From developing immunotherapy to extracting proteins from plants, Kentucky’s health-care and biotechnology sectors are leveraging the state’s strong research base to build the next generation of employers.
ApoImmune's Developments in Treatments
ApoImmune in Louisville is developing treatments that allow patients to use their own immune systems to fight chronic and life-threatening diseases. Through these efforts, the company could develop treatments for cancer, tuberculosis and diabetes. A novel vaccine for cervical cancer could start Phase I clinical trials in 2009.
In Owensboro, Kentucky Bioprocessing has invested millions of dollars to express, extract and purify plant proteins. Under the leadership of Chairman Hugh Haydon, Kentucky Bioprocessing offers controlled plant-growth and processing facilities and can leverage the expertise of the Owensboro Cancer Research Program.
In September 2008, the company, whose principal investor is Owensboro Medical Health System, announced it was collaborating with Germany’s Bayer Innovation GmbH to develop a biopharmaceutical production service facility in Owensboro. The company owns numerous patents related to the expression of genes in plants, biomanufacturing, novel plant varieties and antibodies.
3DR Laboratories was created in 2005 to free hospitals and imaging centers from spending thousands of dollars for equipment to process their own MRI images. Instead, 3DR and its radiology technicians do the work for them, creating a business that serves hospitals and groups across the country.
“It’s grown unbelievably, especially since the economic turmoil that hit this past year, because there are no capital budgets to be spent on this,” says David Ferguson, senior manager at 3DR.
In addition to saving providers money, 3DR is saving them time with a 24/7 model that allows for quick turnaround of the scans.
The state has fostered innovation in the health and biotech sectors through a number of programs that provide resources, expertise and funding.
UK’s Best in the Nation
The College of Pharmacy at the University of Kentucky has become one of the best in the nation and is building a $155 million facility that will train pharmacists under one roof.
On the drawing board for a decade, the 286,000-square-foot center was needed to handle the growth in enrollment and activities in the college.
“It’ll be the finest pharmacy education environment in the nation and, frankly, one of the finest – if not the finest – in the world,” says Dean Kenneth Roberts.
The college has helped spur innovation that has led to creation of new enterprise.
Coldstream Laboratories Inc., for example, opened in 1991 as the Center for Pharmaceutical Science & Technology, a unit of the College of Pharmacy, and completed more than 200 development projects that led to clinical trials.
In 2007, the CPST became a 30-employee private company, Coldstream Laboratories, which offers analytical, formulation development and pharmaceutical manufacturing services.
The College of Pharmacy has enlarged the class size for its four-year program. The school now can admit as many as 132 applicants, up from 88 when Roberts joined the faculty, from a pool of more than 1,000 students every year.
The school has migrated to more active learning from students, with roughly a third of the curriculum being experiential. In fact, the entire fourth year of class is spent on rotations mentored by community-based faculty at hospitals and pharmacies.
The college even employs actors in the Lexington community to play the role of patients so students are prepared for every eventuality. More than 85 percent of graduates take their first jobs in Kentucky.
“We’re preparing the learners to be pharmacists for the rest of their lives,” Roberts says.