‘Innovation District’ Could Bring 1 Million Square Feet Of New Office Space To Durham

October 3, 2014

By: Leona Inge

Downtown Durham has undergone a major transformation over the past decade. And economic development projects are not slowing down with new hotels, office space and housing under construction.

Yesterday, community stakeholders came together to announce the latest big project. It’s called the Durham Innovation District or “Durham ID,” for short.

The Durham Innovation District or Durham ID will stretch from North Duke Street all the way to the Durham Farmer’s Market when it’s all finished.

Mayor Bill Bell says Durham is growing and developing so fast it’s turning into a city of acronyms. He’s calling the Durham Innovation District, D-I-D for “DID.”

“We’ve got the Durham Bulls Athletic Park, DBAP. We have the Durham Performing Arts Center, DPAC. And you’re probably not going to like this. But we now have DID,” said Bell. “That’s my acronym.”

The first phase of Durham ID will be filled with researchers from Duke University. Bell says he’s been waiting a long time for this next chapter of downtown.

“I know as a retired IBM engineer, have heard for years that, so many of our needs have taken place in sort of isolation and some of the best researchers and scientists in the world, right here in Durham, the City of Medicine, but so many of the researchers are sort of out in a secluded area doing their ground-breaking work. Now we have an opportunity to bring them all together into the downtown area,” said Bell.

The Details

The “Durham ID” master plan calls for re-developing 15 acres downtown. That includes one million square feet of new office and laboratory space, 50,000 square feet of new retail space and 300 new residential units.

Scott Selig is the Associate VP for Capital Assets and Real Estate at Duke. He says they’re excited about the project.

“We’re taking Durham versions of what’s happened in other cities, which is wherever basic research has come off campus, the private sector has surrounded it to create true innovation and entrepreneurship,” said Selig.

Adam Sichol is a Managing Partner of Longfellow Real Estate Partners based in Boston. But he also has offices in downtown Durham and saw the potential in building a Durham Innovation District. Sichol says it reminds him of Kendall Square near Harvard.

“It reminds us the opportunity with the great institutions, like Duke University, Durham Tech, NCCU and the great educated workforce down here, reminds us of the educated workforce that we see in Cambridge, Massachusetts,” said Sichol.

There are still a lot of chairs covered in plastic and empty desks in the newly renovated Carmichael Building, but several researchers have already started moving in to 300 North Duke Street. It used to be owned by Liggett and Myers Tobacco Company, but most recently was a county Social Services building.

“My office is here in the corner. I get a lovely office, I can look over at the power plant, I look right where they were talking about at the horseshoe, I will be right in the middle of the horseshoe,” said Elizabeth Hauser, while on a tour of her new offices.

Elizabeth Hauser is a professor in Biostatistics and Bioinformatics at Duke’s Molecular Physiology Institute. She says she’ll like being downtown.

“There’s a lot of energy, a lot of intellectual energy, not just in this building but in all over the place,” said Hauser. “So I’m really excited to partake of that and to see new things and new places to walk and think my deep thoughts.”

And that’s what community leaders and developers want – a downtown equipped to make a thriving creative class feel right at home.

Making Innovation

September 18, 2014

By: Nanette Byrnes
Via: MIT Technology Review

The hubs of advanced manufacturing will be the economic drivers of the future because innovation increasingly depends on production expertise.

Visitors to the Crosspointe Rolls-Royce facility in Prince George County, Virginia, have to don safety glasses and steel-tipped shoes, just as they would at any traditional factory. But then things start to look different. Past the cubicles filled with programmers and support staff sits a 140,000-square-foot factory with spotless white concrete floors, bright lighting, surprisingly quiet equipment, and very few human beings.

Opened in 2011, Crosspointe is the kind of factory that makes a good backdrop to a political speech about advanced manufacturing, as President Barack Obama knew when he arrived less than a year later. It’s global: the U.S. operations center of a U.K. company, it uses titanium forgings from Scotland, Germany, or the United States; shapes them into fan disks; and, after milling, polishing, and testing, ships them off to England, Germany, or Singapore. Once there, each disk will become one of 10,000 parts in a typical engine.

