LEXINGTON, Ky. (Dec. 21, 2004) -- The University of Kentucky is launching an initiative to work with a private-sector company in the development of plant-manufactured pharmaceuticals from tobacco -- an area of research that has tremendous economic potential.
Research efforts are focusing on the development of therapeutic proteins and vaccines, antibodies, and other pharmaceutical products.
A $3 million grant of New Economy money to the University of Kentucky Research Foundation makes the project possible. UK researchers will work with Large Scale Biology Corporation, a 15-year-old bio-pharmaceutical development and manufacturing company based in Vacaville, Calif.
The company, which has more than 85 employees at two locations in the United States, has a bio-manufacturing facility in Owensboro that is working to develop plant-manufactured pharmaceuticals from tobacco.
UK College of Agriculture researchers in the Kentucky Tobacco Research and Development Center have received international prominence for their work in the natural-products field, especially in their development of new tobacco-related plants and associated agricultural methods for use by the plant-made pharmaceuticals industry.
“Plant-manufactured pharmaceuticals represent an area of opportunity the College of Agriculture has been pursuing for several years and appears to be bearing fruit with the private sector,” said Scott Smith, dean of the College of Agriculture.
UK President Lee T. Todd Jr. said the grant demonstrates the partnership that can – and should – exist between state government and the university to stimulate research that can move the state forward and generate an important economic development impact.
“We’re working together, utilizing the state’s support and our expertise, to advance an area of research that has the potential for tremendous growth opportunities,” Todd said. “With this grant, Governor Fletcher is demonstrating his commitment to research in a field that holds promise for our state’s economic future.”
“For Kentucky to move forward economically, we must become more competitive in fields such as biotechnology and bio-manufacturing,” said Kentucky Gov. Ernie Fletcher. “These are areas that hold great potential and present opportunities for research and to create additional jobs.”
Elected officials in Owensboro lauded the arrangement, saying it demonstrated a commitment to the long-term economic interests of the region and the state.
“Since its inception I have been involved with Large Scale Biology and am a big supporter of the bio-technology industry, believing that it can establish us as a Silicon Valley of the Midwest," said state Sen. David Boswell.
State Rep. Joe Bowen said, "This grant exemplifies Governor Fletcher's awareness of the importance of the work and research LSB is doing. It's a testament to this administration's commitment to increasing opportunity and economic development and shows a desire to help this community and region of the state. The company and Commonwealth will realize long-term benefits from this bold action."
UK already has relationships with virtually all of the national and international companies conducting natural-products research. Even though the development of plant-made pharmaceuticals is a relatively new field, there already are about 1,500 jobs in Kentucky in this research area, with the potential for many more.
"I am very pleased that this will ensure access to world-class facilities for UK researchers working in this promising area," said Wendy Baldwin, UK executive vice president for research. “We are also pleased to further Governor Fletcher’s vision for Kentucky’s new economy.”
Kris Kimel, president of the Kentucky Science and Technology Corporation, said the arrangement “could help place Kentucky at the forefront of this exciting industry, translating into more and better paying jobs for our citizens.”
University of Louisville President Jim Ramsey said Gov. Fletcher’s initiative is important because it will help further critical research in a growing field with economic potential for the state.
“We have been working with Large Scale Biology on our important cancer research initiatives,” Ramsey said. “The governor’s vision and action through the new economy will help ensure that this important research continues and grows.”
“Large Scale Biology is proud to be part of this exciting program. We located our bio-processing facility in Kentucky in 1995 and later built a new, state-of-the-art, commercial-scale bio-manufacturing complex because of the state’s excellent combination of resources and skilled workforce in tobacco-related technologies,” said Ronald J. Artale, Large Scale’s chief operating officer. “This new investment from the state will allow the University of Kentucky to work closely with us to accelerate jointly developed initiatives and training of a future workforce in bio-manufacturing – a rapidly growing and high-value segment of the biotechnology industry.”