GUEST COMMENTARY: Missouri businesses, research universities must unite for better quality of life

Tuesday, February 16, 2010 | 12:01 a.m. CST; updated 10:49 a.m. CDT, Tuesday, May 4, 2010
Brady J. Deaton is the chancellor for the main MU campus; Leo E. Morton is the chancellor for the University of Missouri-Kansas City; and Robert Duncan is the vice chancellor for research at MU.

Silicon Valley in California, the Research Triangle in North Carolina, and Route 128 around Boston have emerged as centers for innovation and discovery in the United States. At the center of these regions are at least one outstanding research university and a business community that understands how to utilize the opportunities that universities provide. Collaborations between these university and business communities have shaped the products we use, the services we expect, even the way we work and live. And, the quality of life in these areas is well above the national average.

In the Missouri/Kansas region, we have outstanding universities where researchers are doing outstanding work. At MU, new advances in basic biosciences will impact the food we eat, the medications we take, the medical therapies we use and even the way we expend energy. The region is also home to major businesses interested in discoveries that they can market to customers as products that will vastly improve people’s  lives.

Animal and human health are becoming more integrated than ever before. New procedures and techniques that work for dogs, cats, horses and pigs are finding their way into human hospitals, while veterinarians are utilizing diagnostic and therapies for human diseases, including cancer, to treat their four-legged patients. Yet, the time and hurdles that scientists face to get their discoveries from the lab to the bedside can be challenging.

The region from Manhattan, Kan. , to Columbia contains the largest concentration of animal/human health researchers PLUS veterinarians and companies interested in marketing human and animal health innovations. This thriving Midwestern region has come to be known as the “Animal Health Corridor.”

It is quite possible that 10 years from now the medicines we take may be custom designed for our illnesses with less risk and faster recovery. The food we eat will be designed to produce a better yield and thus cost less. The energy we use will be cleaner, leading to better respiratory health and lower utility bills.

For these things to occur, business leaders must know about and be provided access to researchers at universities who are discovering new ideas and processes.

On March 8 and 9, MU will lead a regional life sciences summit in Kansas City to do just that. The goal of the summit is to accelerate the movement of new ideas from the laboratory to the marketplace. Business leaders, legislators, scientists, university leaders, bank chairmen and other representatives from prestigious institutions and organizations from the region will come together to identify innovations that will lead to new private sector investments and discoveries that hold the greatest promise for commercialization.

The potential contributions of new government programs, new legislation, community college educational efforts and new business models will be identified.

Anticipated outcomes of the summit include new information on how to best leverage the assets of universities, financial markets and business investments to create new companies and jobs that will strengthen the economic foundations of the region.

People from the Kansas/Missouri region are known for being hard working and determined. During these challenging economic times, the time is right for the region’s businesses and research universities to work together to improve the lives of all U.S. citizens. We have an opportunity to emerge as an innovative center much like Silicon Valley or the Research Triangle. The Missouri Regional Life Sciences Summit is a step toward this goal, which will lead to a better economy and quality of life for all of us.

For more information or to register for the conference, go to

Brady J. Deaton is the chancellor for the main MU campus; Leo E. Morton is the chancellor for the University of Missouri-Kansas City; and Robert Duncan is the vice chancellor for research at MU.

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