Kentucky Life Science Council and MassBio partner on startup mentoring initiatives
By Kyle Keeney, PhD
There is a movement developing to redefine the geographic nature of biotech innovation called the Massachusetts Turnpike Partnership. It is an alliance founded by MassBio and Kentucky Life Sciences Council, two regional non-profits focused on advancing the value of life science research for industry and patients.
It’s apparent to innovators that collaboration and new partnership models open the doors to biotech’s promise. a partnership designed to foster collaboration between the two clusters and accelerate research to benefit patients and the healthcare system. The Turnpike is an extension of MassBio’s MassCONNECT program, which under the leadership of Rakhshita Dhar and Anna Christo, has become a top mentoring program for life science entrepreneurs in Massachusetts.
The Turnpike Partnership extends biotech collaboration networks into the central United States, where inclusive partnership models emphasize quality research over quality of profits.
It is imagined as innovation without borders.
There are no knowledge monopolies and innovation goes beyond borders. The complexity of human biology and unmet medical need demands that we embrace collaboration as a way to find and catalyze critical research and development, and we hope this partnership can help to usher in a new model of collaboration in life sciences. We are heartened by the response as a significant number of MassCONNECT mentors and Massachusetts executives have signed on to help with the construction of the Turnpike.
There has never been a greater need for collaboration. For industry to do well, we have to work together. This industry will not prosper if we stay in our clusters and let the rest of the network drown due to lack of attention.
Known for its biologistics industry, Kentucky is ideally situation to intermediate the needs of biotech’s competing powers through a unifying need: access and distribution to patients. Geographically, Kentucky is the center of the U.S. transportation and logistics industries. Kentucky is also home to two influential senators–Senators Mitch McConnell and Rand Paul. The political clout that helped Cambridge flourish in the 1970s is now descending upon Kentucky. It has the potential to empower relationships between far-flung researchers through a clear regulatory environment.
In our partnership model, Massachusetts provides leadership in many ways. But we have to pay attention to the small organisms, the honeybees. Our model pays attention to the pollinators. It mitigates the risk of the Midwest and the Central US turning into a research desert.
Opportunities to Partner
Researchers interested in the Turnpike Partnership were invited to attend the Derby Partnering Summit. Held May 5-7, 2016 in Covington, Ky., the Derby Partnering Summit addressed the interests of academic and private researchers, entrepreneurs and industry executives. The event began with a day for postdocs and emerging entrepreneurs to receive one-on-one mentoring with industry veterans. The second day was focused on industry and regulatory updates. True to the Summit’s banner slogan to “partner with a champion,” the Summit culminated trackside at the 142nd running of the Kentucky Derby.
Shortening the distance between Kentucky and Massachusetts
That is the goal of the KLSC/MassBio partnership. “The KyMass Turnpike” focuses on increasing capital and partnering opportunities for both states. It is a two way street. Kentucky companies need access to capital and partnerships outside of the Commonwealth. The Boston life sciences ecosystem needs new investments, research opportunities and to expand the reach of partnerships. Kentucky provides a cost effective environment to incubate and validate ideas.
-Kyle Keeney, PhD is president and CEO of Kentucky Life Sciences Council. Keeney is the co-founder of the Turnpike Partnership.