklahoma spun off from that research."
Murry would not rank the various programs as to their importance, but said all play a major role in recruiting serious researchers to the state, which in turn attract other researchers, more research money and projects which in turn attract more good researchers.
"All our programs are peer review by an out-of-state panel," she said. "This means that no one has any interest in the programs, they just judge each proposal on its merits and rank them according to what they perceive as having potential."
Since OCAST began awarding grants and contracts for medical and health research, $8 million in state money has been spent on 146 projects, selected from 528 applications. In the latest round of selection, three private companies were given awards for applied research which is expected to result in products or services for the commercial market.
"One of the things which has come out of these programs really was unexpected," Albert said. "We have found that the peer review panel has been impressed with the level and quality of the research in Oklahoma which has enhanced our reputation.
"We've also had several companies, this (Corazonix) is one of them, which have been developed over the past five years because of this research."
While medical and health-related research is becoming a major economic development factor in Oklahoma, especially in Tulsa and Oklahoma City, public benefits are being derived, Albert said.
"One of the things this does is find ways to lower medical care costs for the public," he said. "While we want research in health and medical fields, we also want to find ways to deliver better health care at a lower cost, not just contain the cost, but to actually lower it.
"By attracting top researchers who also practice medicine, this offers a second benefit."
Murry agreed that many practitioners come to Oklahoma because of the state encouragement for research. …