It’s also highly automated: $1.5 million machines made by DMG Mori Seiki do the initial milling of the disks, following steps directed by Siemens software with a minimum of human interference. On a day in early summer, eight machines were being monitored by three operators. Computer screens in front of the machine displayed instructions in pictures and text, flashing warnings when a part had not met specs or the machine needed to be serviced. Later an automated measurement machine with a probe on the end would spend eight hours inspecting 1,000-plus distinct dimensions of the part. For the next 25 years, Rolls-Royce will keep data on each part, starting with exactly how it was made. Sensors in the engine will track how the engine and its parts are holding up, and maintenance and flight data will be carefully recorded.

It’s not just pristine floors, scarce workers, and a global network that make Crosspointe emblematic of manufacturing today. It’s also the ecosystem surrounding the facility. Just down the road is the Commonwealth Center for Advanced Manufacturing, a research center whose members include Airbus, NASA, and the University of Virginia.

There, Rolls-Royce staff who know the challenges and details of manufacturing work with researchers and suppliers to improve the factory and its products, says Crosspointe manufacturing executive Lorin Sodell. “Often a great idea for a new manufacturing process won’t ever make it into production because that connection is missing.”

Most of the advanced machining and other innovative processes in place at Crosspointe were developed and first tested at a similar research center near the company’s plant in Sheffield, U.K., called the Advanced Manufacturing Research Center. Sodell is already working with suppliers housed in the Virginia research center to diagnose and quickly address new tooling issues and any other problems that might arise.

To understand why manufacturing matters, we must lose some misconceptions. First, manufacturing no longer derives its importance primarily from employing large numbers of people. As software drives more of the manufacturing process, and automated machines and robots execute much of it, factories don’t need as many workers.

Second, the idea popularized in the 1990s and 2000s that innovation can happen in one place (say, Silicon Valley) while manufacturing happens in another (such as China) is not broadly sustainable. If all the manufacturing is happening in China, these networks are growing there, meaning eventually all the innovation—or at least a lot of it—will be happening there too.

Manufacturing will make its most essential economic contribution as an incubator of innovation: the place where new ideas become new products. Thanks to advanced manufacturing technologies, that place can in theory be pretty much anywhere. Robots, software, and sensors work no matter what language is spoken around them. In practice, however, advanced manufacturers thrive best in an ecosystem of suppliers and experienced talent. For this reason, specialized manufacturing networks have taken hold in many regions. Among the success stories highlighted in this report are China’s dominance as a manufacturer of consumer electronics, Germany’s lead in precision tooling and robotics, the United States’ strength in aerospace and car manufacturing, and its role in pushing forward important new manufacturing technologies.

Innovative manufacturing today requires as its base that manufacturers and their suppliers build strong relationships and share knowledge extensively, says Mark Muro, a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution.

China’s achievement is especially significant. Today, it would be nearly impossible for any other region to replicate the country’s manufacturing prowess in electronics or the speed with which its companies can introduce new products, says Harvard Business School professor Willy Shih, a longtime executive at IBM, Eastman Kodak, and other multinational firms who studies the links between manufacturing, product development, and innovation.

It’s not a new idea that manufacturing and innovation are linked. Seventy percent of industrial research and development spending in the U.S. comes from the manufacturing sector. Some have been skeptical, however, that innovation requires manufacturing know-how.

Apple, for example, has thrived with a system of designing its products in California but having them assembled in China using digital design and manufacturing instructions. That arrangement, printed on the back of every iPhone, has been popular with investors who appreciate not only Apple’s wildly successful products but also its “asset light” structure and relatively small workforce. “Couldn’t everyone do what Apple did?” says MIT professor Suzanne Berger, who participated in a three-year-long university task force that examined manufacturing in hundreds of global companies and produced the book Making in America. “In a way, the case that motivated our whole inquiry was Apple.”

