Home » Op-Ed: Kentucky’s legislators can help us change world

Op-Ed: Kentucky’s legislators can help us change world

by Tony Remington, CEO of Gravity Diagnostics, Tim Schroeder CEO of CTI Clinical Trial and Consulting Services, Ray Takigiku CEO and president of Bexion Pharmaceuticals, Inc.

R&D lab critically needed to attract biotech startups. With a single investment, the Kentucky General Assembly has an opportunity this legislative session to change the course of the world.

The future of medicine hinges on innovation by companies focusing on cell and gene therapies and the advancements that can be made with those technologies. Real-life examples of this innovation – and the practical “good” that can come from it – are visible right here, right now in Northern Kentucky, where our companies are advancing the knowledge of medicine and research in areas like cancer treatment, COVID-19 testing, and personalized curative medicine.

Our work has earned the northernmost region of the Commonwealth a growing reputation as a hub in the life sciences and biotech sectors, and we are eager to expand that hub by welcoming more companies, jobs, and cutting-edge research into this environment.

But while there is “room” for more companies, there is not “space.”

More precisely, there isn’t lab space that can be rented by start-up and emerging “two scientists and a molecule” companies as they take their first steps toward relevance and the market.

That’s where Kentucky’s legislators can save the day.

Gov. Andy Beshear allocated $10 million in his proposed 2022-23 budget for a life sciences research & development laboratory in Covington, and we urgently need the General Assembly to maintain that investment in its final budget.

This allocation does not provide “financial incentives” for us or any particular company but instead represents an investment in physical and intellectual infrastructure that will pay dividends in jobs, talent, and medical progress for generations.

Because we understand the urgent need for this space, we are investing time and technical expertise in this partnership to make it happen. Joining us are the City of Covington, Northern Kentucky University, Northern Kentucky Tri-ED, the NKU Collaborative for Economic Engagement, the Kentucky Small Business Development Center, and the Covington Parking Authority.

The proposed lab – whose site would be provided by the City – would be managed by a new board composed of officials from the public and private sectors.

And it would fill a gap: There is not a similar environment in the Northern Kentucky/Cincinnati market and hasn’t been since an incubator called BIOSTART – which helped Bexion get its start – closed in 2012.

It’s a fact of scientific and research life that it takes years for life science companies – in areas like cell biology, genetics, gene therapy, immunology, and molecular biology – to

grow profitable or even sustainable. Their first steps, in moving from an idea or theory to the collection of data that allows that idea to be tested, can be difficult and prohibitively expensive. Even something as simple as accessing benches, beakers, and microscopes can be a daunting and sometimes unachievable investment for small start-ups.

Providing an incubator space in which these companies can rent access to what they need at a reduced cost can dictate whether they succeed or fail and whether technology and life-saving drugs ever reach the public.

Beyond physical space, such a lab also creates a collaborative environment where pioneering individuals from different start-ups can share frustrations, successes, ideas, encouragement, and intellectual support.

Why Northern Kentucky?

We speak from experience: This region has a wealth of resources that have it primed to become one of the world’s go-to regions for scientific developments and cutting-edge medical technologies, including a well-educated, stable, loyal workforce … research institutions connected to universities and hospitals on both sides of the Ohio River … logistical and global transportation networks … and established companies like ours.

In sum, if the General Assembly helps fund this R&D lab, we can complete the puzzle and start attracting and nurturing companies here who could do the kind of work that changes the world.

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