On November 2, 2001, the country watched and listened with fascination when Robert Tools, the recipient of the first AbioCor artificial heart, let Stone Phillips of NBC's "Dateline" broadcast its beat on national TV.
This was the first time the public had seen an artificial heart recipient able to stand and walk on his own. Still, the device did more than get Tools back on his feet. It focused the national spotlight on Kentucky, where the device was implanted.
Sadly, Tools died 151 days after his amazing surgery, but the next critically ill heart patient, Tom Christerson, lived for almost a year and a half after receiving the AbioCor. Today the pioneering spirit these patients and their doctors displayed is still thriving in the Bluegrass State.
A great example is the Cardiovascular Innovation Institute, a new research facility created through a partnership of the University of Louisville (U of L) and Jewish Hospital, also located in Louisville.
This $50 million institute, which also receives financial support from the Kentucky Economic Development Cabinet's Department of Commercialization and Innovation (DCI), the federal government, and private sources, continues the commonwealth's tradition of introducing artificial heart devices that started back in the 1980s. It focuses on developing more effective and less intrusive devices for patients with advanced heart disease.
The Advanced State of Biotechnology in Kentucky
Thanks to Kentucky's pioneering and progressive tax laws and proactive incentive programs, hundreds of life-science-related companies have already flocked to the Bluegrass State.
Other states often claim to be friendly to business, but Kentucky consistently backs it up. For instance, Kentucky has consistently ranked among the most competitive states when it comes to assisting businesses looking to expand existing facilities or develop new ones. You will also find Kentucky and some of its leading biotech companies and R&D institutions at prestigious industry showcases, such as the June 2008 BIO International
Convention in San Diego
One of the first large biotechnology companies to settle in Kentucky was Martek Biosciences. A spinoff from defense and aerospace giant Martin Marietta, Martek discovered how to extract fatty acids - essential nutrients for the human body - from marine algae. Two of Martek's fatty acid products (originally developed for America's space program) are now added to 80 percent of all baby formulas sold.
When those children are old enough to drink real milk, Alltech, a global biotech headquartered in Kentucky, will have made it safer and cheaper to drink. The company uses its expertise in fermentation and enzymes to improve the quality of animal feed, while lowering its costs. Today, Alltech has manufacturing facilities in 14 countries and annual revenues of more than $400 million.
In October 2007, Alltech learned that it would receive funding from the commonwealth of Kentucky to create a rural community biorefinery in Springfield, Kentucky. This is the first such model in North America that integrates feed, food and fuel production. In addition to ethanol production, the biorefinery will provide value added products through secondary fermentation.
Another Kentucky biotech that concentrates on improving the health of animals is Equine Biodiagnostics Inc., located on the 735-acre University of Kentucky (UK) Coldstream Research Campus. The company assists over 4,000 veterinary practitioners worldwide in accurately diagnosing equine infectious diseases through its specialized molecular-testing capabilities.
Pharmaceuticals and Natural Products Research
Kentucky is playing an ever-increasing role in the development of oral and injectable medicines for humans. Since its start in 1986, the Center for Pharmaceutical Science and Technology (CPST), located on the main campus of UK in Lexington, has developed and manufactured drugs for over 200 research projects utilizing current best manufacturing practices. Many of the projects that the center has been involved in have led directly to clinical trials.
Recently, the CPST was spun off as a private company, called Coldstream Laboratories, and opened an advanced pharmaceutical manufacturing factory at UK's Coldstream Research Campus. The new $17 million Coldstream Laboratories, which opened in July 2007, offers full-service pharmaceutical R&D support and sterile drug manufacturing for clinical trials and some niche commercial products.
The development of natural products and supplements is also being enhanced in Kentucky. September 2006 witnessed the grand opening of Kentucky BioProcessing, LLC in Owensboro. The company, which extracts purified proteins and other value-added products from plants and organic materials, was partially funded by a $3.6 million loan by the Kentucky Agriculture Finance Corporation. Kentucky BioProcessing will pave the way to producing more natural products and create more opportunities for Kentucky farmers.