Apple did not participate in the study, but in time Berger came to see that the company’s case was not so black and white—that even Apple finds links between manufacturing and innovation. Apple owns the automated production machines in the Chinese factories that manufacture its products. Many California-­based Apple engineers spend at least 50 percent of their time in China as new products are launched, she learned.

One engineer explained to Berger that it was critical to be on the ground in China for two reasons: to see what problems arose when the products prototyped in the U.S. hit large-scale production, and to “understand where I left too much on the table, where I could have pushed farther with the design.”

After three years of study, Berger is a believer that the United States must continue to manufacture if it hopes to be an innovation leader. She finds evidence that the manufacturing communities for emerging high-tech sectors such as solar and wind energy and batteries are already being built outside the country in places where technical expertise, manufacturing skills, and even plant layouts are quickly pulling ahead.

Without manufacturing, “we lose capabilities in the workforce,” says Harvard’s Shih. “It limits what you are able to do down the line.”

How Cities Build Vibrant Tech Scenes

September 10, 2014

By: Brady Dale
Via: Next City

Sainte Claire Hotel, San Jose, California by Ed Schipul via Flickr (CC BY-SA 2.0)

More and more cities are hoping to grow by playing host to a tech scene. And the truth is, almost any city of any size, at this point, probably has at least a small number of startups in it. But there’s a difference between having some startups and really having a viable tech scene.

Madison, Wisconsin’s EatStreet is a good illustration. It facilitates both ordering from restaurants and the web presence for its member restaurants. Its cofounder, Matt Howard, says that the company had 15 full-time employees at the start of the year, now up to 50 full-time and 30 part-time. That’s not the kind of growth a city wants to lose, but Madison almost did as the firm’s founders had to keep flying to Silicon Valley looking for investors. Philadelphia lost Invite Media when it was acquired by Google and moved to New York, presumably because the company didn’t think its home city had what it took to make Invite’s ad-tech platform pay.

Having covered technology and watched startup communities for even longer, I’ve made a list of attributes that cities with sustainable tech ecosystems seem to have. Then I ran it by some experts with experience in the innovation economy to flesh it out. Until all these elements are in place, a city is unlikely to see any of the effects above. Here’s what a place needs.

At Least One Big Winner

People are more likely to take the risk to become tech entrepreneurs if they know people who have done it and done it well. It’s one thing to hear about a Twitter way off in San Francisco, but it’s another thing to be in Madison and know several people who work at homegrown success story Epic Systems. Anthony Townsend, author of Smart Cities, says, “I like to think of these as finishing schools/networking places. Look at all the people in Seattle that got their careers started and met at Microsoft or Intel or Cisco.” The same can be said of every big tech company across the country. In Raleigh, serving as the home to Linux purveyor Red Hat hasn’t just meant jobs, it’s also meant lots more local businesses launching. City politicians can’t control whether a hometown startup will go big, but a city can get the pieces in place to make it less likely that a company has to leave if it does.

Access to Venture Capital

Capital needs to be near enough that entrepreneurs can travel to take a meeting with a potential investor and get back home (or to the office) within a day — which means that fast transit between cities is good for entrepreneurship. Trains are especially good since founders keep working as they travel. John Provo, from the Office of Economic Development at Virginia Tech says, “You should also be thinking about systems of capital (angels, seed funds, early stage funds) that move companies towards venture ready status.” Investors specialize in different stages of companies, so a city needs to be able to support the full cycle, from startup to going concern. Provo cites several Blacksburg companies whose proximity to the D.C. Metro area has allowed them to raise some impressive rounds in the last few years.

