Working together key to biotechnology success in Louisiana

Richard Bogren, Russin, John  |  3/2/2015 9:12:41 PM

LSU AgCenter Vice Chancellor John Russin, left, talks about biotechnology with Philip Eppard, academic engagement lead with Monsanto Company, at the Focus on Biotechnology summit in Baton Rouge on Feb. 27. (Photo by Rick Bogren)

News Release Distributed 03/02/15

BATON ROUGE, La. – Researchers and industry representatives interested in biotechnology in Louisiana met on the LSU campus on Feb. 27 to learn more about how they can work together to strengthen the role of the industry in the state.

The meeting was convened to discuss trends in all aspects of biotechnology and activities taking place in drug discovery and development, biomedical engineering and agriculture, said Gus Kousoulas, LSU associate vice chancellor for research and economic development.

The audience included “people who have been doing things here for a very long time,” said Bill Richardson, LSU vice president for agriculture.

Biotechnology and life sciences are the core of the LSU AgCenter with innovations in plant and animal research, said AgCenter Vice Chancellor John Russin.

“This meeting highlights technology and gives us an opportunity to explore partnership opportunities and see how we can adopt new technologies,” Russin said.

Biotechnology includes both traditional and novel areas of research, he said. It stimulates economic development in agriculture and food systems.

Russin said 88-94 percent of U.S. acres of corn, soybean and cotton are planted with seeds developed through biotechnology. “Biotechnology in new crops is sound and safe, makes environmental sense and makes economic sense,” he said.

Biotechnology is just another tool in plant development, said Philip Eppard, academic engagement lead with Monsanto Company. But sustainable agriculture cannot rely on biotechnology alone.

“We need it and a whole lot more to keep up with food and feed requirements of a growing population,” Eppard said. “We’re about feeding people and keeping farmers in business.”

Louisiana’s opportunities are in agriculture and the petroleum industry, said James Greenwood, president and CEO of the Biotechnology Industry Organization – BIO – in Washington, D.C.

“The capacity to expand the knowledge base in Louisiana is infinite,” Greenwood said. “It’s the most transformative technology in humankind.”

The role of BIO is to develop and advocate public policy and encourage investors and partnering. “We are the policy and convening engine for the industry,” he said.

The key to developing a healthy biotechnology industry is a really good, well-funded university for basic research, then good technology transfer, he said. And intellectual property protection is critical.

“Biotechnology is a fascinating and unlimited set of opportunities,” Greenwood said. It provides a “softer impact on the environment.”

The life sciences research investment in the U.S. includes $30 billion by the National Institutes of Health and $56 billion by industry. “A dollar appropriated to NIH will save $100 over time,” he said.

As resources become scarcer, we have to work together and develop a wider conversation of what’s going on, said Dr. Steve Nelson, dean of the LSU Health Science Center School of Medicine in New Orleans.

The meeting was sponsored by the LSU Office of Research and Economic Development, the LSU AgCenter and LouisianaBio, a not-for-profit state affiliate of BIO.

Rick Bogren
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