Kentucky BioProcessing is a contract bioprocessor with state-of-the-art facilities, experienced personnel, and intellectual property that provides customers with an unequaled quality and range of bioprocessing services. The company works with customers on a confidential basis to extract purified proteins and other value added products from plants and other organic materials.
Providing an Environment That Helps Biotech Companies Compete in the Global Marketplace
attract and nurture high-tech startups around the commonwealth,
Kentucky created the DCI within the Cabinet for Economic Development.
DCI manages a statewide network of six regional Innovation and
Commercialization Centers (ICCs) and six local Innovation Centers
(ICs). These public-private partnerships help scientists and
entrepreneurs turn intellectual property into market-ready products.
The ICCs and ICs help entrepreneurs understand the business startup
process, link them to funding sources, and help them make connections
with experts from the business sector, universities, community and
technical colleges, local communities, and state government.
way that Kentucky is developing biotech companies in the state is by
growing them itself. Through the Kentucky Science and Engineering
Foundation, small Kentucky-based businesses are eligible to apply for
R&D Excellence Program awards under the "emerging technologies"
category. Through a peer-review system, awards ranging from $20,000 to
$50,000 per year are given to businesses in key research and
development focus areas.
The foundation also provides seed
funding to assist Kentucky's small companies in developing competitive,
high-quality Phase 1 and Phase 2 proposals to federal agencies
participating in the Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) and
Small Business Technology Transfer Research (STTR) programs. Companies
are eligible to apply for up to $4,000 to assist in the preparation of
a federal proposal.
Kentucky's support for high-tech small
business is unsurpassed. For example, Kentucky is the only state in the
nation to specifically match, dollar-for-dollar, both federal Phase 1
and Phase 2 SBIR-STTR awards.
DCI is now accepting applications
from Kentucky-based companies for state funds to match federal Phase 1
and Phase 2 awards made on or after January 1, 2008. Qualifying Phase 1
awards will be matched by Kentucky up to $100,000. Phase 2 awards
received on or after January 1, 2008, will be matched up to $500,000
per year for up to two years.
Of course, all the money in the
world can't make a difference if a startup doesn't have a good pool of
talent from which to draw. That's why in the late 1990s Kentucky
created the Research Challenge Trust Fund, or "Bucks for Brains," and
began pouring hundreds of millions of dollars into its major public
universities to attract top scholars. This fund has led to a doubling
or tripling of endowed chairs and professorships, coupled with enormous
increases in research dollars from other sources.
of Higher Education and other publications have noted the impressive
gains made by U of L and UK in attracting federal research and
developing valuable patents. UK has ranked among the top universities
in the number of startup companies formed per $10 million in research
spending. U of L's 277 percent growth since 1999 in National Institutes
of Health funding ranks first among the nation's top research
The State's Initiatives Are Working and So Are Its Citizens
are one of the many ways Kentucky goes the extra mile. Atlanta-based
Jim Medbery, a senior vice president for the site-consulting firm
Binswanger Corporation, said he speaks regularly with fellow
consultants around the country, and the consensus is that Kentucky has
a lot to offer.
"We all compare notes, and Kentucky always rates
as one of the most pro-business states out there," says Medbery, who
estimates he has been involved in more than 40 major plant locations in
"We think Kentucky has the best incentive program of
any of the states in the region," says Medbery. "They are very
aggressive with regard to corporate tax abatements and other incentive
programs that are designed to offset the cost of opening and occupying
To find out more about how Kentucky can help your
biotechnology business grow or assist you in getting your biotech idea
off the ground, just contact us. After all, there's nothing Kentuckians
like to hear more than the heartbeat of a new business.
Deborah Clayton, Commissioner,Department of Commercialization & Innovation
Kentucky Cabinet for Economic Development
Old Capitol Annex, 300 West Broadway
Frankfort, KY 40601
Phone: 800-626-2930 Fax: 502-564-3256