An Outward-Looking Major Institution

In America, this is going to be a university more often than not, but Townsend points out that in other countries that isn’t always the case. It’s the military in Israel and the government in parts of Asia, he said. Regardless, some piece of the establishment that’s in the business of creating knowledge needs to also be looking beyond itself and into the world of practice. Chuck Eesley, a Morgenthaler Faculty Fellow at Stanford University, explains how a former engineering school dean in the ’50s is credited for laying the foundation of what we now know as Silicon Valley. Among other things, he established a university research park and encouraged students and faculty to get involved with entrepreneurship. In New York City, NYU is working very hard to fill that role, but former Mayor Michael Bloomberg hedged his bets by launching Applied Sciences NYC so that several universities could inculcate risk-taking makers.

Coworking Spaces/Accelerators/Makerspaces

The creator of Delicious.com, Joshua Schachter, says that one aspect of cities that inhibits entrepreneurs is leases. When all you have is an idea and six months of savings to live on, you can’t sign a 10-year lease. Coworking spaces, where individuals or firms get a piece of a larger office on short-term commitments, solve this immediate problem. They also provide ready advice just one desk over, freelance contacts, ready-to-use IT and professional meeting space. In Madison, technologists have formed a coalition to launch Starting Block, inspired by Chicago’s 1871.

Tech Reporters Covering the City in Person

Disclosure: I am a tech reporter on the ground in Brooklyn. Journalists covering a scene draw talent and buzz, and their coverage helps entrepreneurs, developers and investors find each other.

Lots of Engineers

It takes all kinds to run a tech company. Business people. Designers. Salespeople. Visionaries. That said, it takes lots and lots of engineers. As much off-the-shelf software as there is today, at a certain point a real innovator will need something bespoke, and that’s where developers come in. While they earn a good salary, engineers want to be truly interested in the work and they want to hang out with other people interested in their own, similar work. So they flock together. Provo says when Rackspace acquired Webmail.us it kept its operations in Blacksburg so it could stay close to newly minted Virginia Tech talent. In New York, the href=”http://technical.ly/brooklyn/2014/04/15/brooklyn-hiring-tech/”>battle for engineering talent is fierce. There’s so much demand that a whole startup industry has grown up around teaching people to code.

State-of-the-Art Internet Access

Chattanooga has made broadband access a public utility. Kansas City was the first to get Google Fiber. The Kansas City Startup Village was bolstered by super high-speed Internet there, and Ben Barreth established Homes for Hackers to give developers a place to work with Google Fiber in K.C. The real benefits of being so much faster than the rest of the country may not be realized until some more cities catch up. That said, NYC’s Mayor Bill de Blasio knows that the spottiness of his town’s broadband access is slowing everyone in his town down.

Informal Leaders

Meetups, demo nights, hackathons, game jams and networking events don’t just happen. Someone has to do the work to put them together. It’s important enough that one Atlanta entrepreneur is working to establish a dedicated event space as a gathering place for that city’s tech scene.

Some of these elements may be less an essential ingredient of a full ecosystem and more the inevitable outcome of one. It may also be that something is missing from this list. For example, more than one of the leaders I spoke with suggested that political leadership is key to helping a scene take off. That said, the world may have flattened, but it still isn’t flat. It takes more than a laptop and a dream to build the next Google, contrary to the myth, and the places that have those resources at hand are the ones that make Googles. The man who invented the term “rise of the rest” is on a televised road trip right now exploring these same issues. This list is meant to add to that conversation. So what’s missing? And for community leaders looking to execute on a list like this, where are you going to start?

How Owensboro Tobacco Grew A Possible Miracle Drug To Treat Ebola

August 13, 2014

By: Janet Patton
Via: Lexington Herald-Leader

In this undated photo provided by Kentucky BioProcessing, tobacco plants are grown in a controlled environment at the Kentucky BioProcessing facility in Owensboro, Ky. The company is using tobacco plants grown at this facility to help manufacture an experimental drug to treat patients infected with Ebola. (AP Photo/Kentucky BioProcessing) UNCREDITED — ASSOCIATED PRESS

When two American aid workers came down with the deadly Ebola virus recently, an experimental treatment materialized seemingly out of nowhere. How did a possible miracle drug for one of the deadliest diseases in Africa come to be grown half a world away in a small town in Kentucky?

