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Collaboration will enhance economic development

Kansas

The leaders who helped forge a new partnership between Kansas State University and animal health company Abaxis Inc. often describe the joint effort as a four-legged stool.

Each of the legs of the stool has collaborated and will continue to do so as the partnership develops in coming months, driving community and university economic development. The four legs include Abaxis, K-State, the K-State Veterinary Diagnostic Lab and the National Institute for Strategic Technology Acquisition and Commercialization, or NISTAC, which is the university's business development and commercialization arm.

"All the legs of the stool are supporting each other and working together to provide opportunity for not only creating a new business but for growing companion animal diagnostics," said Gary Anderson, professor of diagnostic medicine and pathobiology and director of the Kansas State Veterinary Diagnostic Laboratory.

The company has chosen Olathe for its Abaxis Veterinary Reference Laboratory, which will be a full-service commercial laboratory for veterinarians across the United States. Abaxis is renovating a laboratory facility to meet its needs.

Moving to Olathe puts Abaxis near K-State's new International Animal Health and Food Safety Institute, the first building at K-State Olathe. At the institute scientists will perform research that protects and secures the global food supply while educating and informing students and citizens about food safety.

"It's not just a coincidence that Abaxis chose to come to Olathe," said Dan Richardson, chief executive officer of the Olathe campus. "Initial discussions began with the new K-State Olathe campus, which then made the connection to K-State's diagnostic lab and Dr. Anderson. The result was a great team effort to develop the business partnership."

Through the partnership, K-State will provide selected laboratory testing and pathology analysis. Clinical animal samples--such as blood or urine--will go to Olathe, while other samples--such as biopsies and swabs--will be sent to the Veterinary Diagnostic Lab on K-State's Manhattan campus for testing. This will increase the number of samples the lab receives and may give researchers more material for prospective and retrospective studies. The partnership can also assist in student and faculty recruitment efforts.

"As Abaxis grows, we grow," Anderson said. "The more samples we see, the more opportunities we have to grow business as well as teach and train our students, house officers and residents. Our business is based on the number of animal samples we receive and how we are able to analyze them."

Anderson envisions more resources coming to K-State to expand the university's animal health training program. Abaxis, too, will need well-trained staff, technicians and diagnosticians, which K-State can help provide. Eventually, students may be able to move between the Olathe and the Manhattan campuses to obtain valuable training and education at both locations.

"It's exciting that a university will enter into this kind of relationship with the private sector," said Ralph Richardson, dean of the College of Veterinary Medicine. "This relationship assures that the college has access to real-life diagnostic data and continues to attract the best and brightest researchers to work in the field of veterinary diagnostics. Through new opportunities for veterinary contacts, we carry on our strong tradition of preparing students to enter their profession with the skills needed to master the challenges that will arise in the animal health field."

But the influence of Abaxis will also stretch beyond K-State to the surrounding region, as the laboratory is projected to bring between 50 and 100 jobs to Kansas in a 10-year period.

"I see the situation as a win-win for everyone involved: the university benefits from it, and both the Manhattan and Kansas City areas will gain employment," said Lyle Butler, president and CEO of the Manhattan Area Chamber of Commerce, "With the arrival of the National Bio and Agro-Defense Facility, I think that the near future will bring companies that will move to or expand in the Kansas City area and along the entire Animal Health Corridor, and many will also want to build their presence in Manhattan, close to the K-State campus."

The Animal Health Corridor region, which stretches from Manhattan to Columbia, Mo., contains one-third of the world's marketplace for animal health companies. Butler noted that the animal health region was a strong attraction for Abaxis because of the proximity to K-State's animal health experts, research resources and other existing companies. In turn, Abaxis' arrival as a knowledge-based economic development company enables K-State to support animal health research while training tomorrow's veterinary clinicians, diagnosticians and researchers.

"The opportunities for growing our business and establishing a new level of exposure to case material seems to be an interesting path to take in these times when it is a bit tough economically," Anderson said. "Our first mission is service and serving our clients the very best we can, but right along with that, we are a teaching and training institution doing research as well. We have to look for ways of growing our revenue to enhance our teaching and research mission. We look at this opportunity as being one small part that we can contribute to growing and achieving our overall mission."




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