Tuesday, March 31, 2015
By Brian Brus
OKLAHOMA CITY – The membrane between agriculture research and biotech is more permeable than people imagine, said Scott Meacham, chief executive of the i2E technology startup support agency.
“The bio space is pretty narrow in Oklahoma,” he said. “Everyone already seems to know each other well, which can be pretty nice. New startups make a big splash because we don’t have that many big pharma companies you find in other states.
“The Noble Foundation and Oklahoma State University are pretty significant sources of agriculture research in our state, and we need to shine a brighter spotlight there. People need to understand that biotech is about more than just human health issues,” Meacham said.
“It’s a natural fit for Oklahoma because we’re such a strong ag state. Just a little bit of effort would pay a lot of dividends,” he said.
The potential of ag-biosciences crossover is one of several topics slated for discussion in this year’s BioSummit on April 8 at the Embassy Suites hotel near the University of Oklahoma Health Sciences Center.
Presented by the nonprofit Oklahoma BioScience Association, the goal of BioSummit is to encourage the state’s research community and entrepreneurs to consider working more closely with big pharmaceutical companies, look at national funding opportunities and apply human biosciences to agricultural markets. Meacham said this year’s BioSummit was scheduled to overlap interests in the Oklahoma Medical Research Foundation Bioventure Forum on April 7.
“If you’re not doing what the NIH (National Institutes of Health) is interested in, then you’re probably not going to get funded,” Meacham said.
“When you look across a wide range of criteria considered by the NIH, Oklahoma falls between the second and fourth percentile nationally. Clearly, we’re leaving money on the table. The question is, how can we be more effective in bringing those funds into Oklahoma,” he said.
Scheduled BioSummit panel discussions will feature several Oklahoma entrepreneurial executives, including Craig Shimasaki with Moleculera Labs, Carol Curtis with EpimedX and Mike Moradi of Sensulin. The ag panel will include Brent Cassidy of Analytical Research Laboratories and Sean Akadiri of Agric-Bioinformatics.
The event will conclude with a BioScience Awards Dinner to highlight outstanding contributions and accomplishments among those individuals and organizations involved in biotech development. Awards will recognize community involvement, outstanding research and innovative accomplishments. Speaker Carl Edwards, longtime chairman of the Presbyterian Health Foundation, will receive the Hall of Fame Leadership Award.