Because of chewing tobacco, malaria, Charles Darwin and Australia.

For decades, tobacco has been a solution in search of the right problem, and Ebola might be that problem.

In the 1990s, when smoking rates slipped below 30 percent, Kentucky tobacco farmers began to look for another way to make money. And a lot of eyes turned to Daviess County.

There had always been a lot of tobacco grown in the Owensboro area, including acres of a variety known as “dark air-cured” for Pinkerton, a local chewing tobacco company.

But what was growing there now was different: it would never be smoked or dipped.

A California start-up called Biosource Technologies was paying Daviess County farmers to grow genetically altered tobacco that could produce pharmaceuticals.

One of the first was Rod Kuegel, then president of the Burley Tobacco Growers Cooperative Association, the “pool” buyer for unsold tobacco for cigarettes. At the time, burley was still Kentucky’s top agricultural crop, worth more than $840 million.

But Kuegel was keen for a new opportunity.

“We grew a cat vaccine,” Kuegel said last week. Biosource was happy with the results but didn’t want to plant more.

“The man said, ‘The good thing is we got 3 million doses of cat vaccine,’” Kuegel said. “‘The downside is we’ve got 3 million doses of cat vaccine.’”

That was typical of the early stages of the business. Sure, you could do it, but would it make any money?

Why Owensboro?

For decades, farmers around Owensboro had been growing tobacco for Red Man, made by Pinkerton. In 1985, as smokeless tobaccos were gaining market share, Swedish Match bought Pinkerton. In the early ’90s, the company built a tobacco research and processing facility in Owensboro to explore the chemical potential of tobacco called the Reserca R&D Station.

Out in Vacaville, Calif., a tech startup company called Large Scale Biology was working on genetically engineering ways to make drugs with plants, including tobacco, which has long been the plant equivalent of the white lab rat.

Tobacco was the first plant to be successfully spliced with foreign genes. Tobacco mosaic virus, so named because of the mottled pattern it produces in tobacco leaves, was the first virus ever discovered and purified.

Large Scale Biology pioneered ways to use the tobacco mosaic virus to get foreign genes into plants, which would then reproduce the desired proteins.

By 1995, a company called Biosource was looking for a way to ramp up production of their experimental drugs, including a vaccine they hoped would fight malaria, so they came to Owensboro. (Biosource would acquire Large Scale Biology in 1999, choosing to keep that name.)

There was widespread interest in using tobacco to produce vaccines and treatments for everything from an antibody to fight tooth decay to an anti-inflammatory protein for use in cardiovascular surgery, along with treatments for orphan diseases — defined by the FDA as conditions that affect fewer than 200,000 people nationwide — cancer, AIDS and infectious threats.

While many companies were experimenting with genetically modified crops such as corn, tobacco — because it wasn’t a food crop — seemed safer and easier.

The technology for pharmaceutical production worked well, but commercializing the process remained problematic. Large Scale Biology had no experience in the arduous and expensive process of getting a new drug through the FDA approval process.

By 2005, the company was in financial trouble. It filed for bankruptcy in January 2006.

“It might be fair to say Large Scale Biology was ahead of its time, and ran out of money before the technology was mature enough,” said Kenneth Palmer, a University of Louisville researcher who worked at Large Scale Biology.

“They laid the groundwork — they had a very innovative group of plant virologists who developed the expression systems to induce plants to make proteins they don’t normally make, like antibodies,” Palmer said. “They developed a lot of the basic technologies currently used today.”

Daviess County farmers are progressive, Kuegel said, and many hoped Large Scale Biology would give them another revenue stream from tobacco, a crop they knew how to grow very well.

They envisioned large fields of bioengineered tobacco that wouldn’t require the same level of expensive manual labor as traditional tobacco.

