Wednesday, March 12, 2003

Biotech cooperation critical, meeting told

By Tim Bonfield
The Cincinnati Enquirer

If the Tristate is serious about developing biotechnology, greater cooperation across state borders among researchers, universities and politicians will be crucial.

That was the central message during a two-day life sciences conference that ended Tuesday at the University of Cincinnati. More than 250 scientists, economic development officials and others gathered to hear more about an unusual effort to link research efforts of often intensely competitive universities.

The conference was organized by the Ohio Valley Affiliates for Life Sciences, a new and evolving partnership including UC, the University of Kentucky, the University of Louisville and Wright State University. All have been working independently to become bigger players in biotech research and stronger engines of economic development in their hometowns.

But it costs so much money to hire the experts and acquire the equipment needed that no one university or city can do it all, participants said.

"We sometimes refer to ourselves as a super-region. But we don't always act that way," said Dorothy Air, UC assistant senior vice president of health affairs. "To maximize the potential of this area, we have to reach out and form relationships that can move us forward."

Of the $27 billion federal research budget at the National Institutes of Health, 83 percent is doled out to universities.

If successful, the Ohio Valley group would be among the few to span state borders in an organized way, said Dr. Wendy Baldwin, former deputy director of extramural research at the NIH who last year became vice president for research at the University of Kentucky.

"The NIH likes collaborative approaches but expects the institutions to develop those collaborations," Baldwin said. "If you guys can't do it, someone else will."


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