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MU, UMKC Bring Researchers, Industry Leaders Together

Missouri Regional Life Sciences Summit aims to foster new research/business partnerships

February 22nd, 2010

Story Contacts: Christian Basi, 573-882-4430,
Christian Basi, 573-882-4430,

COLUMBIA, Mo. ­— Pacemakers, acid reducing drugs, cars that use soybean oil as fuel and novel cancer therapies for both animals and humans are just some of the ground-breaking discoveries made by university researchers. However, scientists often face hurdles when moving these discoveries from the lab to the marketplace and eventually to the consumer. This year, participants at the Missouri Regional Life Sciences Summit in Kansas City will come together to identify partnerships between researchers and entrepreneurs that could lead to new private sector investments, job creation and commercialization of these discoveries.

“This is a unique opportunity for us to bring together the best minds in research and industry to discuss and discover new partnerships that will benefit those in the Kansas City/Missouri region and ultimately the nation,” University of Missouri Chancellor Brady Deaton said. “The goal of the summit is to accelerate the movement of new ideas from the lab to the marketplace. Our region must emerge as a world leader in bioscience research and job creation; the economy depends on it.”

On March 8-9, the University of Missouri will lead the summit in conjunction with the Kansas City Area Development Council on the University of Missouri-Kansas City campus. Scientists from MU, University of Missouri-Kansas City, University of Missouri-St. Louis, Missouri University of Science and Technology, University of Kansas, Kansas State University, Washington University, St. Louis University, Iowa State University, the KU Medical Center, and the University of Saskatchewan, and business leaders will come together to identify innovations that will lead to private sector investments, job creation and discoveries.

Speakers at the summit include:


  • William H. Danforth, chancellor emeritus of Washington University, chair of the Coalition of Plant and Life Sciences, and chair of the board of the Donald Danforth Plant Science Center. Danforth will present, “Partnerships for Progress in Health and Economic Development.”
  •  U.S. Sen. Kit Bond
  • U.S. Sen. Claire McCaskill
  • Scott Peterson, director of Functional Genomics and Research Technology and professor at the J. Craig Venter Institute. Peterson will present, “Synthetic Biology in an Era of Personalized Medicine.”
  • Tom Melzer, managing director and co-founder of RiverVest. Melzer will present, “Financial Downturn and Impact on Biosciences Development.”
  • David W. Kemper, chair of the board and President and CEO of Commerce Bancshares Inc. and Commerce Bank, N.A. Kemper will present, “Venture Investment in Life Science.”

Other topics at the summit will include animal to human health collaborations, what is needed to build innovative corporate-academic partnerships, moving new technologies into the marketplace, and biomedical tissue engineering.

For a complete schedule and to register for the summit, go to Reporters interested in covering the event should contact Christian Basi at or Mary Jo Banken at

EDITOR’S NOTE: Please see attached document for a list of some of the researchers who will be presenting at the conference.

2010 Missouri Regional Life Sciences Summit


Presenters at the summit include:

Gabor Forgacs, George H. Vineyard Professor of Physics in the MU College of Arts and Science, has worked on printing tissue structures of complex shapes that could eventually lead to building an organ. This technology could solve problems in transplant medicine, cardiovascular medicine and tissue repair. Forgacs’ work in organ printing was licensed by Organovo Inc., a new company based in southern California, which is taking this technology to the bedside.

Carolyn Henry, an associate professor of veterinary medicine and surgery at MU, is part of the Comparative Oncology Trials Consortium launched by the National Cancer Institute to test new cancer-treating drugs on animals. Henry is studying cancer imaging, device and drug development, and drug-delivery methods. Her work as professor and director of the Scott Endowed Program in Veterinary Oncology in the MU College of Veterinary Medicine has helped advanced cancer treatments in both humans and pets. The program tests experimental cancer treatments, including radiation, on dogs and cats suffering from life-threatening cancers. Tests on larger animals, instead of rodent subjects, give researchers a better view of how potential treatments could work in humans.

Peter Koulen, Felix and Carmen Sabates Endowed Chair in Vision Research at the University of Missouri-Kansas City, has made great strides in researching the action and development of pharmacological and molecular biological treatments for renal and visual systems disorders and cognitive decline during aging and Alzheimer’s disease. Koulen has a masters degree and doctorate from Johannes Gutenberg University in Mainz, Germany, followed by postdoctoral fellowships at the Max-Planck Institute for Brain Research in Frankfurt and Yale University School of Medicine.

Randall Prather is a Curators’ professor of animal science in the MU College of Agriculture, Food and Natural Resources. His work over the past decade has been to breed pigs with certain characteristics that scientists can use to investigate human diseases. For example, Prather has bred pigs that display symptoms of cystic fibrosis. This discovery has allowed researchers to study the disease in much more detail than ever before. Prather has also found a possible way to transplant pig organs into humans, which could eliminate the shortage of organ donors. Over the past decade, Prather has licensed his research to five companies and created other collaborations with industry leaders.

Peter Sutovsky, associate professor of animal sciences at MU, has worked to improve the fertility rates among animals, but his work has translated to include human fertility, which could prove beneficial for the millions of people who suffer from infertility each year. Sutovsky’s work focuses on two aspects of fertility: sperm detection and sperm quality. By developing better tests to identify and evaluate sperm, Sutovsky could save the animal industry millions of dollars and help develop procedures that improve the efficiency of the animal breeding process. Sutovsky has agreements with two companies that are utilizing his work to develop better procedures in sperm detection and fertility.

Jerry Taylor, a professor of animal science in the MU College of Agriculture, Food and Natural Resources, has found new uses for devices designed for genetic research. These new uses have uncovered an immense amount of raw genetic data that scientists are just now beginning to sift through. While Taylor has a licensing agreement with a company from Georgia, he is concerned because there are no technologies currently available that are cost-effective enough to allow a researcher to analyze the vast amounts of genetic data being generated using his new tests.