But the use of a modified version of the tobacco mosaic virus sprayed on plants created new headaches: growers of conventional tobacco worried about gene transfers. And the federal Food and Drug Administration worried about consistency.

The answer was to go indoors to grow everything in a clean environment and keep the conditions tightly controlled. No thunderstorms or droughts, no hail or insect swarms.

But that also meant fewer big fields of tobacco and fewer farmers getting paid to grow it for pharmaceutical companies.

Instead, the company would build an indoor facility the size of a Wal-Mart supercenter with 32,000 square feet of growing space, filled with a totally different kind of tobacco, Nicotiana benthamiana, with its own interesting history.

Not your smoking tobacco

In December 1831, when HMS Beagle set sail on a five-year survey of South America, Charles Darwin was aboard as gentleman naturalist. Darwin was a social equal of Capt. John FitzRoy, and they got along. Ship’s surgeon Robert McCormick, who had expected to be the naturalist discovering all the new and interest flora and fauna, became increasingly put out at the favoritism shown Darwin, who got the plum trips ashore while McCormick fumed.

By April, McCormick asked for and received permission to leave; he was replaced by his assistant, the Barbados-born Benjamin Bynoe. Darwin took Bynoe under his wing, teaching him useful collecting techniques. When they arrived at the Galapagos Islands, Bynoe and Darwin camped on Santiago for a week with their servants, gathering fish, snails, birds, reptiles and some insects. Bynoe was there when Darwin began to realize that the species of the various islands were all different; before this, he had not labeled them by island.

In 1836, the Beagle returned to England via Tahiti and Australia, and Darwin went off to study his finds and write the observations that lead to his famous treatise on natural selection, On the Origin of Species.

When the Beagle left the next year to survey Western Australia, which had become a British colony in 1829, Bynoe again went along and this time was both surgeon and naturalist. Somewhere along the northern coast, Bynoe picked up a species of wild tobacco, according to a paper on the history of the plant written in 2008 by UK tobacco genomics professor David Zaitlin, UK plant pathologist Michael Goodin and two other professors at Washington State University and North Carolina State University.

A specimen of this plant wound up in the records of the Royal Botanic Gardens in Kew, where it was eventually named in honor of botanist George Bentham, who described it in his Flora Australiensis in 1868.

Nicotiana benthamiana turns out to have unique characteristics that have made it a darling of modern science.

Because the species developed in isolation, benthamiana has no built-in resistance to much of anything, said Orlando Chambers, director of the Kentucky Tobacco Research and Development center. That makes it easy to infect with the altered tobacco mosaic virus and with agrobacterium, a gene-swapping bacteria that causes tumors in plants.

Modern science also discovered that N. benthamiana, unlike other common research plants, is terrific for a process called “agrofiltration,” in which tissues are flooded with liquid that spreads quickly throughout the entire leaf.

Benthamiana is fast growing but could never survive outside, Chambers said. It is perfect for large-scale indoor growing in soil-free systems, where the plants can be completely controlled.

In Owensboro, the facility also uses automated systems that can infuse whole plants in agrobacterium-laced solutions, which the plants soak up. The agrobacterium carries the foreign genes into the plants, which are then reproduced in bulk. In just a week or two the desired compounds are extracted from the plants.

Since the 1970s at least, tobacco researchers had known the plant could produce copious amounts of chemicals. The problem was finding something worth the effort.

One of Large Scale Biology’s last projects was an individualized “vaccine” for non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma that would use each patient’s own cancer to create the “cure” and grow it in bulk.

“Sixteen patients enrolled and were given 16 different vaccines, one each,” Palmer said. The goal of the trial was to see if the vaccines were safe, he said. They were, and the outcome was promising. Other pharmaceutical companies are pursuing this avenue of research.

The success came too late for Large Scale Biology, but it proved a tobacco-grown pharmaceutical could be safe. And the speed and relatively cheap cost of the process made it a very attractive option to outside drug researchers, which became the saving grace for the facility.

Owensboro hospital to the rescue

As Large Scale Biology was on the verge of going out of business, Kentucky agricultural entrepreneur Billy Joe Miles came to the rescue.

Miles, who has a farm less a mile from the plant, had toured the Owensboro facility as well as Large Scale Biology’s California labs with Gov. Paul Patton, University of Kentucky president Lee Todd and Jim Ramsey, future University of Louisville president.

“I got a call saying the company had gone bankrupt and they were going to close the plant in Owensboro,” Miles remembered last week. He quickly arranged to cover employees’ salaries and keep the doors open while he worked out a plan to save it.

As chairman of the University of Kentucky board of trustees, his first thought was UK, where the Kentucky Tobacco Research and Development Center is located.

But the deal didn’t quite come together, so Miles turned to two other boards with which he was affiliated: the Owensboro hospital and the Kentucky Agricultural Financing Corp., a loan pool set up with money the state got from cigarette makers in the tobacco settlement.

The ag fund loaned the hospital $3.6 million, and Owenboro Medical Health Systems completed the $6.4 million purchase that spring.

Renamed Kentucky BioProcessing, the facility has become a leader worldwide in commercial-scale production of proteins in plants, often on a contract basis.

In July 2007, KBP began a collaboration with Mapp Biopharmaceutical and Arizona State University’s Biodesign Institute to work on Ebola. With a grant from the Army, ASU’s Charles Arntzen and Mapp developed the treatment that was used last week on American aid workers Dr. Kent Brantly and Nancy Writebol.

KBP also drew the interest of the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency. In 2010, following the H1N1 flu scare, DARPA awarded a contract to the Owensboro plant to show that flu vaccine could be made quickly and safely in tobacco plants. Benthamiana could grow the vaccine much faster than other, egg-based vaccine production systems. KBP and similar facilities are primed to grow millions of doses of vaccine for the next pandemic.

“This system would represent a significant alternative in the nation’s ability to protect itself from potential biological threats,” KBP said in a new release last year. “This proof-of-concept program will be focused on influenza, but the system would be adaptable to producing recombinant proteins against other types of pathogens.”

Kuegel, who recently toured the plant with a group of farmers, said the flu vaccine was a crucial hit.

“They created several million doses for the government,” he said. “There’s no facility in the U.S. that can replicate the speed and accuracy that Kentucky BioProcessing can deliver.”

In January, the Owensboro hospital sold KBP to Reynolds American, which is continuing to operate it as a contract bioprocessing facility.

Philip Patterson, president and CEO of Owensboro Health, said the time had come to let KBP go.

“When the board rescued it, they understood the importance of the work going on, work that was still largely conceptual at the time. But the board saw there was promise and value economically for Owensboro,” Patterson said.

“The reason we sold it was we wanted to find the right research partner, a company that could provide significant funding needed to take the next step. Obviously we found that in Reynolds American. They have the expertise at an international level to truly take the work being done at KBP and give it far reaching opportunities. … It’s exciting, and I think there’s more to come.”

The next phase

The University of Kentucky also maintains a connection to KBP. Scientists at the Tobacco Researcher center in Lexington are working on improving benthamiana, to “humanize” it so that the chemicals it reproduces are even more compatible.

Palmer now heads the Owensboro Cancer Research Center, a partnership between U of L and the hospital, and is still collaborating with KBP.

Last week, just as Ebola was making headlines worldwide, U of L and Palmer were announcing another major grant, $14.7 million from the National Institutes of Health to develop a gel that would block transmission of HIV, the virus that causes AIDS.

They will use the tobacco plants to “manufacture” a critical protein from red algae.

The U of L program also has received major grants to develop a cheaper second-generation HPV vaccine to fight cervical cancer and a vaccine for cholera that also could fight colon cancer. All will be grown in KBP’s plants.

So far, only one plant-based pharmaceutical has made it onto the market anywhere in the world — a treatment for Gaucher disease, a rare genetic disorder of the liver — made by an Israeli company using carrot cells.

For Ebola, KBP was preparing for the first human drug trials later this year when the request came to ship doses to Atlanta’s Emory University for the American aid workers. Now, with calls to make the serum more widely available, those efforts may speed up.

If treatment is proved to have helped Brantly and Writebol and if the results can be borne out with further testing, the drug, called ZMapp, may give biopharmaceuticals the big winner its has long needed to attract significant investment.

Brookings Data Now: 10,000 Jobs Being Created In St. Louis Innovation District

June 14, 2014

By: Alexandria Icenhower
Via: Brookings

"innovation district banner with lofts" by izzointeractive via Flickr (CC by 2.0)

Innovation districts are geographic areas where leading-edge institutions and companies cluster and connect with start-ups, business incubators, and accelerators. These areas are usually physically compact, transit-accessible, and technically-wired. They also offer mixed-use housing, office, and retail space. Innovation districts create an atmosphere for job growth and help people connect across various sectors, generate new ideas, and accelerate commercialization.

Estimated number of jobs to be created in St. Louis upon completion of its innovation district project
The project is part of a $2 billion buildout plan that has already created 2,850 direct jobs to date and has sparked 1.5 million square feet of office and research space, housing, infrastructure, and retail in the Cortex area of St. Louis.
Expected number of multi-housing units to be built in the Research Triangle Park area of Raleigh-Durham
Research Triangle Park’s 50-year master plan calls for a greater concentration of buildings and amenities and possible construction of a light-rail transit line.
Approximate acres along the South Boston waterfront that are part of a large project to revitalize the area
More than 200 technology, life science, and other companies have now moved into the Innovation District in South Boston, adding over 6,000 jobs to date.
Number of member institutions that form the University City Science Center in Philadelphia’s innovation district
The member institutions from Pennsylvania, New Jersey, and Delaware are leveraging their assets in teaching, research, and medicine to build the area as a hub of innovation and entrepreneurship.

Learn more about the innovation districts report by Bruce Katz and Julie Wagner here.

Honda Is Designing Houses, Because Cars And Homes Will All Be Part Of The Smart Grid

May 1, 2014

By: Ben Schiller
Via: Co.Exist

In the future, auto companies won’t just build cars. They’ll build cars that are part of the energy infrastructure, providing back up storage for the solar panels on your roof, and reinforcing the wider electricity grid. They could even play a role in developing smart homes and technologies.

You can see as much from a prototype smart home recently opened by Honda in California. It features an enormous 9.5-kilowatt solar array, a 10-kilowatt-hour home battery unit to store excess power, Honda’s home energy management system to control the whole thing, and, of course, its electric vehicle in the garage. Designed to be energy-efficient anyway, the house produces more power than it consumes, which means its owner could actually make money from the power company.

Honda isn’t the only car-maker getting into the whole sustainable lifestyle thing. Ford also built a show-home incorporating its cars and a range of green features. And Tesla is now selling batteries for home use as well as for use in its vehicles. But this house, which Honda developed with a lot of help from the University of California, Davis, might be the most impressive. See its video here.

Based on passive design principles, the house is naturally cooler in summer and warmer in winter. There’s geothermal pump system out back that reduces the cost of heating and air-conditioning. The concrete in the foundation is about half as carbon-intensive as standard, because engineers substituted the mix with pozzolan ash.

All in all, the house uses half the energy of a similar-sized abode in the area, Honda says. It is three times more water-efficient than a typical American home. And it saves 11 tons of CO2 a year, compared to an average dwelling and vehicle. It’s also designed to make its occupants feel good: Davis’s lighting research group installed LEDs throughout to match their circadian rhythms. Really.

Of course, it’s going to be some time before we see something like this in every subdivision in America. But, when we do, you can be sure auto-makers will want part of the action. If they’re not actually building the smart house, they could be selling some of the components that make it possible.